Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Workers’ compensation laws also evaded the ravages of Lochner. The Court
repeatedly has upheld the authority of the States to establish by legislation departures from the fellow-servant rule and other common-law rules affecting the employer’s liability for personal injuries to the employee. 1 Accordingly, a state statute that provided an exclusive system to govern the liabilities of employers for disabling injuries and death caused by accident in certain hazardous occupations, 2 irrespective of the doctrines of negligence, contributory negligence, assumption of risk, and negligence of fellow-servants, was held not to violate due process. 3 Likewise, an act that allowed an injured employee, though guilty of contributory negligence, an election of remedies between restricted recovery under a compensation law or full compensatory damages under the Employers’ Liability Act, did not deprive an employer of his property without due process of law. 4 A variety of other statutory schemes have also been upheld. 5
Even the imposition upon coal mine operators of the liability of compensating former employees who terminated work in the industry before passage of the law for black lung disabilities was sustained by the Court as a rational measure to spread the costs of the employees’ disabilities to those who have profited from the fruits of their labor. 6 Legislation readjusting rights and burdens is not unlawful solely because it upsets otherwise settled expectations, but it must take account of the realities previously existing, i.e., that the danger may not have been known or appreciated, or that actions might have been taken in reliance upon the current state of the law. Consequently, legislation imposing liability on the basis of deterrence or of blameworthiness might not have passed muster.