United States v. Burke, 504 U.S. 229, 9 (1992)

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Cite as: 504 U. S. 229 (1992)

Opinion of the Court

tion, and mental anguish and suffering." Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 418 U. S. 323, 350 (1974). See also Dobbs, at 510-520. Furthermore, punitive or exemplary damages are generally available in those instances where the defendant's misconduct was intentional or reckless. See id., at 204-208; Molzof v. United States, supra.

We thus agree with the Court of Appeals' analysis insofar as it focused, for purposes of 104(a)(2), on the nature of the claim underlying respondents' damages award. See 929 F. 2d, at 1121; Threlkeld v. Commissioner, 87 T. C., at 1305. Respondents, for their part, agree that this is the appropriate inquiry, as does the dissent. See Brief for Respondents 9-12; post, at 250.7 In order to come within the 104(a)(2) income exclusion, respondents therefore must show that Title VII, the legal basis for their recovery of backpay, redresses a tort-like personal injury in accord with the foregoing principles. We turn next to this inquiry.


Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 8 makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer "to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of

7 The dissent nonetheless contends that we "misapprehen[d] the nature of the inquiry required by 104(a)(2) and the IRS regulation" by "[f]ocusing on [the] remedies" available under Title VII. See post, at 249-250. As discussed above, however, the concept of a "tort" is inextricably bound up with remedies—specifically damages actions. Thus, we believe that consideration of the remedies available under Title VII is critical in determining the "nature of the statute" and the "type of claim" brought by respondents for purposes of 104(a)(2). See post, at 250.

8 As discussed below, the Civil Rights Act of 1991, Pub. L. 102-166, 105 Stat. 1071, amended Title VII in significant respects. Respondents do not contend that these amendments apply to this case. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 35-36. We therefore examine the law as it existed prior to November 21, 1991, the effective date of the 1991 Act. See Pub. L. 102-166, 402(a), 105 Stat. 1099. Unless otherwise indicated, all references are to the "un-amended" Title VII.


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