Walters v. Metropolitan Ed. Enterprises, Inc., 519 U.S. 202 (1997)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the seventh circuit

No. 95-259. Argued November 6, 1996—Decided January 14, 1997*

In 1990, petitioner Walters was fired by respondent Metropolitan Educational Enterprises, Inc., soon after she filed an employment discrimination charge against it under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Petitioner Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued Metropolitan, alleging that the firing violated Title VII's antiretaliation provision. After Walters intervened, Metropolitan filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, claiming that it was not an "employer" covered by Title VII because, at the time of the alleged retaliation, it was not "a person . . . who has fifteen or more employees for each working day in each of twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year." 42 U. S. C. 2000e(b). The parties have stipulated that Metropolitan failed to satisfy the 15-employee threshold in 1989; that, during most of 1990, it had between 15 and 17 employees on its payroll on each working day; and that, during 1990, there were only nine weeks in which it was actually compensating 15 or more employees on each working day. The District Court dismissed the case, relying on Circuit precedent to the effect that employees may be counted for 2000e(b) purposes only on days on which they actually performed work or were being compensated despite their absence. The Seventh Circuit affirmed.

Held: The ultimate touchstone under 2000e(b) is whether an employer has employment relationships with 15 or more individuals for each working day in 20 or more weeks during the year in question. Pp. 205-212. (a) The "payroll method"—which looks to whether the employer has an employment relationship with the employee on the day in question, as is most readily demonstrated by the individual's appearance on the employer's payroll—represents the fair reading of the statutory language. That method embodies the ordinary, contemporary, common meaning of "has [an] employe[e]." While the phrase "for each working

*Together with No. 95-779, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Metropolitan Educational Enterprises, Inc., et al., also on certiorari to the same court.

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