Walters v. Metropolitan Ed. Enterprises, Inc., 519 U.S. 202, 6 (1997)

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Cite as: 519 U. S. 202 (1997)

Opinion of the Court

affirming Thurber). The payroll method has also been adopted by the EEOC under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which defines "employer" in precisely the way Title VII does. See 29 U. S. C. 630(b); Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Notice No. N-915-052, Policy Guidance: Whether Part-Time Employees Are Employees (Apr. 1990), reprinted in App. to Pet. for Cert. 30a- 40a (hereinafter EEOC Policy Guidance). The Department of Labor has likewise adopted the payroll method under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which defines "employer" as a person who "employs 50 or more employees for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar work-weeks in the current or preceding calendar year." See 29 U. S. C. 2611(4)(A)(i); 29 CFR 825.105(b)-(d) (1996). In its administration of Title VII, the EEOC has expressed a preference for the payroll method, see EEOC Policy Guidance, but it lacks rulemaking authority over the issue, see 42 U. S. C. 2000e-12(a); EEOC v. Arabian American Oil Co., 499 U. S. 244, 257 (1991).

We think that the payroll method represents the fair reading of the statutory language, which sets as the criterion the number of employees that the employer "has" for each working day. In the absence of an indication to the contrary, words in a statute are assumed to bear their "ordinary, contemporary, common meaning." Pioneer Investment Services Co. v. Brunswick Associates Ltd. Partnership, 507 U. S. 380, 388 (1993) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). In common parlance, an employer "has" an employee if he maintains an employment relationship with that individual. See 1 The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary 1198 (1993) (def. 2: defining "have" to mean to "[p]ossess in a certain relationship"); American Heritage Dictionary 828 (3d ed. 1992) (def. 2: defining "have" to mean "to occupy a particular relation to"; giving as an example "had a great many disciples"); Webster's New International Dictionary 1145 (2d ed. 1950) (def. 2: defining "have" to mean "[t]o possess, as


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