Robinson v. Shell Oil Co., 519 U.S. 337, 4 (1997)

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Opinion of the Court

Petitioner subsequently sued under 704(a), alleging retaliatory discrimination. On respondent's motion, the District Court dismissed the action, adhering to previous Fourth Circuit precedent holding that 704(a) does not apply to former employees. Petitioner appealed, and a divided panel of the Fourth Circuit reversed the District Court. The Fourth Circuit granted rehearing en banc, vacated the panel decision, and thereafter affirmed the District Court's determination that former employees may not bring suit under 704(a) for retaliation occurring after termination of their employment. 70 F. 3d 325 (1995).

We granted certiorari in order to resolve a conflict among the Circuits on this issue.1



Our first step in interpreting a statute is to determine whether the language at issue has a plain and unambiguous meaning with regard to the particular dispute in the case. Our inquiry must cease if the statutory language is unambiguous and "the statutory scheme is coherent and consistent." United States v. Ron Pair Enterprises, Inc., 489 U. S. 235, 240 (1989); see also Connecticut Nat. Bank v. Germain, 503 U. S. 249, 253-254 (1992).

1 The other Courts of Appeals to have considered this issue have held that the term "employees" in 704(a) does include former employees. See Charlton v. Paramus Bd. of Educ., 25 F. 3d 194, 198-200 (CA3), cert. denied, 513 U. S. 1022 (1994); Bailey v. USX Corp., 850 F. 2d 1506, 1509 (CA11 1988); O'Brien v. Sky Chefs, Inc., 670 F. 2d 864, 869 (CA9 1982), overruled on other grounds by Atonio v. Wards Cove Packing Co., 810 F. 2d 1477, 1481-1482 (CA9 1987) (en banc); Pantchenko v. C. B. Dolge Co., 581 F. 2d 1052, 1055 (CA2 1978); Rutherford v. American Bank of Commerce, 565 F. 2d 1162, 1165 (CA10 1977). The Fourth Circuit indicated that it joined the approach taken by the Seventh Circuit in Reed v. Shepard, 939 F. 2d 484, 492-493 (1991). But the Seventh Circuit has since repudiated the Fourth Circuit's view of Reed. See Veprinsky v. Fluor Daniel, Inc., 87 F. 3d 881, 886 (1996).

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