Robinson v. Shell Oil Co., 519 U.S. 337, 6 (1997)

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Opinion of the Court

"former employees," see, e. g., 2 U. S. C. 1301(4) (1994 ed., Supp. I) (defining "employee" to include "former employee"); 5 U. S. C. 1212(a)(1) (including "employees, former employees, and applicants for employment" in the operative provision), proves only that Congress can use the unqualified term "employees" to refer only to current employees, not that it did so in this particular statute.

Second, Title VII's definition of "employee" likewise lacks any temporal qualifier and is consistent with either current or past employment. Section 701(f) defines "employee" for purposes of Title VII as "an individual employed by an employer." 42 U. S. C. 2000e(f). The argument that the term "employed," as used in 701(f), is commonly used to mean "[p]erforming work under an employer-employee relationship," Black's Law Dictionary 525 (6th ed. 1990), begs the question by implicitly reading the word "employed" to mean "is employed." But the word "employed" is not so limited in its possible meanings, and could just as easily be read to mean "was employed."

Third, a number of other provisions in Title VII use the term "employees" to mean something more inclusive or different from "current employees." For example, 706(g)(1) and 717(b) both authorize affirmative remedial action (by a court or EEOC, respectively) "which may include . . . reinstatement or hiring of employees." 42 U. S. C. 2000e- 5(g)(1) and 2000e-16(b). As petitioner notes, because one does not "reinstat[e]" current employees, that language necessarily refers to former employees. Likewise, one may hire individuals to be employees, but one does not typically hire persons who already are employees.

Section 717(b) requires federal departments and agencies to have equal employment opportunity policies and rules, "which shall include a provision that an employee or applicant for employment shall be notified of any final action taken on any complaint of discrimination filed by him there-under." 42 U. S. C. 2000e-16(b). If the complaint involves

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