Christensen v. Harris County, 529 U.S. 576, 8 (2000)

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Cite as: 529 U. S. 576 (2000)

Opinion of the Court

of workplace operations, implies that all other methods of spending compensatory time are precluded.4

We find this reading unpersuasive. We accept the proposition that "[w]hen a statute limits a thing to be done in a particular mode, it includes a negative of any other mode." Raleigh & Gaston R. Co. v. Reid, 13 Wall. 269, 270 (1872). But that canon does not resolve this case in petitioners' favor. The "thing to be done" as defined by 207(o)(5) is not the expenditure of compensatory time, as petitioners would have it. Instead, 207(o)(5) is more properly read as a minimal guarantee that an employee will be able to make some use of compensatory time when he requests to use it. As such, the proper expressio unius inference is that an employer may not, at least in the absence of an agreement, deny an employee's request to use compensatory time for a reason other than that provided in 207(o)(5). The canon's application simply does not prohibit an employer from telling an employee to take the benefits of compensatory time by scheduling time off work with full pay.

In other words, viewed in the context of the overall statutory scheme, 207(o)(5) is better read not as setting forth the exclusive method by which compensatory time can be used, but as setting up a safeguard to ensure that an em-4 Justice Stevens asserts that the parties never make this argument. See post, at 593, n. 1 (dissenting opinion). Although the United States and petitioners fail to make their arguments in Latin, we believe a fair reading of the briefs reveals reliance upon the expressio unius canon. See Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 16 ("Congress . . . identified only one circumstance in which an employer may exercise some measure of control: when an employee requests the use of compensatory time, the employer must allow such use within a reasonable period of time except where the use would 'unduly disrupt' the employer's operations. 29 U. S. C. 207(o)(5). If Congress had intended for employers to exercise unilateral control over the use of compensatory time in other respects as well, it presumably would have so provided"); Reply Brief for Petitioners 4-6 (contending that the FLSA explicitly provides methods for reducing compensatory time and thus other means may not be used).


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