General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc. v. Cline, 540 U.S. 581, 2 (2004)

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582

GENERAL DYNAMICS LAND SYSTEMS, INC. v. CLINE

Syllabus

iting discrimination. In fact Congress's interpretive clues speak almost unanimously to an understanding of discrimination as directed against workers who are older than the ones getting treated better. The ADEA's prefatory finding and purpose provisions and their legislative history make a case to this effect that is beyond reasonable doubt. Nor is it remarkable that the record is devoid of any evidence that younger workers were suffering at their elders' expense, let alone that a social problem required a federal statute to place a younger worker in parity with an older one. The ADEA's restriction of the protected class to those 40 and above confirms this interpretation. If Congress had been worrying about protecting the younger against the older, it would not likely have ignored everyone under 40. The federal case reports are as replete with decisions taking this position as they are nearly devoid of decisions like the one under review. While none of this Court's cases directly addresses the question presented here, all of them show the Court's consistent understanding that the text, structure, and history point to the ADEA as a remedy for unfair preference based on relative youth, leaving complaints of the relatively young outside the statutory concern. See, e. g., Hazen Paper Co. v. Biggins, 507 U. S. 604, 610. The very strength of this consensus is enough to rule out any serious claim of ambiguity, and congressional silence after years of judicial interpretation supports adherence to that view. Pp. 586-594. 2. This Court rejects the three rejoinders proffered by Cline and amicus EEOC in favor of their view that the statutory age discrimination prohibition works both ways. Pp. 594-600. (a) The argument that, because other instances of "age" in the ADEA are not limited to old age, 623(a)(1)'s "discriminat[ion] . . . because of [an] individual's age" phrase means treatment that would not have occurred if the individual's span of years had been either longer or shorter, rests on two mistakes. First, it erroneously assumes that the word "age" has the same meaning wherever the ADEA uses it. The presumption that identical words in different parts of the same Act are intended to have the same meaning, see, e. g., Atlantic Cleaners & Dyers, Inc. v. United States, 286 U. S. 427, 433, is not rigid and readily yields where, as here, there is such variation in the connection in which the words are used as reasonably to warrant the conclusion that they were employed in different parts of the Act with different intent, e. g., ibid. Second, the argument for uniform usage ignores the cardinal rule that statutory language must be read in context since a phrase gathers meaning from the words around it. E. g., Jones v. United States, 527 U. S. 373, 389. Social history emphatically reveals an understanding of age discrimination as aimed against the old, and the statutory reference to age discrimination in this idiomatic sense is confirmed by legislative

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