General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc. v. Cline, 540 U.S. 581, 3 (2004)

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Cite as: 540 U. S. 581 (2004)


history. For the very reason that reference to context shows that "age" means "old age" when teamed with "discrimination," 623(f)'s provision of an affirmative defense when age is a bona fide occupational qualification readily shows that "age" as a qualification means comparative youth. As context shows that "age" means one thing in 623(a)(1) and another in 623(f), so it also demonstrates that the presumption of uniformity cannot sensibly operate here. Pp. 594-598. (b) Cline's and the EEOC's second argument—that their view is supported by a colloquy on the Senate floor involving an ADEA sponsor—has more substance than the first, but is still not enough to unsettle this Court's holding. Senator Yarborough's view is the only item in all the ADEA hearings, reports, and debates that goes against the grain of the common understanding of age discrimination. Even from a sponsor, a single outlying statement cannot stand against a tide of context and history, not to mention 30 years of judicial interpretation producing no apparent legislative qualms. Pp. 598-599. (c) Finally, the argument that the Court owes deference to the EEOC's contrary reading falls short because the EEOC is clearly wrong. Even for an agency able to claim all the authority possible under Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U. S. 837, deference to its statutory interpretation is called for only when the devices of judicial construction have been tried and found to yield no clear sense of congressional intent, e. g., INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U. S. 421, 446. Here, regular interpretive method leaves no serious question. The word "age" takes on a definite meaning from being in the phrase "discriminat[ion] . . . because of such individual's age," occurring as that phrase does in a statute structured and manifestly intended to protect the older from arbitrary favor for the younger. Pp. 599-600. 296 F. 3d 466, reversed.

Souter, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and Stevens, O'Connor, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ., joined. Scalia, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 601. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Kennedy, J., joined, post, p. 602.

Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs were Deanne E. Maynard, William J. Kilberg, and Craig C. Martin.

Mark W. Biggerman argued the cause for respondents.

With him on the brief were Erin Stottlemyer Gold, E. Bruce Hadden, and Joanne C. Brant.


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