General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc. v. Cline, 540 U.S. 581, 5 (2004)

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

Opinion of the Court

the prior advantage, some retired afterwards with no benefit, and some worked on, knowing the new contract would give them no health coverage when they were through.

Before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC or Commission) they claimed that the agreement violated the ADEA, because it "discriminate[d against them] . . . with respect to . . . compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of [their] age," 623(a)(1). The EEOC agreed, and invited General Dynamics and the union to settle informally with Cline.

When they failed, Cline brought this action against General Dynamics, combining claims under the ADEA and state law. The District Court called the federal claim one of "reverse age discrimination," upon which, it observed, no court had ever granted relief under the ADEA. 98 F. Supp. 2d 846, 848 (ND Ohio 2000). It dismissed in reliance on the Seventh Circuit's opinion in Hamilton v. Caterpillar Inc., 966 F. 2d 1226 (1992), that "the ADEA 'does not protect . . . the younger against the older,' " id., at 1227 (quoting Karlen v. City Colleges of Chicago, 837 F. 2d 314, 318 (CA7), cert. denied sub nom. Teachers v. City Colleges of Chicago, 486 U. S. 1044 (1988)).

A divided panel of the Sixth Circuit reversed, 296 F. 3d

466 (2002), with the majority reasoning that the prohibition of 623(a)(1), covering discrimination against "any individual . . . because of such individual's age," is so clear on its face that if Congress had meant to limit its coverage to protect only the older worker against the younger, it would have said so. Id., at 472. The court acknowledged the conflict of its ruling with earlier cases, including Hamilton and Schuler v. Polaroid Corp., 848 F. 2d 276 (1988) (opinion of Breyer, J.), from the First Circuit, but it criticized the cases going the other way for paying too much attention to the "hortatory, generalized language" of the congressional findings incorporated in the ADEA. 296 F. 3d, at 470. The Sixth Circuit

585

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