General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc. v. Cline, 540 U.S. 581, 6 (2004)

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Opinion of the Court

drew support for its view from the position taken by the EEOC in an interpretive regulation.1 Id., at 471.

Judge Cole, concurring, saw the issue as one of plain meaning that produced no absurd result, although he acknowledged a degree of tension with O'Connor v. Consolidated Coin Caterers Corp., 517 U. S. 308 (1996), in which this Court spoke of age discrimination as giving better treatment to a " 'substantially younger' " worker. 296 F. 3d, at 472. Judge Williams dissented in preference for Hamilton and the consensus of the federal courts, thinking it "obvious that the older a person is, the greater his or her needs become." 296 F. 3d, at 476.

We granted certiorari to resolve the conflict among the

Circuits, 538 U. S. 976 (2003), and now reverse.


The common ground in this case is the generalization that the ADEA's prohibition covers "discriminat[ion] . . . because of [an] individual's age," 29 U. S. C. 623(a)(1), that helps the younger by hurting the older. In the abstract, the phrase is open to an argument for a broader construction, since reference to "age" carries no express modifier and the word could be read to look two ways. This more expansive possible understanding does not, however, square with the natural reading of the whole provision prohibiting discrimination, and 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.

Congress chose not to include age within discrimination forbidden by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 715,

1 29 CFR 1625.2(a) (2003) ("[I]f two people apply for the same position, and one is 42 and the other 52, the employer may not lawfully turn down either one on the basis of age, but must make such decision on the basis of some other factor"). We discuss this regulation at greater length, infra, at 599-600.

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