General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc. v. Cline, 540 U.S. 581, 7 (2004)

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

Opinion of the Court

78 Stat. 265, being aware that there were legitimate reasons as well as invidious ones for making employment decisions on age. Instead it called for a study of the issue by the Secretary of Labor, ibid., who concluded that age discrimination was a serious problem, but one different in kind from discrimination on account of race.2 The Secretary spoke of disadvantage to older individuals from arbitrary and stereotypical employment distinctions (including then-common policies of age ceilings on hiring), but he examined the problem in light of rational considerations of increased pension cost and, in some cases, legitimate concerns about an older person's ability to do the job. Wirtz Report 2. When the Secretary ultimately took the position that arbitrary discrimination against older workers was widespread and persistent enough to call for a federal legislative remedy, id., at 21-22, he placed his recommendation against the background of common experience that the potential cost of employing someone rises with age, so that the older an employee is, the greater the inducement to prefer a younger substitute. The report contains no suggestion that reactions to age level off at some point, and it was devoid of any indication that the Secretary had noticed unfair advantages accruing to older employees at the expense of their juniors.

Congress then asked for a specific proposal, Fair Labor Standards Amendments of 1966, 606, 80 Stat. 845, which the Secretary provided in January 1967. 113 Cong. Rec. 1377 (1967); see also Public Papers of the Presidents, Lyndon

2 That report found that "[e]mployment discrimination because of race is identified . . . with . . . feelings about people entirely unrelated to their ability to do the job. There is no significant discrimination of this kind so far as older workers are concerned. The most closely related kind of discrimination in the non-employment of older workers involves their rejection because of assumptions about the effect of age on their ability to do a job when there is in fact no basis for these assumptions." Report of the Secretary of Labor, The Older American Worker: Age Discrimination in Employment 2 (June 1965) (hereinafter Wirtz Report) (emphasis in original).


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