General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc. v. Cline, 540 U.S. 581, 20 (2004)

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600

GENERAL DYNAMICS LAND SYSTEMS, INC. v. CLINE

Opinion of the Court

The parties contest the degree of weight owed to the EEOC's reading, with General Dynamics urging us that Skidmore v. Swift & Co., 323 U. S. 134 (1944), sets the limit, while Cline and the EEOC say that 1625.2(a) deserves greater deference under Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U. S. 837 (1984). Although we have devoted a fair amount of attention lately to the varying degrees of deference deserved by agency pronouncements of different sorts, see United States v. Mead Corp., 533 U. S. 218 (2001); Christensen v. Harris County, 529 U. S. 576 (2000), the recent cases are not on point here. In Edelman v. Lynchburg College, 535 U. S. 106, 114 (2002), we found no need to choose between Skidmore and Chevron, or even to defer, because the EEOC was clearly right; today, we neither defer nor settle on any degree of deference because the Commission is clearly wrong.

Even for an agency able to claim all the authority possible under Chevron, 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. INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U. S. 421, 446-448 (1987) (citing Chevron, supra, at 843, n. 9). Here, regular interpretive method leaves no serious question, not even about purely textual ambiguity in the ADEA. 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.

IV

We see the text, structure, purpose, and history of the ADEA, along with its relationship to other federal statutes, as showing that the statute does not mean to stop an employer from favoring an older employee over a younger one. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is

Reversed.

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