425 U.S. 662 (1976), 74-1608, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

Docket Nº:No. 74-1608
Citation:425 U.S. 662, 96 S.Ct. 1806, 48 L.Ed.2d 284
Party Name:National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Case Date:May 19, 1976
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 662

425 U.S. 662 (1976)

96 S.Ct. 1806, 48 L.Ed.2d 284

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

No. 74-1608

United States Supreme Court

May 19, 1976

v. Federal Power Commission

Argued February 25, 1976

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT

Syllabus

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and various other organizations petitioned the Federal Power Commission (FPC) to issue a rule "requiring equal employment opportunity and nondiscrimination in the employment practices of its regulatees." The FPC refused, holding that it had no jurisdiction to issue such a rule. On petition for review, the Court of Appeals, while agreeing that the FPC lacked power to prescribe personnel practices in detail and act upon personnel complaints, held that the FPC does have

power to take into account, in the performance of its regulatory functions, including licensing and rate review, evidence that the regulatee is a demonstrated discriminatory in its employment relations.

Held:

1. The FPC is authorized to consider the consequences of discriminatory employment practices on the part of its regulatees only insofar as such consequences are directly related to the FPC's establishment of just and reasonable rates in the public interest. To the extent that illegal, duplicative, or unnecessary labor [96 S.Ct. 1807] costs are demonstrably the product of a regulatee's discriminatory employment practices and can be or have been demonstrably quantified by judicial decree or the final action of an administrative agency, the FPC should disallow them. Pp. 666-669.

2. The FPC's asserted duty to advance the public interest, however, does not afford any basis for its prohibiting regulatees from engaging in discriminatory employment practices, as references to the "public interest" in the Federal Power Act and Natural Gas Act require the FPC to promote the orderly production of plentiful supplies of electric energy and natural gas at just

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and reasonable rates, and do not constitute a directive to the FPC to seek to eradicate discrimination. Pp. 669-671.

172 U.S.App.D.C. 32, 520 F.2d 432, affirmed.

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 671. BURGER, C.J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 672. MARSHALL, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the cases.

STEWART, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

The issue in this case is to what extent, if any, the Federal Power Commission, in the performance of its functions under the Federal Power Act, 41 Stat. 1063, as amended, 16 U.S.C. § 791a et seq. (Power Act), and the Natural Gas Act, 52 Stat. 821, as amended, 15 U.S.C. § 717 et seq. (Gas Act), has authority to prohibit discriminatory employment practices on the part of its regulatees.

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I

In 1972, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and several other organizations petitioned the Commission to issue a rule "requiring equal employment opportunity and nondiscrimination [96 S.Ct. 1809] in the employment practices of its regulatees." The proposed rule would have required the regulated companies to adopt affirmative action programs to combat discrimination in employment, and would have given any person who believed himself to have been subjected to employment discrimination by any such company the right to file a complaint with the Commission.1

The Commission refused to adopt the proposed rule, holding that it had no jurisdiction to do so because

the purposes of the Natural Gas and Federal Power Acts are economic regulation of entrepreneurs engaged in resource developments. So considered, we do not find the necessary nexus between those aspects of our economic regulatory activities and the employment procedures of the utility systems which we regulate, as would justify [adopting petitioners' proposed rule].

48 F.P.C. 40, 44.

On petition for review, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed that the Commission was without "power . . . to prescribe personnel practices in detail and to receive complaints, adjudicate them, and punish directly infractions of those practices." 172 U.S.App.D.C. 32, 35, 520 F.2d 432, 435. The court held, however, that the Commission does have

power to take

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into account, in the performance of its regulatory functions, including licensing and rate review, evidence that the regulatee is a demonstrated discriminatory in its employment relations.

Ibid.

Because of doubt as to the Commission's recognition of any power on its part to take into account the employment practices of its regulatees even in the narrower sense described above, the Court of Appeals vacated the Commission's order and remanded the case. Id. at 47, 520 F.2d at 447. The Commission and the NAACP each petitioned for certiorari, and we granted both petitions in order to consider the scope of the Commission's authority to deal with discriminatory employment practices on the part of the companies that it regulates. 423 U.S. 890.

II

The question presented is not whether the elimination of discrimination from our society is an important national goal. It clearly is. The question is not whether Congress could authorize the Federal Power Commission to combat such discrimination. It clearly could. The question is simply whether or to what extent Congress did grant the Commission such authority. Two possible statutory bases have been advanced to justify the conclusion that the Commission can or must concern itself with discriminatory employment practices on the part of the companies it regulates.2

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The first of these statutory bases is the legislative command to the Commission under the Power and Gas Acts to establish "just and reasonable" rates for the transmission and sale of electric energy, 16 U.S.C. § 824d(a), and for the transportation and sale of natural gas, 15 U.S.C. § 717c(a), and, consequently, to allow only such rates as will prevent consumers from being charged any unnecessary or...

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