434 U.S. 575 (1978), 76-1346, Lorillard v. Pons

Docket Nº:No. 76-1346
Citation:434 U.S. 575, 98 S.Ct. 866, 55 L.Ed.2d 40
Party Name:Lorillard v. Pons
Case Date:February 22, 1978
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 575

434 U.S. 575 (1978)

98 S.Ct. 866, 55 L.Ed.2d 40




No. 76-1346

United States Supreme Court

Feb. 22, 1978

Argued December 6, 1977




In a private civil action for lost wages under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), a trial by jury is available where sought by one of the parties, since, although the ADEA contains no provision expressly granting a right to jury trial in such cases, the ADEA's structure demonstrates a congressional intent to grant such a right. Pp. 577-585.

(a) The directive of § 7(b) of the ADEA that the Act be enforced in accordance with the "powers, remedies, and procedures" of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a significant indication of Congress' intent. Long before the ADEA was enacted, courts had uniformly interpreted the FLSA to afford a right to jury trial in private actions pursuant to that Act. Congress can be presumed to have been aware of that interpretation, and, by incorporating certain remedial and procedural provisions of the FLSA into the ADEA, Congress demonstrated its intention to afford a right to jury trial. Pp. 581-582.

(b) By directing in § 7(b) of the ADEA that actions for lost wages be treated as actions for unpaid minimum wages or overtime compensation under the FLSA, Congress dictated that the jury trial right then available to enforce that FLSA liability would also be available in private actions under the ADEA. This conclusion is supported by the language of § 7(b) empowering a court to grant "legal or equitable relief" and of § 7(c) authorizing individuals to bring actions for "legal or equitable relief." It can be inferred that Congress knew the significance of the term "legal," and that, by providing specifically for "legal" relief, it intended that there would be a jury trial on demand to enforce liability for amounts deemed to be unpaid minimum wages or overtime compensation. Pp. 582-583.

(c) A contrary congressional intent cannot be found by comparing the ADEA with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Assuming, arguendo, that Congress did not intend that there be jury trials in private actions under Title VII, there is a material difference between the ADEA and Title VII. In contrast to the ADEA, Title VII does not, in so many words, authorize "legal" relief, and the availability of

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backpay is a matter of equitable discretion. It appears, moreover, that Congress rejected the course of adopting Title VII procedures [98 S.Ct. 868] for ADEA actions in favor of incorporating the FLSA procedures. Pp. 583-585.

549 F.2d 950, affirmed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other Members joined except BLACKMUN, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

MARSHALL, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents the question whether there is a right to a jury trial in private civil actions for lost wages under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA or Act), 81 Stat. 602, as amended, 88 Stat. 74, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (1970 ed. and Supp. V). Respondent commenced this action against petitioner, her former employer, alleging that she had been discharged because of her age in violation of the ADEA. She sought reinstatement, lost wages, liquidated damages, attorney's fees, and costs. Respondent demanded a jury trial on all issues of fact; petitioner moved to strike the demand. The District Court granted the motion to strike, but certified the issue for interlocutory appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b). The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit allowed the appeal and vacated the trial court's order, ruling that the ADEA and the Seventh Amendment1

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afford respondent the right to a jury trial on her claim for lost wages, 549 F.2d 50, 952-53 (1977).2 We granted certiorari, 433 U.S. 907 (1977), to resolve the conflict in the Circuits3 on this important issue in the administration of the ADEA. We now affirm.


The ADEA broadly prohibits arbitrary discrimination in the workplace based on age. § 4(a), 29 U.S.C. § 623(a). Although the ADEA contains no provision expressly granting a right to jury trial, respondent nonetheless contends that the structure of the Act demonstrates a congressional intent to grant such a right. Alternatively, she argues that the Seventh Amendment requires that, in a private action for lost wages under the ADEA, the parties must be given the option of having the case heard by a jury. We turn first to the statutory question, since

"it is a cardinal principle that this Court will first ascertain whether a construction of the statute is fairly possible by which the [constitutional] question may be avoided."

United States v. Thirty-seven Photographs, 402 U.S. 363, 369 (1971), quoting Crowell v. Benson, 285 U.S. 22, 62 (1932). Accord, Pernell v. Southall Realty, 416 U.S. 363, 365 (1974). Because we find the statutory issue dispositive, we need not address the constitutional issue.

The enforcement scheme for the statute is complex -- the product of considerable attention during the legislative debates

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preceding passage of the Act. Several alternative proposals were considered by Congress. The Administration submitted a bill, modeled after §§ 10(c), (e) of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 160(c), (e), which would have granted power to the Secretary of Labor to issue cease and desist orders enforceable in the courts of appeals, [98 S.Ct. 869] but would not have granted a private right of action to aggrieved individuals, S. 830, H.R. 4221, 90th Cong., 1st Sess. (1967). Senator Javits introduced an alternative proposal to make discrimination based on age unlawful under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq.; the normal enforcement provisions of the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 216 et seq. (1970 ed. and Supp. V), then would have been applicable, permitting suits by either the Secretary of Labor or the injured individual, S. 788, 90th Cong., 1st Sess. (1967). A third alternative that was considered would have adopted the statutory pattern of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and utilized the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 42 U.S.C. § § 2000e-4, 2000e-5 (1970 ed. and Supp. V) .

The bill that was ultimately enacted is something of a hybrid, reflecting, on the one hand, Congress' desire to use an existing statutory scheme and a bureaucracy with which employers and employees would be familiar and, on the other hand, its dissatisfaction with some elements of each of the preexisting schemes.4 Pursuant to § 7(b) of the Act, 29 U.S.C. 626(b), violations of the ADEA generally are to be treated as violations of the FLSA. "Amounts owing . . . as a result of a violation" of the ADEA are to be treated as "unpaid minimum

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wages or unpaid overtime compensation" under the FLSA and the rights created by the ADEA are to be "enforced in accordance with the powers, remedies and procedures" of specified sections of the FLSA. 29 U.S.C. § 626(b).5

Following the model of the FLSA, the ADEA establishes two primary enforcement mechanisms. Under the FLSA provisions incorporated in § 7(b) of the ADEA, 29 U.S.C. § 626(b), the Secretary of Labor may bring suit on behalf of an aggrieved individual for injunctive and monetary relief. 29 U.S.C. §§ 216(c), 217 (1970 ed. and Supp. V). The incorporated FLSA provisions, together with § 7(c) of the ADEA, 29 U.S.C. § 626(c), in addition authorize private civil actions for "such legal or equitable relief as will effectuate the purposes of" the ADEA.6 Although not required by the

Page 580

FLSA, prior to the initiation of any ADEA action, an individual must give notice to the [98 S.Ct. 870] Secretary of Labor of his intention to sue in order that the Secretary can attempt to eliminate the alleged unlawful practice through informal methods. § 7(d), 29 U.S.C. § 626(d). After allowing the Secretary 60 days to conciliate the alleged unlawful practice, the individual may file suit. The right of the individual to sue on his own terminates, however, if the Secretary commences an action on his behalf. § 7(c), 29 U.S.C. § 626(c).


Looking first to the procedural provisions of the statute, we find a significant indication of Congress' intent in its directive that the ADEA be enforced in accordance with the "powers, remedies, and procedures" of the FLSA. § 7(b), 29 U.S.C. § 626(b) (emphasis added). Long before Congress enacted the ADEA, it was well established that there was a right to a jury trial in private actions pursuant to the FLSA. Indeed, every court to consider the issue had so held.7 Congress is presumed to be aware of an administrative or judicial interpretation of a statute and to adopt that interpretation when it reenacts a statute without change, see Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody, 422 U.S. 405, 414 n. 8 (1975); NLRB v. Gullett Gin

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Co., 340 U.S. 361, 366 (1951); National Lead Co. v. United States, 252 U.S. 140, 147 (1920); 2A C. Sands, Sutherland on Statutory Construction § 49.09 and cases cited (4th ed.1973). So too, where, as here, Congress adopts a new law incorporating sections of a prior law, Congress normally can be presumed to have had knowledge of the interpretation given to the incorporated law, at least insofar as it affects the new statute.

That presumption is particularly appropriate here since, in enacting the ADEA, Congress exhibited both a detailed knowledge of the FLSA provisions and their judicial interpretation and a willingness to depart from those provisions regarded as undesirable or inappropriate for incorporation. For example, in construing the enforcement...

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