465 U.S. 624 (1984), 82-862, Consolidated Rail Corp. v. Darrone

Docket Nº:No. 82-862.
Citation:465 U.S. 624, 104 S.Ct. 1248, 79 L.Ed.2d 568
Party Name:CONSOLIDATED RAIL CORPORATION, Petitioner v. Lee Ann LeStrange DARRONE, as Administratrix of Estate of Thomas LeStrange.
Case Date:February 28, 1984
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 624

465 U.S. 624 (1984)

104 S.Ct. 1248, 79 L.Ed.2d 568

CONSOLIDATED RAIL CORPORATION, Petitioner

v.

Lee Ann LeStrange DARRONE, as Administratrix of Estate of Thomas LeStrange.

No. 82-862.

United States Supreme Court.

Feb. 28, 1984

Argued Nov. 29, 1983.

[104 S.Ct. 1249] Syllabus[*]

SYLLABUS

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 provides that "[n]o ... handicapped individual ... shall, solely by reason of his handicap, ... be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." Section 505(a)(2), which was added to the Act in 1978, makes "available" the "remedies, procedure, and rights" set forth in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) for suits under § 504 against "any recipient of federal financial assistance." Petitioner was formed under the Regional Rail Reorganization Act to acquire and operate insolvent railroads, and, as authorized by statute, has sold its securities to the United States, the proceeds of which sales are permitted to be used for maintenance of rail properties, capital needs, refinancing of indebtedness, or working capital. Petitioner also received federal funds to provide for reassignment and retraining of railroad workers whose jobs were affected by the reorganization, and now receives federal funds to provide termination allowances to workers who lost their jobs as a result of the reorganization. Respondent's decedent filed suit in Federal District Court against petitioner for violation of his rights under § 504, alleging that while employed as a locomotive engineer by a railroad to which petitioner is the successor in interest, he suffered an accident requiring amputation of his left hand and forearm, and that thereafter the railroad and the petitioner refused to employ him. The District Court granted petitioner's motion for summary judgment on the ground that the decedent had no "standing" to bring a private action under § 504. The court held that § 505(a)(2) had incorporated the limitation in § 604 of Title VI, which provides that employment discrimination is actionable only when the employer receives federal financial assistance the "primary objective" of which is to provide employment, and that the federal assistance to petitioner did not satisfy this "primary objective" test. The Court of Appeals reversed.

Held:

1. The death of respondent's decedent did not moot the case, since it is clear that § 504 authorizes a plaintiff who alleges intentional discrimination (as was done here) to bring an equitable action for backpay. Pp. 1252 - 1253.

Page 625

2. The suit may be maintained even if petitioner receives no federal aid [104 S.Ct. 1250] the primary objective of which is to promote employment. Pp. 1253 - 1255.

(a) Section 504's language suggests that its bar on employment discrimination should not be limited to programs that receive such federal aid. The legislative history, executive interpretation, and the Rehabilitation Act's purpose to promote and expand employment opportunities for the handicapped all are consistent with this construction. Pp. 1253 - 1255.

(b) Nor did Congress intend to enact the "primary objective" requirement of § 604 of Title VI into the Rehabilitation Act when it added § 505(a)(2) to the Act in 1978. Section 505(a)(2)'s language does not incorporate § 604's "primary objective" limitation. Rather, the legislative history reveals that§ 505(a)(2) was intended to codify regulations governing enforcement of § 504 that prohibited employment discrimination regardless of the purpose of federal financial assistance. P. 1255.

687 F.2d 767 (CA3 1982), affirmed.

COUNSEL

Harry A. Rissetto argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs were Dennis J. Morikawa and Dennis Alan Arouca.

Joseph P. Lenahan argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief wereJack Greenberg, Beth Lief, and Eric Schnapper.

Assistant Attorney General Reynolds argued the cause for the United States asamicus curiae urging affirmance. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Lee, Deputy Solicitor General Bator, Deputy Assistant Attorneys General Cooper and Wilkinson, John H. Garvey, Brian K. Landsberg, and Joan A. Magagna.*

* Robert E. Williams, Douglas S. McDowell, and Edward E. Potter filed a brief for the Equal Employment Advisory Council as amicus curiae urging reversal.

Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the American Council of the Blind et al. by Arlene Brynne Mayerson; for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees et al. by Larry J. Goldberg and Marc P. Charmatz; and for Senator Alan Cranston et al. by Allen R. Snyder.

Harry A. Rissetto, Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Joseph P. Lenahan, Scranton, Pa., for respondent.

William Bradford Reynolds, Washington, D.C., for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court.

OPINION

Page 626

Justice POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case requires us to clarify the scope of the private right of action to enforce § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. (Supp. V) § 794, that prohibits discrimination against the handicapped by federal grant recipients. There is a conflict among the circuits.

I

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 establishes a comprehensive federal program aimed at improving the lot of the handicapped. Among its purposes are to "promote and expand employment opportunities in the public and private sectors for handicapped individuals and place such individuals in employment." 29 U.S.C. § 701(8). To further these purposes, Congress enacted § 504 of the Act. That section provides that:

No otherwise qualified handicapped individual ... shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

The language of the section is virtually identical to that of § 601 of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, that similarly bars discrimination (on the ground of race, color, or national origin) in federally-assisted programs.

In 1978, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to specify the means of enforcing its ban on discrimination. In particular, § 505(a)(2), 29 U.S.C.§§ 794a, made available the "remedies, procedure, and rights set forth in Title VI of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964" to victims of discrimination in violation of § 504 of the Act. 1

Page 627

Petitioner, Consolidated Rail Corporation ("Conrail"), was formed pursuant to subchapter III of the Regional Rail Reorganization Act, 45 U.S.C. §§ 701 et seq. The Act, passed in response to the insolvency of a number of railroads in the Northeast and Midwest, established [104 S.Ct. 1251] Conrail to acquire and operate the rail properties of the insolvent railroads and to integrate these properties into an efficient national rail transportation system. Under § 216 of the Act, 45 U.S.C. § 726, the United States, acting through the United States Railway Association, purchases debentures and series A preferred stock of the corporation "at such times and in such amounts as may be required and requested by the corporation," but "in accordance with the terms and conditions ... prescribed by the Association ...." Id. § 726(b)(1). The statute permits the proceeds from these sales to be devoted to maintenance of rail properties, capital needs, refinancing of indebtedness, or working capital. Ibid. Under this statutory authorization, Conrail has sold the United States $3.28 billion in securities. See App. A-15.

Conrail also received federal funds under subchapter V of the Act, now repealed, to provide for reassignment and retraining of railroad workers whose jobs were affected by the reorganization. And Conrail now receives federal funds under § 1143(a) of the Northeast Rail Service Act, 45 U.S.C. § 797a, that provides termination allowances of up to $25,000 to workers who lose their jobs as a result of reorganization.

Page 628

II

In 1979, Thomas LeStrange filed suit against petitioner for violation of rights conferred by § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. 2 The complaint alleged that the Erie Lackawanna Railroad, to which Conrail is the successor in interest, had employed the plaintiff as a locomotive engineer; that an accident had required amputation of plaintiff's left hand and forearm in 1971; and that, after LeStrange was disabled, the Erie Lackawanna Railroad, and then Conrail, had refused to employ him although it had no justification for finding him unfit to work.

The District Court, following the decision of Trageser v. Libbie Rehabilitation Center, Inc., 590 F.2d 87 (CA4 1978), cert. denied, 442 U.S. 947, 99 S.Ct. 2895, 61 L.Ed.2d 318 (1979), granted petitioner's motion for summary judgment on the ground that the plaintiff did not have "standing" to bring a private action under § 504. 3 In Trageser, the Fourth Circuit had held that § 505(a)(2) of the Rehabilitation Act incorporated into that act the limitation found in § 604 of Title VI, which provides that employment discrimination is actionable only when the employer receives federal financial assistance the "primary objective" of which is "to provide employment." The District Court concluded that the aid provided to petitioner did not satisfy the "primary objective" test. 4

Page 629

The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded to the District Court. 687 F.2d 767 (CA3 1982). There was no opinion for the court, but all three judges of the panel agreed that the cause of action for employment discrimination under § 504 was not properly limited to situations "where a primary objective of the federal financial assistance is to provide employment." Judge Bloch, noting that North Haven Board of Education v. Bell, 456 U.S. 512, 102 S.Ct. 1912, 72 L.Ed.2d 299 (1982), had construed Title IX to create a private cause of action...

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