UNITED AIR LINES, INC. V. MCMANN, 434 U. S. 192 (1977)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United Air Lines, Inc. v. McMann, 434 U.S. 192 (1977)

United Air Lines, Inc. v. McMann

No. 76-906

Argued October 4, 1977

Decided December 12, 1977

434 U.S. 192


The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which applies to persons between the ages of 40 and 65, makes it unlawful for an employer to discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against him with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of such individual's age. The Act specifies, however, in § 4(f)(2) that it shall not be unlawful for an employer to observe the terms of a bona fide seniority system or any bona fide employee benefit plan such as a retirement, pension, or insurance plan that is not a "subterfuge" to evade the Act's purposes. Petitioner inaugurated a retirement income plan in 1941, which respondent employee voluntarily joined in 1964 after he had signed an application form that showed the normal retirement age for participants in his category as 60 years. After respondent was retired upon reaching that age, he brought this suit under the Act, contending that his retirement was solely because of his age, and violated the Act. The District Court granted a motion for summary judgment filed by petitioner, which had contended that respondent was retired in compliance with a bona fide retirement plan that he had voluntarily joined. The Court of Appeals reversed. Though it had been conceded that petitioner's plan was bona fide "in the sense that it exists and pays benefits," the court ruled that a pre-age-65 retirement is a "subterfuge" within the meaning of § 4(f)(2) unless the employer can show that the "early retirement provision . . . has some economic or business purpose other than arbitrary age discrimination."

Held: Petitioner's retirement plan comes within the § 4(f)(2) exception, in the context of which "subterfuge" must be given its ordinary meaning as a scheme or stratagem to avoid the application of the Act. There is nothing to suggest that Congress intended to invalidate plans that were instituted in good faith before the Act's passage or that it intended to require employers to show a business or economic purpose to justify bona fide plans that antedated enactment of the statute. Pp. 434 U. S. 195-203.

542 F.2d 217, reversed and remanded.

BURGER, C.J.,delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BLACKMUN, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. STEWART, J., post, p. 434 U. S. 204,

Page 434 U. S. 193

and WHITE, J., post, p. 434 U. S. 204, filed opinions concurring in the judgment. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 434 U. S. 208.

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