LEHMAN V. NAKSHIAN, 453 U. S. 156 (1981)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Lehman v. Nakshian, 453 U.S. 156 (1981)

Lehman v. Nakshian

No. 80-242

Argued March 31, 1981

Decided June 26, 1981

453 U.S. 156


The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA or Act) was amended in 1974 to extend to federal employees the Act's protection of older workers against discrimination in the workplace based on age. Section 15(c) of the Act provides that any aggrieved federal employee "may bring a civil action in any Federal district court of competent jurisdiction for such legal or equitable relief as will effectuate the purposes" of the Act. Respondent federal employee brought suit in Federal District Court against the Secretary of the Navy under § 15(c), alleging violations of the Act and demanding a jury trial. The District Court ruled, over the Secretary's objection, that respondent was entitled to a jury trial. On an interlocutory appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: Respondent was not entitled to a jury trial. Pp. 453 U. S. 160-169.

(a) Where Congress waives the Government's immunity from suit, as it has in the ADEA, the plaintiff has a right to a trial by jury only where Congress has affirmatively and unambiguously granted that right by statute. Pp. 453 U. S. 160-161.

(b) Congress has not done so here. Neither the provision in § 15(c) for federal employer cases to be brought in federal district courts, rather than the Court of Claims, nor the use of the word "legal" in that section, evinces a congressional intent that ADEA plaintiffs who proceed to trial against the Federal Government may do so before a jury. Lorillard v. Pons, 434 U. S. 575, distinguished. Section 15(c) contrasts with § 7(c) of the Act, which expressly provides for jury trials in actions against private employers and state and local governments. Moreover, in extending the Act to cover federal employees, Congress based the provision not on the Fair Labor Standards Act, as was § 7, but on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, where, unlike the FLSA, there was no right to trial by jury. Pp. 453 U. S. 162-165.

(c) The legislative history no more supports a holding that respondent has a right to a jury trial than does the statutory language itself. Pp. 453 U. S. 165-168.

202 U.S.App.D.C. 59, 628 F.2d 59, reversed.

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and WHITE, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed

Page 453 U. S. 157

a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 453 U. S. 169.

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