FORD MOTOR CO. V. EEOC, 458 U. S. 219 (1982)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Ford Motor Co. v. EEOC, 458 U.S. 219 (1982)

Ford Motor Co. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

No. 81-300

Argued April 20, 1982

Decided June 28, 1982

458 U.S. 219


Held: An employer charged with discrimination in hiring under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 can toll the continuing accrual of backpay liability under § 706(g) of Title VII by unconditionally offering the claimant the job previously denied, and is not required to offer seniority retroactive to the date of the alleged discrimination. Thus, absent special circumstances, the rejection of an employer's unconditional job offer ends the accrual of potential backpay liability. Pp. 458 U. S. 225-241.

(a) This rule serves Title VII's objective of ending discrimination through voluntary compliance, for it gives the employer a strong incentive to hire the claimant. To require a retroactive seniority offer in addition to the unconditional job offer fails to provide the same incentive, because it makes hiring the claimant more costly than hiring another applicant for the same job. Pp. 458 U. S. 228-230.

(b) An unemployed or underemployed claimant's statutory obligation to minimize damages under § 706(g) requires him to accept an unconditional job offer, even without retroactive seniority. The rule announced here merely embodies such requirement of minimizing damages, without affecting the claimant's right to compensation. Pp. 458 U. S. 230-234.

(c) The rule announced here also is consistent with the policy of full compensation when the claimant has had the good fortune to find a more attractive job than that offered by the employer charged with discrimination, because the availability of the better job terminates the ongoing ill effect of the latter's refusal to hire the claimant. Pp. 458 U. S. 234-236.

(d) Since the rule announced here rests both on the statutory requirement that a claimant minimize damages and on the fact that he no longer incurs additional injury if he has been able to find other work at least as attractive as the charged employer's, the rule in almost all circumstances is consistent with Title VII's object of making injured claimants whole. Pp. 458 U. S. 236-239.

(e) To require a retroactive seniority offer in addition to the unconditional job offer would threaten the interests of innocent incumbent employees by disrupting the established seniority hierarchy, with the attendant risk that an innocent employee would be unfairly laid off or

Page 458 U. S. 220

disadvantaged because a Title VII claimant has been granted seniority. Pp. 458 U. S. 239-240.

645 F.2d 183, reversed and remanded.

O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and WHITE, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 458 U. S. 241.

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