In The

Supreme Court of the United States




Decided May 16, 1988

Justice O’Connor, Concurring

Topic: Civil Rights*Court vote: 5–3
Note: No other Justices joined this opinion.
Citation: 486 U.S. 107 Docket: 86–1696Audio: Listen to this case's oral arguments at Oyez

* As categorized by the Washington University Law Supreme Court Database

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JUSTICE O'CONNOR concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.

I join Parts I and III of the Court's opinion. I also join Part II-A, in which the Court correctly concludes that, in light of the statute's language, structure, and legislative history, sufficient ambiguity exists to warrant deference to the agency's construction of the word "terminated" in § 706(c). Indeed, deference is particularly appropriate on this type of technical issue of agency procedure. But while I agree with much of what the majority says in Parts II-B and II-C in indicating that the agency's construction is reasonable, in my view the majority goes too far by suggesting that the agency's position is the only one permissible. For example, the majority labels the respondent's position "absurd," ante at 120, which of course implies that we would refuse to countenance an agency decision to adopt such an approach. See, e.g., NLRB v. Food and Commercial Workers, 484 U. S. 112, 484 U. S. 123 (1987) (agency given deference only "as long as its interpretation is rational and consistent with the statute"); Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U. S. 837, 467 U. S. 844 (1984) (agency regulations given deference "unless they are arbitrary, capricious, or manifestly contrary to the statute"). Any such implication is incorrect. As the dissent concisely points out, post at 486 U. S. 126, and n. 1, the agency could quite reasonably conclude that the statutory language warrants giving the word "terminated" what the Court recognizes is its more natural reading, ante at 486 U. S. 115.

In short, I believe the result in this case is correct solely due to the traditional deference accorded the EEOC in interpretation of this statute. Because Parts II-B and II-C could be read to go beyond this view, I join only Parts I, II-A, and III of the Court's opinion, and in the judgment.

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