MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case presents the question whether there is a right to a jury trial in private civil actions for lost wages under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA or Act), 81 Stat. 602, as amended, 88 Stat. 74, 29 U. S. C. § 621 et seq. (1970 ed. and Supp. V). Respondent commenced this action against petitioner, her former employer, alleging that she had been discharged because of her age in violation of the ADEA. She sought reinstatement, lost wages, liquidated damages, attorney's fees, and costs. Respondent demanded a jury trial on all issues of fact; petitioner moved to strike the demand. The District Court granted the motion to strike but certified the issue for interlocutory appeal pursuant to 28 U. S. C. § 1292 (b). The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit allowed the appeal and vacated the trial court's order, ruling that the ADEA and the Seventh Amendment
The ADEA broadly prohibits arbitrary discrimination in the workplace based on age. § 4 (a), 29 U. S. C. § 623 (a). Although the ADEA contains no provision expressly granting a right to jury trial, respondent nonetheless contends that the structure of the Act demonstrates a congressional intent to grant such a right. Alternatively, she argues that the Seventh Amendment requires that in a private action for lost wages under the ADEA, the parties must be given the option of having the case heard by a jury. We turn first to the statutory question since " `it is a cardinal principle that this Court will first ascertain whether a construction of the statute is fairly possible by which the [constitutional] question may be avoided.' " United States v. Thirty-seven Photographs, 402 U.S. 363, 369 (1971), quoting Crowell v. Benson, 285 U.S. 22, 62 (1932). Accord, Pernell v. Southall Realty, 416 U.S. 363, 365 (1974). Because we find the statutory issue dispositive, we need not address the constitutional issue.
The enforcement scheme for the statute is complex—the product of considerable attention during the legislative debates
The bill that was ultimately enacted is something of a hybrid, reflecting, on the one hand, Congress' desire to use an existing statutory scheme and a bureaucracy with which employers and employees would be familiar and, on the other hand, its dissatisfaction with some elements of each of the preexisting schemes.
Following the model of the FLSA, the ADEA establishes two primary enforcement mechanisms. Under the FLSA provisions incorporated in § 7 (b) of the ADEA, 29 U. S. C. § 626 (b), the Secretary of Labor may bring suit on behalf of an aggrieved individual for injunctive and monetary relief. 29 U. S. C. §§ 216 (c), 217 (1970 ed. and Supp. V). The incorporated FLSA provisions together with § 7 (c) of the ADEA, 29 U. S. C. § 626 (c), in addition, authorize private civil actions for "such legal or equitable relief as will effectuate the purposes of" the ADEA.
Looking first to the procedural provisions of the statute, we find a significant indication of Congress' intent in its directive that the ADEA be enforced in accordance with the "powers, remedies, and procedures" of the FLSA. § 7 (b), 29 U. S. C. § 626 (b) (emphasis added). Long before Congress enacted the ADEA, it was well established that there was a right to a jury trial in private actions pursuant to the FLSA. Indeed, every court to consider the issue had so held.
That presumption is particularly appropriate here since, in enacting the ADEA, Congress exhibited both a detailed knowledge of the FLSA provisions and their judicial interpretation and a willingness to depart from those provisions regarded as undesirable or inappropriate for incorporation. For example, in construing the enforcement sections of the FLSA, the courts had consistently declared that injunctive relief was not available in suits by private individuals but only in suits by the Secretary. Powell v. Washington Post Co., 105 U. S. App. D. C. 374, 267 F.2d 651 (1959); Roberg v. Henry Phipps Estate, 156 F.2d 958, 963 (CA2 1946); Bowe v. Judson C. Burns, Inc., 137 F.2d 37 (CA3 1943). Congress made plain its decision to follow a different course in the ADEA by expressly permitting "such . . . equitable relief as may be appropriate to effectuate the purposes of [the ADEA] including without limitation judgments compelling employment, reinstatement or promotion" "in any action brought to enforce" the Act. § 7 (b), 29 U. S. C. § 626 (b) (emphasis added). Similarly, while incorporating into the ADEA the FLSA provisions authorizing awards of liquidated damages, Congress altered the circumstances under which such awards would be available in ADEA actions by mandating that such damages be awarded only where the violation of the ADEA is willful.
This selectivity that Congress exhibited in incorporating provisions and in modifying certain FLSA practices strongly suggests that but for those changes Congress expressly made, it intended to incorporate fully the remedies and procedures of the FLSA. Senator Javits, one of the floor managers of the bill, so indicated in describing the enforcement section which became part of the Act: "The enforcement techniques provided by [the ADEA] are directly analogous to those available under the Fair Labor Standards Act; in fact [the ADEA] incorporates by reference, to the greatest extent possible, the provisions of the [FLSA]." 113 Cong. Rec. 31254 (1967).
This inference is buttressed by an examination of the language Congress chose to describe the available remedies under the ADEA. Section 7 (b), 29 U. S. C. § 626 (b), empowers a court to grant "legal or equitable relief" and § 7 (c), 29 U. S. C. § 626 (c), authorizes individuals to bring actions for "legal or equitable relief" (emphases added). The word "legal" is a term of art: In cases in which legal relief is available and legal rights are determined, the Seventh Amendment provides a right to jury trial. See Curtis v. Loether, 415 U.S. 189, 195-196 (1974). "[W]here words are employed in a statute which had at the time a well-known meaning at common law or in the law of this country they are presumed to have been used in that sense unless the context compels to the contrary." Standard Oil v. United States, 221 U.S. 1, 59 (1911). See Gilbert v. United States, 370 U.S. 650, 655 (1962); Montclair v. Ramsdell, 107 U.S. 147, 152 (1883). We can infer, therefore, that by providing specifically for "legal" relief, Congress knew the significance of the term "legal," and intended that there would be a jury trial on demand to "enforc[e] . . . liability for amounts deemed to be unpaid minimum wages or unpaid overtime compensation." § 7 (b), 29 U. S. C. § 626 (b).
Petitioner strives to find a contrary congressional intent by comparing the ADEA with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U. S. C. § 2000e et seq. (1970 ed. and Supp. V), which petitioner maintains does not provide for jury trials. We, of course, intimate no view as to whether a jury trial is
Looking first to the statutory language defining the relief available, we note that Congress specifically provided for both "legal or equitable relief" in the ADEA, but did not authorize "legal" relief in so many words under Title VII. Compare § 7 (b), 29 U. S. C. § 626 (b), with 42 U. S. C. § 2000e-5 (g) (1970 ed., Supp. V). Similarly, the ADEA incorporates the FLSA provision that employers "shall be liable" for amounts deemed unpaid minimum wages or overtime compensation, while under Title VII, the availability of backpay is a matter of equitable discretion, see Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody, 422 U. S., at 421.
We are not unmindful of the difficulty of discerning congressional intent where the statute provides no express answer. However, we cannot assume, in the face of Congress' extensive knowledge of the operation of the FLSA, illustrated by its selective incorporation and amendment of the FLSA provisions for the ADEA, that Congress was unaware that courts had uniformly afforded jury trials under the FLSA. Nor can we believe that in using the word "legal," Congress was oblivious to its long-established meaning or its significance. We are therefore persuaded that Congress intended that in a private action under the ADEA a trial by jury would be available where sought by one of the parties. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is, accordingly,
MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
Jonathan A. Weiss filed a brief for Legal Services for the Elderly Poor as amicus curiae urging affirmance.
"The provisions of this chapter shall be enforced in accordance with the powers, remedies, and procedures provided in sections 211 (b), 216 (except for subsection (a) thereof), and 217 of this title, and subsection (c) of this section. Any act prohibited under section 623 of this title shall be deemed to be a prohibited act under section 215 of this title. Amounts owing to a person as a result of a violation of this chapter shall be deemed to be unpaid minimum wages or unpaid overtime compensation for purposes of sections 216 and 217 of this title: Provided, That liquidated damages shall be payable only in cases of willful violations of this chapter. In any action brought to enforce this chapter the court shall have jurisdiction to grant such legal or equitable relief as may be appropriate to effectuate the purposes of this chapter, including without limitation judgments compelling employment, reinstatement or promotion, or enforcing the liability for amounts deemed to be unpaid minimum wages or unpaid overtime compensation under this section. Before instituting any action under this section, the Secretary shall attempt to eliminate the discriminatory practice or practices alleged, and to effect voluntary compliance with the requirements of this chapter through informal methods of conciliation, conference, and persuasion."
"Any person aggrieved may bring a civil action in any court of competent jurisdiction for such legal or equitable relief as will effectuate the purposes of this chapter: Provided, That the right of any person to bring such action shall terminate upon the commencement of an action by the Secretary to enforce the right of such employee under this chapter."
"The whole test is somewhat like the test in an accident case—did the person use reasonable care. A jury will answer yes or no. The question here is: Was the individual discriminated against solely because of his age? The alleged discrimination must be proved and the burden of proof is upon the one who would assert that that was actually the case." 113 Cong. Rec. 31255 (1967).
It is difficult to tell whether Senator Javits was referring to the issue in ADEA cases or in accident cases when he said the jury will say yes or no.