The question presented in this case is whether an employer held liable to its female employees for backpay because collectively bargained wage differentials were found to violate the Equal Pay Act of 1963
The relevant facts are alleged in the complaint filed by the petitioner, Northwest Airlines, Inc., against the respondent unions, the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) and the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
In 1970, Mary Laffey, a female cabin attendant employed by petitioner, commenced a class action against petitioner challenging the legality of the wage differential between pursers and stewardesses.
After the entry of judgment against it, petitioner filed appropriate motions in the Laffey case asserting claims for contribution and indemnification against TWU and ALPA.
As the District Court interpreted the pleadings, petitioner contended that it had an implied cause of action against the unions under the Equal Pay Act for causing it to discriminate against the Laffey class, or, in the alternative, a federal common-law right to contribution from the unions for a share of its Equal Pay Act monetary liability. Petitioner's claim for reimbursement for its Title VII monetary liability was based solely on a federal common-law right to contribution. App. to Pet. for Cert. 2b-3b. The District Court held that because the Equal Pay Act clearly was not enacted for the special
The District Court reached a different conclusion with respect to the claim for contribution for petitioner's Title VII monetary liability. It found that the allegations of the complaint satisfied the two principal elements of a common-law right to contribution: (1) common liability and (2) the party seeking contribution has been required to pay more than its just share of the award. Id., at 10b. The court answered what it described as the "more difficult question" whether there is a right to contribution under federal law by noting a modern trend of federal-court decisions favoring contribution,
Unlike the Court of Appeals, we think the basic legal questions raised by the motions to dismiss petitioner's contribution claims are ripe for decision.
We first put to one side certain questions that we need not address. We shall then discuss the two quite different theories that might support petitioner's claimed right to contribution.
At common law there was no right to contribution among joint tortfeasors.
In this case, we assume that all of the elements of a typical contribution claim are established. This means that we assume that the plaintiffs in the Laffey litigation could have recovered from either the union or the employer, under both the Equal Pay Act and Title VII,
That right may have been created in either of two ways. First, it may have been created by statute when Congress enacted the Equal Pay Act or Title VII. Even though Congress did not expressly create a contribution remedy, if its intent to do so may fairly be inferred from either or both statutes, an implied cause of action for contribution could be recognized on the basis of the analysis used in cases such as Cort v. Ash, 422 U.S. 66, Cannon v. University of Chicago, 441 U.S. 677, and Universities Research Assn., Inc. v. Coutu, 450 U.S. 754. Second, a cause of action for contribution may have become a part of the federal common law through the exercise of judicial power to fashion appropriate remedies for unlawful conduct. See, e. g., Kohr v. Allegheny Airlines, Inc.,
In determining whether a federal statute that does not expressly provide for a particular private right of action nonetheless implicitly created that right, our task is one of statutory construction. See Touche Ross & Co. v. Redington, 442 U.S. 560, 568. The ultimate question in cases such as this is whether Congress intended to create the private remedy— for example, a right to contribution—that the plaintiff seeks to invoke. See Transamerica Mortgage Advisors, Inc. v. Lewis, 444 U.S. 11, 15-16; Universities Research Assn., Inc., supra, at 770. Factors relevant to this inquiry are the language of the statute itself, its legislative history, the underlying purpose and structure of the statutory scheme, and the likelihood that Congress intended to supersede or to supplement existing state remedies. See Cort v. Ash, supra, at 78; Cannon, supra, at 689-709.
In matters of statutory construction, it is appropriate to begin with the language of the statute itself. See Touche Ross & Co., supra, at 568; Reiter v. Sonotone Corp., 442 U.S. 330, 337. Neither the Equal Pay Act nor Title VII expressly creates a right to contribution in favor of employers. This omission, although significant,
Even if we focus upon the isolated provisions in each statute that arguably were intended to provide special protection
The structure of the statutes similarly counsels against recognition of the implied right petitioner advocates in this case. The Equal Pay Act and Title VII establish comprehensive programs designed to eliminate certain varieties of employment discrimination. The statutes make express provision for private enforcement in certain carefully defined circumstances, and provide for enforcement at the instance of the Federal Government in other circumstances.
Finally, we conclude that the legislative histories of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII provide no support for petitioner's position.
Although it is much too late to deny that there is a significant body of federal law that has been fashioned by the federal judiciary in the common-law tradition, it remains true that federal courts, unlike their state counterparts, are courts of limited jurisdiction that have not been vested with openended lawmaking powers. See United States v. Standard Oil Co., 332 U.S. 301, 313. Broadly worded constitutional and statutory provisions necessarily have been given concrete meaning and application by a process of case-by-case judicial decision in the common-law tradition. The Court also has recognized a responsibility, in the absence of legislation, to fashion federal common law in cases raising issues of uniquely federal concern, such as the definition of rights or duties of the United States,
A narrow exception to the limited lawmaking role of the federal judiciary is found in admiralty. We consistently
Pursuant to our authority to fashion flexible and equitable remedies in admiralty, see United States v. Reliable Transfer Co., 421 U.S. 397, 409, we approved a nonstatutory federal right to contribution among joint tortfeasors in Cooper Stevedoring Co. v. Fritz Kopke, Inc., 417 U.S. 106. In that case, relying upon ancient admiralty doctrine, we held that a shipowner may obtain contribution from another tortfeasor jointly responsible for causing injury to a longshoreman. However, contrary to petitioner's argument and the understanding of some lower federal courts,
The liability of petitioner for discriminating against its female cabin attendants is entirely a creature of federal statute. In almost any statutory scheme, there may be a need for judicial interpretation of ambiguous or incomplete provisions. But the authority to construe a statute is fundamentally different from the authority to fashion a new rule or to provide a new remedy which Congress has decided not to adopt. Cf. Mobil Oil Corp. v. Higginbotham, 436 U.S. 618, 625. The presumption that a remedy was deliberately omitted from a statute is strongest when Congress has enacted a comprehensive legislative scheme including an integrated system of procedures for enforcement. Both the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are such statutes. The judiciary may not, in the face of such comprehensive legislative schemes, fashion new remedies that might upset carefully considered legislative programs.
Last Term, in Mohasco Corp. v. Silver, 447 U.S. 807, we had occasion to consider the enforcement scheme of Title VII with some care. Although equitable considerations strongly supported a nonliteral reading of the statutory provisions regarding
Whatever may be a federal court's power to fashion remedies in other areas of the law,
It is so ordered.
JUSTICE BLACKMUN took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
"(d) (1) No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions, except where such payment is made pursuant to (i) a seniority system; (ii) a merit system; (iii) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (iv) a differential based on any other factor other than sex: Provided, That an employer who is paying a wage rate differential in violation of this subsection shall not, in order to comply with the provisions of this subsection, reduce the wage rate of any employee.
"(2) No labor organization, or its agents, representing employees of an employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall cause or attempt to cause such an employer to discriminate against an employee in violation of paragraph (1) of this subsection." 29 U. S. C. §§ 206 (d) (1)-(2).
"(a) . . . It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer—
"(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or
"(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
"(c) . . . It shall be an unlawful employment practice for a labor organization—
"(1) to exclude or to expel from its membership, or otherwise to discriminate against, any individual because of his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;
"(2) to limit, segregate, or classify its membership or applicants for membership, or to classify or fail or refuse to refer for employment any individual, in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual, of employment opportunities, or would limit such employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee or as an applicant for employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or
"(3) to cause or attempt to cause an employer to discriminate against an individual in violation of this section." 42 U. S. C. §§ 2000e-2 (a), (c).
"The more difficult question is whether there is a right to contribution under federal law. The traditional American rule, originating in the English case of Merryweather v. Nixan, was that there was no right to contribution between joint tortfeasors. This rule has been abrogated in most states, principally by statute although a few jurisdictions, including the District of Columbia, have done so by decisional law. As with state law, there was initially no right to contribution under federal law, absent legislation. Union Stock Yards Co. v. Chicago, B & Q R. Co., 196 U.S. 217, 224 (1905). However, the modern trend, as evidenced by cases such as Kohr v. Allegheny Airlines, Inc., 504 F.2d 400 (7th Cir. 1974), cert. denied, 421 U. S.  (1975), has been to recognize a right to contribution under federal law. Gould v. American-Hawaiian Steamship Company, 387 F.Supp. 163, 169 (D. Del. 1974), vacated on other grounds, 535 F.2d 761 (3rd Cir. 1976). The federal courts have come to realize that the policy considerations upon which the traditional rule was built are archaic and lead to inequities. Indeed, the most extensive body of law evidencing a significant trend toward fashioning a federal common law right to contribution concerns contribution for back pay awarded under Title VII." App. to Pet. for Cert. 11b-12b (footnotes omitted).
"It is improbable that an employee would ever have an implied cause of action under the Equal Pay Act against his union. The statutory scheme envisions three modes of enforcement and to imply a fourth would be inconsistent with the intent evidenced by the existing three. First, under section 216 (a) of title 29, U. S. Code, `any person' who wilfully violates the Act may be subject to criminal penalties. Under section 216 (c), the Secretary of Labor may bring suit to recover money owing `to any employee or employees.' Finally, section 216 (b) of title 29 permits suits by employees against `any employer' who violates the Act. The statutory scheme of enforcement is comprehensive and by omission, it insulates unions from suits by employees. This statutory protection would certainly be frustrated by a declaration that an employer could recover from a union, once that employer had been found liable to its employees. Of course, we need not—and do not—definitely resolve the issue of an employee's right to sue a union under the Act. We hold only that the likelihood of the implication of such a right is sufficiently remote to preclude the creation of a cause of action against a union for contribution or indemnification. Such a cause of action would, in reality, create liability on the part of the union for the benefit of employees whom Congress did not intend to protect in such a manner." 196 U. S. App. D. C. 443, 448, 606 F.2d 1350, 1355 (1979) (footnote omitted).
The Court of Appeals in this case relied upon the uncertain availability of such a remedy under the Equal Pay Act as a basis for rejecting petitioner's claim for contribution. 196 U. S. App. D. C., at 447-449, 606 F. 2d, at 1354-1356. The availability of this implied remedy, however, is relevant primarily to the question whether the elements of a contribution claim have been established; if no right to contribution exists at all, it is irrelevant that the elements of a traditional contribution claim may or may not have been established in this case. Because we conclude that no right to contribution exists under either the statute or the federal common law, we need not decide whether the elements of a contribution claim have been established in this case. Therefore, we need not and do not decide the question whether employees have an implied right of action for backpay against their unions for violations of the Equal Pay Act.
"Recognizing a right to contribution for Title VII liability against a person who was not named in an EEOC charge is fully consistent with the substantive and remedial policies of the statute. . . .
". . . Permitting a party to assert a contribution claim against another who has violated the Title, where that person was not named in a charge through inadvert[e]nce or design, manifestly serves the primary, prophylactic purpose of Title VII.
"It cannot be inferred that claims for contribution constitute an exception to this policy, because there is no necessary inconsistency between the statutory scheme of Title VII and the assertion of a right to contribution for Title VII liability. This is because an employer seeking contribution is not asserting that it has been injured by conduct unlawful under the statute, but rather it is asserting an equitable claim to reimbursement, enforced at common law, from another wrongdoer who shares common liability." Brief for EEOC as Amicus Curiae in No. 78-1056 (CADC), pp. 12-14.
In this Court, however, the EEOC argues as follows:
"Contribution would undermine the policies, and interfere with enforcement, of the Equal Pay Act. . . . For somewhat different reasons, contribution would undermine the policies, and interfere with enforcement, of Title VII." Brief for United States and EEOC as Amici Curiae 5.
A number of federal courts have recognized an implied right to contribution under the securities laws where the underlying liability resulted from an implied private right of action. These courts have reasoned that because Congress expressly created a right to contribution to correspond to certain express civil remedies, contribution should also be permitted when liability is based on an implied civil remedy. See, e. g., Heizer Corp. v. Ross, 601 F.2d 330 (CA7 1979); Globus, Inc. v. Law Research Service, Inc., 318 F.Supp. 955 (SDNY 1970), aff'd, 442 F.2d 1346 (CA2 1971), cert. denied, 404 U.S. 941. Whatever the merit of this reasoning, a question we do not now address, these decisions provide no support for petitioner in this case.
"No labor organization, or its agents, representing employees of an employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall cause or attempt to cause such an employer to discriminate against an employee in violation of paragraph (1) of this subsection." 29 U. S. C. § 206 (d) (2).
Section 703 (c) (3) of Title VII provides:
"(c) . . . It shall be an unlawful employment practice for a labor organization—
"(3) to cause or attempt to cause an employer to discriminate against an individual in violation of this section." 42 U. S. C. § 2000e-2 (c) (3).
"[T]he claim now asserted, though the product of a law Congress passed, is a matter on which Congress has not taken a position. It presents questions of policy on which Congress has not spoken. The selection of that policy which is most advantageous to the whole involves a host of considerations that must be weighed and appraised. That function is more appropriately for those who write the laws, rather than for those who interpret them." United States v. Gilman, 347 U.S. 507, 511-513.