This case requires us to clarify the scope of the private right of action to enforce § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 87 Stat. 394, as amended, 29 U. S. C. § 794 (1982 ed.), that prohibits discrimination against the handicapped by federal grant recipients. There is a conflict among the Circuits.
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 establishes a comprehensive federal program aimed at improving the lot of the handicapped. Among its purposes, as originally stated, were to "promote and expand employment opportunities in the public and private sectors for handicapped individuals and to place such individuals in employment." 29 U. S. C. § 701(8). To further these purposes, Congress enacted § 504 of the Act. That section provides:
The language of the section is virtually identical to that of § 601 of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 252, 42 U. S. C. § 2000d, that similarly bars discrimination (on the ground of race, color, or national origin) in federally assisted programs.
In 1978, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to specify the means of enforcing its ban on discrimination. In particular, § 505(a)(2), as added, 92 Stat. 2982, 29 U. S. C. § 794a(a)(2) (1982 ed.), made available the "remedies procedures, and rights set forth in title VI of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964" to victims of discrimination in violation of § 504 of the Act.
Conrail also received federal funds under Subchapter V of the Act, now repealed, to provide for reassignment and retraining of railroad workers whose jobs were affected by the reorganization. And Conrail now receives federal funds under § 1143(a) of the Northeast Rail Service Act of 1981, 95 Stat. 662, 45 U. S. C. § 797a (1976 ed., Supp. V), that provides termination allowances of up to $25,000 to workers who lose their jobs as a result of reorganization.
In 1979, Thomas LeStrange filed suit against petitioner for violation of rights conferred by § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
The District Court, following the decision of Trageser v. Libbie Rehabilitation Center, Inc., 590 F.2d 87 (CA4 1978), cert. denied, 442 U.S. 947 (1979), granted petitioner's motion for summary judgment on the ground that the plaintiff did not have "standing" to bring a private action under § 504. LeStrange v. Consolidated Rail Corporation, 501 F.Supp. 964 (MD Pa. 1980).
We granted certiorari to resolve the conflict among the Circuits and to consider other questions under the Rehabilitation Act.
We are met initially by petitioner's contention that the death of the plaintiff LeStrange has mooted the case and deprives the Court of jurisdiction for that reason.
In Guardians Assn. v. Civil Service Comm'n of New York City, 463 U.S. 582 (1983), a majority of the Court expressed the view that a private plaintiff under Title VI could recover backpay; and no Member of the Court contended that backpay was unavailable, at least as a remedy for intentional discrimination.
The Court of Appeals rejected the argument that petitioner may be sued under § 504 only if the primary objective of the federal aid that it receives is to promote employment. Conrail relies particularly on § 604 of Title VI. This section limits the applicability of Title VI to "employment practice[s]. . . where a primary objective of the Federal financial assistance is to provide employment" (emphasis added).
It is clear that § 504 itself contains no such limitation. Section 504 neither refers explicitly to § 604 nor contains analogous limiting language; rather, that section prohibits discrimination against the handicapped under "any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." And it is unquestionable that the section was intended to reach employment discrimination.
The legislative history, executive interpretation, and purpose of the 1973 enactment all are consistent with this construction. The legislative history contains no mention of a "primary objective" limitation, although the legislators on numerous occasions adverted to § 504's prohibition against
Nor did Congress intend to enact the "primary objective" requirement of § 604 into the Rehabilitation Act when it amended that Act in 1978. The amendments, as we have noted, make "available" the remedies, procedures, and rights of Title VI for suits under § 504 against "any recipient of Federal assistance." § 505(a)(2), 29 U. S. C. § 794a(a)(2) (1982 ed.). These terms do not incorporate § 604's "primary objective" limitation. Rather, the legislative history reveals that this section was intended to codify the regulations of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare governing enforcement of § 504, see S. Rep. No. 95-890, p. 19 (1978), that prohibited employment discrimination regardless of the purpose of federal financial assistance.
Section 504, by its terms, prohibits discrimination only by a "program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." This Court on two occasions has considered the meaning of the terms "program or activity" as used in Title
The procedural posture of the case before us is the same as that of North Haven Board of Education. The District Court granted a motion for summary judgment on grounds unrelated to the issue of "program specificity." That judgment was reversed by the Court of Appeals and the case was remanded for further proceedings. Thus, neither the District Court nor the Court of Appeals below considered the question whether respondent's decedent had sought and been denied employment in a "program . . . receiving Federal financial assistance."
We conclude that respondent may recover backpay due to her decedent under § 504 and that this suit for employment discrimination may be maintained even if petitioner receives no federal aid the primary purpose of which is to promote employment. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is therefore affirmed.
It is so ordered.
Section 505(a)(1) generally makes available the remedies of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to persons aggrieved by violation of § 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, which governs the Federal Government's employment of the handicapped.
Petitioner suggests that North Haven is inapplicable to the construction of § 504 because the Congress considered but rejected a provision explicitly incorporating the language of § 604 of Title VI into Title IX. And other aspects of the legislative history also supported the Court's interpretation of § 901, see id., at 523-529. In contrast, Congress did not advert to a "primary objective" limitation when drafting § 504.
Clearly, petitioner's observations do not touch on that aspect of North Haven — its analysis of the language of § 601 — that is relevant to the present case. But even without the analysis of North Haven, petitioner's interpretation of § 504's language is unfounded. For language as broad as that of § 504 cannot be read in isolation from its history and purposes. See, e. g., Chapman v. Houston Welfare Rights Org., 441 U.S. 600, 608 (1979); Philbrook v. Glodgett, 421 U.S. 707, 713 (1975). In these respects, § 504 differs from Title VI in ways that suggest that § 504 cannot sensibly be interpreted to ban employment discrimination only in programs that receive federal aid the "primary objective" of which is to promote employment. The "primary objective" limitation of Title VI gave the anti-discrimination provision of that Title a scope that well fits its underlying purposes — to ensure that "funds of the United States are not used to support racial discrimination" but "are spent in accordance with the Constitution and the moral sense of the Nation." 110 Cong. Rec. 6544 (1964) (remarks of Sen. Humphrey). As the Court of Appeals observed, it was unnecessary to extend Title VI more generally to ban employment discrimination, as Title VII comprehensively regulates such discrimination.
In contrast, the primary goal of the Act is to increase employment of the handicapped, see supra, at 632, and n. 12. However, Congress chose to ban employment discrimination against the handicapped, not by all employers, but only by the Federal Government and recipients of federal contracts and grants. As to the latter, Congress apparently determined that it would require contractors and grantees to bear the costs of providing employment for the handicapped as a quid pro quo for the receipt of federal funds. Cf. 118 Cong. Rec. 32305 (1972) (remarks of Sen. Javits). But this decision to limit § 504 to the recipients of federal aid does not require us to limit that section still further, as petitioner urges.
The Department of Justice, now responsible for coordinating agency implementation of § 504, see Exec. Order No. 12250, 3 CFR 298 (1981), adopted the HEW guidelines, 46 Fed. Reg. 40686 (1981). The Department of Transportation, from which Conrail receives federal aid, also has construed § 504 to prohibit employment discrimination in all programs receiving federal financial assistance. 44 Fed. Reg. 31442, 31468 (1979), codified at 49 CFR pt. 27 (1983). See § 27.31.