JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.
The no-interest rule is to the effect that interest cannot be recovered in a suit against the Government in the absence of an express waiver of sovereign immunity from an award of interest. In this case, attorney's fees as well as interest on those fees were awarded to a plaintiff who prevailed against petitioner Library of Congress in a suit brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 253, as amended, 42 U. S. C. § 2000e et seq. We therefore must decide whether Congress, in enacting Title VII, expressly waived the Government's immunity from interest.
Respondent Tommy Shaw is an employee of the Library of Congress. He is black. During 1976 and 1977, he filed three complaints with the Library's Equal Employment Office alleging job-related racial discrimination. Following an investigation, Library officials rejected his complaints. Thereafter, respondent's counsel pursued administrative relief and settlement negotiations, and eventually reached a settlement with the Library. The latter agreed to promote Shaw retroactively with backpay provided that the Comptroller General first determined that the Library had authority to do so in the absence of a specific finding of racial discrimination. The Comptroller General ruled that the Library, under the Back Pay Act, 5 U. S. C. §§ 5595, 5596, lacked that power; he did not address whether such relief was authorized under Title VII.
Respondent then filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, contending that Title VII authorized the Library to accord the relief specified in the settlement agreement. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the court agreed with respondent that the Library had the power under Title VII to settle his claim by awarding him a retroactive promotion with backpay without a formal finding of discrimination. 479 F.Supp. 945 (1979). The Library therefore was authorized to promote Shaw with backpay, and to pay a reasonable attorney's fee and costs pursuant to § 706(k) of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U. S. C. § 2000e-5(k). 479 F. Supp., at 949-950.
In a separate opinion calculating the attorney's fee, the District Court began with a lodestar of $8,435,
The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed. 241 U. S. App. D. C. 355, 747 F.2d 1469 (1984). The court determined that, even though the adjustment was termed compensation for delay rather than interest, the no-interest rule applied because the two adjustments were functionally equivalent. The court went on to examine whether the Government expressly had waived its immunity from interest in Title VII. Section 706(k) of Title VII, 42 U. S. C. § 2000e-5(k), provides in relevant part:
The Court of Appeals noted that in a Title VII suit against a private employer, interest on attorney's fees may be recovered. 241 U. S. App. D. C., at 361, 747 F. 2d, at 1475. See, e. g., Chrapliwy v. Uniroyal, Inc., 670 F.2d 760 (CA7 1982), cert. denied, 461 U.S. 956 (1983). Therefore, the
Judge Ginsburg dissented. Id., at 371, 747 F. 2d, at 1485. She found no express waiver of immunity from interest, and declined to join what she considered to be a judicial termination of the no-interest rule. She viewed the increase for delay in this case as an award of interest, based on the manner and timing of its computation. She indicated, however, that use of current rather than historical hourly rates in order to compensate for delay, or use of historical rates that were based on expected delay, see Murray v. Weinberger, 239 U. S. App. D. C. 264, 741 F.2d 1423 (1984), would not run afoul of the no-interest rule.
We granted certiorari to address the question whether the Court of Appeals' decision conflicts with this Court's repeated holdings that interest may not be awarded against the Government in the absence of express statutory or contractual consent. 474 U.S. 815 (1985).
In the absence of express congressional consent to the award of interest separate from a general waiver of immunity to suit, the United States is immune from an interest award. This requirement of a separate waiver reflects the historical view that interest is an element of damages separate from damages on the substantive claim. C. McCormick, Law of Damages § 50, p. 205 (1935). Because interest was generally presumed not to be within the contemplation of the parties, common-law courts in England allowed interest by way of
The agreement requirement assumed special force when applied to claims for interest against the United States. As sovereign, the United States, in the absence of its consent, is immune from suit. See United States v. Sherwood, 312 U.S. 584 (1941). This basic rule of sovereign immunity, in conjunction with the requirement of an agreement to pay interest, gave rise to the rule that interest cannot be recovered unless the award of interest was affirmatively and separately contemplated by Congress. See, e. g., United States ex rel. Angarica v. Bayard, 127 U.S. 251, 260 (1888) ("The case, therefore, falls within the well-settled principle, that the United States are not liable to pay interest on claims against them, in the absence of express statutory provision to that effect"). The purpose of the rule is to permit the Government to "occupy an apparently favored position," United
For well over a century, this Court, executive agencies, and Congress itself consistently have recognized that federal statutes cannot be read to permit interest to run on a recovery against the United States unless Congress affirmatively mandates that result. The no-interest rule is expressly described as early as 1819, in an opinion letter from Attorney General William Wirt to the Secretary of the Treasury.
Respondent acknowledges the longstanding no-interest rule, but argues that Congress, by § 706(k), waived the Government's
In analyzing whether Congress has waived the immunity of the United States, we must construe waivers strictly in favor of the sovereign, see McMahon v. United States, 342 U.S. 25, 27 (1951), and not enlarge the waiver " `beyond what the language requires,' " Ruckelshaus v. Sierra Club, 463 U.S. 680, 685-686 (1983), quoting Eastern Transportation Co. v. United States, 272 U.S. 675, 686 (1927). The no-interest rule provides an added gloss of strictness upon these usual rules.
When Congress has intended to waive the United States' immunity with respect to interest, it has done so expressly;
Title VII's provision making the United States liable "the same as a private person" waives the Government's immunity from attorney's fees, but not interest. The statute, as well as its legislative history, contains no reference to interest. This congressional silence does not permit us to read the provision as the requisite waiver of the Government's immunity with respect to interest.
When Congress enacted Title VII in 1964, and provided in § 706(k), 42 U. S. C. § 2000e-5(k), that the Government should be liable for attorney's fees "the same as a private person," it rendered the United States subject to liability only as a plaintiff for the fees of certain prevailing defendants. See Christiansburg Garment Co. v. EEOC, 434 U.S. 412 (1978). At its inception, thus, the provision was at most a very limited waiver of sovereign immunity, establishing that the United States is liable for the fees of prevailing defendants in the same circumstances as are private plaintiffs. It was not until 1972 that Congress waived the Government's immunity under Title VII as a defendant, affording federal employees a right of action against the Government for its discriminatory acts as an employer. See § 717, 42 U. S. C. § 2000e-16(d). That § 706(k) already contained language equating the liability of the United States for attorney's fees to that of a private person does not represent the requisite affirmative congressional choice to waive the no-interest rule; see also n. 5, supra.
Other statutes placing the United States in the same position as a private party also have been read narrowly to preserve
Nor do we find the requisite waiver of immunity from interest in the statutory requirement of awarding "reasonable" attorney's fees. There is no basis for reading the term "reasonable" as the embodiment of a specific congressional choice to include interest as a component of attorney's fees, particularly where the legislative history is silent. The Court consistently has refused to impute an intent to waive immunity from interest into the ambiguous use of a particular word or phrase in a statute. For example, interest has been ruled unavailable under statutes or contracts directing the United States to pay the "amount equitably due." See Tillson v. United States, 100 U. S., at 46. And the United States is not liable for interest under statutes and contracts requiring the payment of "just compensation," United States v. Tillamooks, 341 U. S., at 49; United States v. Goltra, 312 U.S. 203 (1941), even though it long has been understood that the United States is required to pay interest where the Constitution mandates payment under the Just Compensation Clause. See Seaboard Air Line R. Co. v. United States, 261 U.S. 299 (1923).
Respondent argues, however, that the policy reasons that motivated Congress to permit recovery of a reasonable attorney's fee require reading the statute as a waiver of immunity
Finally, we note that the provision makes the United States liable for "costs," and includes as an element of "costs" a reasonable attorney's fee. Prejudgment interest, however, is considered as damages, not a component of "costs." See 10 C. Wright, A. Miller, & M. Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2664, pp. 159-160 (2d ed. 1983); 2 A. Sedgwick & G. Van Nest, Sedgwick on Damages 157-158 (7th ed. 1880). Indeed, the term "costs" has never been understood to include any interest component. See 28 U. S. C. § 1920; see also Wright, Miller, & Kane, supra, §§ 2666 and 2670. A statute allowing costs, and within that category, attorney's fees, does not provide the clear affirmative intent of Congress to waive the sovereign's immunity.
In the alternative, respondent argues that the no-interest rule does not prohibit the award of compensation for delay. But the force of the no-interest rule cannot be avoided simply by devising a new name for an old institution:
We are not persuaded. Interest and a delay factor share an identical function. They are designed to compensate for the belated receipt of money. The no-interest rule has been applied to prevent parties from holding the United States liable on claims grounded on the belated receipt of funds, even when characterized as compensation for delay. See United States v. Sherman, 98 U.S. 565, 568 (1879). Thus, whether the loss to be compensated by an increase in a fee award stems from an opportunity cost or from the effects of inflation, the increase is prohibited by the no-interest rule.
That interest and compensation for delay are functionally equivalent also is supported by Title VII decisions concerning private employers. Private-sector decisions, when they adjust for the time of payment, grant interest or a delay factor, but not both. See, e. g., Brown v. Gillette Co., 536 F.Supp. 113
In making the Government liable as a defendant under Title VII, Congress effected a waiver of the Government's immunity from suit, and from costs including reasonable attorney's fees. Congress did not waive the Government's traditional immunity from interest. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
JUSTICE BRENNAN, with whom JUSTICE MARSHALL and JUSTICE STEVENS join, dissenting.
The Court today applies the rules for construing waivers of sovereign immunity in a wooden and archaic fashion to conclude that the United States has not waived its immunity to interest on attorney's fee awards. Because the result reached by the Court frustrates the clear intention of Congress, I respectfully dissent.
The so-called "no-interest rule" is, as the Court suggests, one of considerable antiquity.
I begin with the relevant language of § 706(k) of Title VII, 42 U. S. C. § 2000e-5(k): "[T]he court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party, other than the [EEOC] or the United States, a reasonable attorney's fee as a part of the costs, and the [EEOC] and the United States shall be liable for costs the same as a private person." By this language, Congress indisputably authorized the award of reasonable attorney's fees to prevailing parties against any losing party, including the United States. Since, in appropriate circumstances, § 706(k) permits the award of prejudgment interest (or a delay adjustment) on attorney's fees awarded against losing parties other than the Federal Government,
The "underlying congressional policy," Franchise Tax Board, supra, at 521, also supports this conclusion. The Senate Report relevant to the Equal Employment Act of 1972 — the legislation that amended Title VII, inter alia, to protect federal employees against employment discrimination — indicates that Congress intended that federal employees enjoy the same access to courts and the same judicial remedies that are available to other Title VII plaintiffs. S. Rep. No. 92-415 (1971). The Report states:
See also Chandler v. Roudebush, 425 U.S. 840, 841 (1976).
The legislative history of the 1972 amendments thus demonstrates that Congress intended that federal employees enjoy the same rights and remedies in the courts as private litigants. It therefore follows that Congress intended that in situations where private sector Title VII litigants may recover
It is true, as the Court points out, that the legislative history of the 1972 amendments to Title VII seems devoid of explicit reference to the availability of prejudgment interest on attorney's fees awarded against the Federal Government. But, only under a highly formalistic, "ritualistic," Franchise Tax Board, supra, at 521, canon of construction that ignores unmistakable congressional intent and that requires Congress to adhere to a talismanic formula in order to waive immunity can the absence of the words "interest on attorney's fees" from the congressional Committee Reports limit the waiver of sovereign immunity to the attorney's fees themselves and bar the award of interest on those fees. Such an antiquated cannon of construction is unacceptable, both because it is unnecessary to protect the Government from liability to which it has not consented and because it frustrates the intention of Congress that federal employees enjoy the same rights and remedies in the courts as do individuals in the private sector.
In sharp contrast to Boston Sand, we know here from the legislative history of the 1972 amendments to Title VII that Congress intended that federal employees enjoy precisely the same rights and remedies in federal court as do litigants from the private sector. See supra, at 325. Consequently, Boston Sand is in apposite to the instant case.