About 200 employees of General Dynamics in Ohio and Pennsylvania sued their company after the company said in 1997 it would discontinue retirement health benefits to union workers younger than 50. Among them was Dennis Cline, a materials driver at the company's Land Systems tank plant in Lima, Ohio. The age discrimination case springs from a dispute between defense contractor General Dynamics and the United Auto Workers eliminated the company's provision of health benefits to subsequently retired employees, except for current workers who were at least 50 years old at the time of the amendment of the agreement. Employees who were over 40 years old, filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging age discrimination in violation of the ADEA, and seeking protection under § 623(a)(1). Among the groups that supported the company's position was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the AFL-CIO national labor federation and the Society for Human Resource Management. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had argued the law was "crystal clear" in protecting people over 40 from all discrimination, even when it favored the most senior workers. Following the failure of settlement, Cline and others filed suit in federal court, which viewed the claim as one for "reverse age discrimination." The District Court dismissed the claim, but a divided panel of the Sixth Circuit reversed, reasoning that the prohibition of §623(a)(1), covering discrimination against "any individual ...because of such individual's age," supported the plaintiffs' cause of action. The EEOC backed the workers, saying its own regulations prohibit such distinctions. At issue was Congress' intent when it passed the 1967 age discrimination law. The law refers to "age" in many contexts, including some that suggest that lawmakers were intent on age- neutral policies in all cases. Justice Souter rejected the...
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