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KIMEL v. FLORIDA BD. OF REGENTS (98-791)
139 F.3d 1426, affirmed.
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[ O’Connor ]
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[ Stevens ]
Other
[ Thomas ]
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Opinion of the Court

NOTICE:  This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES


Nos. 98—791 and 98—796

ON WRITS OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT

[January 11, 2000]
    Justice O’Connor delivered the opinion of the Court.

    The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA or Act), 81 Stat. 602, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (1994 ed. and Supp. III), makes it unlawful for an employer, including a State, “to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual … because of such individual’s age.” 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1). In these cases, three sets of plaintiffs filed suit under the Act, seeking money damages for their state employers’ alleged discrimination on the basis of age. In each case, the state employer moved to dismiss the suit on the basis of its Eleventh Amendment immunity. The District Court in one case granted the motion to dismiss, while in each of the remaining cases the District Court denied the motion. Appeals in the three cases were consolidated before the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which held that the ADEA does not validly abrogate the States’ Eleventh Amendment immunity. In these cases, we are asked to consider whether the ADEA contains a clear statement of Congress’ intent to abrogate the States’ Eleventh Amendment immunity and, if so, whether the ADEA is a proper exercise of Congress’
constitutional authority. We conclude that the ADEA
does contain a clear statement of Congress’ intent to abrogate the States’ immunity, but that the abrogation exceeded Congress’ authority under §5 of the Fourteenth Amendment.

I

A

    The ADEA makes it unlawful for an employer “to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s age.” 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1). The Act also provides several exceptions to this broad prohibition. For example, an employer may rely on age where it “is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the particular business.” §623(f)(1). The Act also permits an employer to engage in conduct otherwise prohibited by §623(a)(1) if the employer’s action “is based on reasonable factors other than age,” §623(f)(1), or if the employer “discharge[s] or otherwise discipline[s] an individual for good cause,” §623(f)(3). Although the Act’s prohibitions originally applied only to individuals “at least forty years of age but less than sixty-five years of age,” 81 Stat. 607, 29 U.S.C. § 631 (1964 ed., Supp. III), Congress subsequently removed the upper age limit, and the Act now covers individuals age 40 and over, 29 U.S.C. § 631(a). Any person aggrieved by an employer’s violation of the Act “may bring a civil action in any court of competent jurisdiction” for legal or equitable relief. §626(c)(1). Section 626(b) also permits aggrieved employees to enforce the Act through certain provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), and the ADEA specifically incorporates §16(b) of the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).

    Since its enactment, the ADEA’s scope of coverage has been expanded by amendment. Of particular importance to these cases is the Act’s treatment of state employers and employees. When first passed in 1967, the ADEA applied only to private employers. See 29 U.S.C. § 630(b) (1964 ed., Supp. III) (defining term “employer” to exclude “the United States, a corporation wholly owned by the Government of the United States, or a State or political subdivision thereof ”). In 1974, in a statute consisting primarily of amendments to the FLSA, Congress extended application of the ADEA’s substantive requirements to the States. Fair Labor Standards Amendments of 1974 (1974 Act), §28, 88 Stat. 74. Congress accomplished that expansion in scope by a simple amendment to the definition of “employer” contained in 29 U.S.C. § 630(b): “The term [employer] also means … a State or political subdivision of a State and any agency or instrumentality of a State or a political subdivision of a State … .” Congress also amended the ADEA’s definition of “employee,” still defining the term to mean “an individual employed by any employer,” but excluding elected officials and appointed policymakers at the state and local levels. §630(f). In the same 1974 Act, Congress amended 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), the FLSA enforcement provision incorporated by reference into the ADEA. 88 Stat. 61. Section 216(b) now permits an individual to bring a civil action “against any employer (including a public agency) in any Federal or State court of competent jurisdiction.” Section 203(x) defines “[p]ublic agency” to include “the Government of a State or political subdivision thereof,” and “any agency of … a State, or a political subdivision of a State.” Finally, in the 1974 Act, Congress added a provision prohibiting age discrimination generally in employment at the Federal Government. 88 Stat. 74, 29 U.S.C. § 633a (1994 ed. and Supp. III). Under the current ADEA, mandatory age limits for law enforcement officers and firefighters–at federal, state, and local levels–are exempted from the statute’s coverage. 5 U.S.C. §§3307(d), (e); 29 U.S.C. § 623(j) (1994 ed., Supp. III).

B

    In December 1994, Roderick MacPherson and Marvin Narz, ages 57 and 58 at the time, filed suit under the ADEA against their employer, the University of Montevallo, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. In their complaint, they alleged that the university had discriminated against them on the basis of their age, that it had retaliated against them for filing discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and that its College of Business, at which they were associate professors, employed an evaluation system that had a disparate impact on older faculty members. MacPherson and Narz sought declaratory and injunctive relief, backpay, promotions to full professor, and compensatory and punitive damages. App. 21—25. The University of Montevallo moved to dismiss the suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, contending it was barred by the Eleventh Amendment. No party disputes the District Court’s holding that the University is an instrumentality of the State of Alabama. On September 9, 1996, the District Court granted the University’s motion. MacPherson v. University of Montevallo, Civ. Action No. 94—AR—2962—S (ND Ala., Sept. 9, 1996), App. to Pet. for Cert. in No. 98—796, pp. 63a—71a. The court determined that, although the ADEA contains a clear statement of Congress’ intent to abrogate the States’ Eleventh Amendment immunity, Congress did not enact or extend the ADEA under its Fourteenth Amendment §5 enforcement power. Id., at 67a, 69a—70a. The District Court therefore held that the ADEA did not abrogate the States’ Eleventh Amendment immunity. Id., at 71a.

    In April 1995, a group of current and former faculty and librarians of Florida State University, including J. Daniel Kimel, Jr., the named petitioner in one of today’s cases, filed suit against the Florida Board of Regents in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida. Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial in No. 95—CV—40194, 1 Record, Doc. No. 2. The complaint was subsequently amended to add as plaintiffs current and former faculty and librarians of Florida International University. App. 41. The plaintiffs, all over age 40, alleged that the Florida Board of Regents refused to require the two state universities to allocate funds to provide previously agreed upon market adjustments to the salaries of eligible university employees. The plaintiffs contended that the failure to allocate the funds violated both the ADEA and the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992, Fla. Stat. §760.01 et seq. (1997 and Supp. 1998), because it had a disparate impact on the base pay of employees with a longer record of service, most of whom were older employees. App. 42—45. The plaintiffs sought backpay, liquidated damages, and permanent salary adjustments as relief. Id., at 46. The Florida Board of Regents moved to dismiss the suit on the grounds of Eleventh Amendment immunity. On May 17, 1996, the District Court denied the motion, holding that Congress expressed its intent to abrogate the States’ Eleventh Amendment immunity in the ADEA, and that the ADEA is a proper exercise of congressional authority under the Fourteenth Amendment. No. TCA 95—40194—MMP (ND Fla., May 17, 1996), App. to Pet. for Cert. in No. 98—796, pp. 57a—62a.

    In May 1996, Wellington Dickson filed suit against his employer, the Florida Department of Corrections, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida. Dickson alleged that the state employer failed to promote him because of his age and because he had filed grievances with respect to the alleged acts of age discrimination. Dickson sought injunctive relief, backpay, and compensatory and punitive damages. App. 83—109. The Florida Department of Corrections moved to dismiss the suit on the grounds that it was barred by the Eleventh Amendment. The District Court denied that motion on November 5, 1996, holding that Congress unequivocally expressed its intent to abrogate the States’ Eleventh Amendment immunity in the ADEA, and that Congress had authority to do so under §5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. Dickson v. Florida Dept. of Corrections, No. 5:9cv207—RH (ND Fla., Nov. 5, 1996), App. to Pet. for Cert. in No. 98—796, pp. 72a—76a.

    The plaintiffs in the MacPherson case, and the state defendants in the Kimel and Dickson cases, appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The United States also intervened in all three cases to defend the ADEA’s abrogation of the States’ Eleventh Amendment immunity. The Court of Appeals consolidated the appeals and, in a divided panel opinion, held that the ADEA does not abrogate the States’ Eleventh Amendment immunity. 139 F.3d 1426, 1433 (1998). Judge Edmondson, although stating that he believed “good reason exists to doubt that the ADEA was (or could have been properly) enacted pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment,” id., at 1430, rested his opinion on the ADEA’s lack of unmistakably clear language evidencing Congress’ intent to abrogate the States’ sovereign immunity. Ibid. He noted that the ADEA lacks any reference to the Eleventh Amendment or to the States’ sovereign immunity and does not contain, in one place, a plain statement that States can be sued by individuals in federal court. Id., at 1430—1431. Judge Cox concurred in Judge Edmondson’s ultimate conclusion that the States are immune from ADEA suits brought by individuals in federal court. Id., at 1444. Judge Cox, however, chose not to address “the thorny issue of Congress’s intent,” id., at 1445, but instead found that Congress lacks the power under §5 of the Fourteenth Amendment to abrogate the States’ Eleventh Amendment immunity under the ADEA. Ibid. He concluded that “the ADEA confers rights far more extensive than those the Fourteenth Amendment provides,” id., at 1446, and that “Congress did not enact the ADEA as a proportional response to any widespread violation of the elderly’s constitutional rights.” Id., at 1447. Chief Judge Hatchett dissented from both grounds. Id., at 1434.

    We granted certiorari, 525 U.S. 1121 (1999), to resolve a conflict among the Federal Courts of Appeals on the question whether the ADEA validly abrogates the States’ Eleventh Amendment immunity. Compare Cooper v. New York State Office of Mental Health, 162 F.3d 770 (CA2 1998) (holding that the ADEA does validly abrogate the States’ Eleventh Amendment immunity), cert. pending, No. 98—1524; Migneault v. Peck, 158 F.3d 1131 (CA10 1998) (same), cert. pending, No. 98—1178; Coger v. Board of Regents of the State of Tenn., 154 F.3d 296 (CA6 1998) (same), cert. pending, No. 98—821; Keeton v. University of Nev. System, 150 F.3d 1055 (CA9 1998) (same); Scott v. University of Miss., 148 F.3d 493 (CA5 1998) (same); and Goshtasby v. Board of Trustees of the Univ. of Ill., 141 F.3d 761 (CA7 1998) (same), with Humenansky v. Regents of Univ. of Minn., 152 F.3d 822 (CA8 1998) (holding that the ADEA does not validly abrogate the States’ Eleventh Amendment immunity), cert. pending, No. 98—1235; and 139 F.3d 1426 (CA11 1998) (case below).

II

    The Eleventh Amendment states:

    “The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.”

Although today’s cases concern suits brought by citizens against their own States, this Court has long “ ‘understood the Eleventh Amendment to stand not so much for what it says, but for the presupposition … which it confirms.’ Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 54 (1996) (quoting Blatchford v. Native Village of Noatak, 501 U.S. 775, 779 (1991)). Accordingly, for over a century now, we have made clear that the Constitution does not provide for federal jurisdiction over suits against nonconsenting States. College Savings Bank v. Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Ed. Expense Bd., 527 U.S. ____, ____ (1999) (slip op., at 2—3); Seminole Tribe, supra, at 54; see Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 15 (1890). Petitioners nevertheless contend that the States of Alabama and Florida must defend the present suits on the merits because Congress abrogated their Eleventh Amendment immunity in the ADEA. To determine whether petitioners are correct, we must resolve two predicate questions: first, whether Congress unequivocally expressed its intent to abrogate that immunity; and second, if it did, whether Congress acted pursuant to a valid grant of constitutional authority. Seminole Tribe, supra, at 55.

III

    To determine whether a federal statute properly subjects States to suits by individuals, we apply a “simple but stringent test: ‘Congress may abrogate the States’ constitutionally secured immunity from suit in federal court only by making its intention unmistakably clear in the language of the statute.’ Dellmuth v. Muth, 491 U.S. 223, 228 (1989) (quoting Atascadero State Hospital v. Scanlon, 473 U.S. 234, 242 (1985)). We agree with petitioners that the ADEA satisfies that test. The ADEA states that its provisions “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.” 29 U.S.C. § 626(b). Section 216(b), in turn, clearly provides for suits by individuals against States. That provision authorizes employees to maintain actions for backpay “against any employer (including a public agency) in any Federal or State court of competent jurisdiction … .” Any doubt concerning the identity of the “public agency” defendant named in §216(b) is dispelled by looking to §203(x), which defines the term to include “the government of a State or political subdivision thereof,” and “any agency of … a State, or a political subdivision of a State.” Read as a whole, the plain language of these provisions clearly demonstrates Congress’ intent to subject the States to suit for money damages at the hands of individual employees.

    Respondents maintain that these statutory sections are less than “unmistakably clear” for two reasons. Brief for Respondents 15. First, they note that the ADEA already contains its own enforcement provision, §626(c)(1), which provides in relevant part that “[a]ny 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.” Respondents claim that the existence of §626(c)(1) renders Congress’ intent to incorporate the clear statement of abrogation in §216(b), the FLSA’s enforcement provision, ambiguous. The text of the ADEA forecloses respondents’ argument. Section 626(b) clearly states that the ADEA “shall be enforced in accordance with the powers, remedies, and procedures provided in [section 216(b)] and subsection (c) of this section.” §626(b) (emphasis added). In accord with that statutory language, we have explained repeatedly that §626(b) incorporates the FLSA’s enforcement provisions, and that those remedial options operate together with §626(c)(1). See McKennon v. Nashville Banner Publishing Co., 513 U.S. 352, 357 (1995) (“[The ADEA’s] remedial provisions incorporate by reference the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938”); Hoffman-La Roche Inc. v. Sperling, 493 U.S. 165, 167 (1989) (“[T]he ADEA incorporates enforcement provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, and provides that the ADEA shall be enforced using certain of the powers, remedies, and procedures of the FLSA” (citation omitted)); Lorillard v. Pons, 434 U.S. 575, 582 (1978) (“[B]ut for those changes Congress expressly made [in the ADEA], it intended to incorporate fully the remedies and procedures of the FLSA”). Respondents’ argument attempts to create ambiguity where, according to the statute’s text and this Court’s repeated interpretations thereof, there is none.

    Respondents next point to the phrase “court of competent jurisdiction” in §216(b), and contend that it makes Congress’ intent to abrogate less than clear. Relying on our decision in the distinct context of a state waiver of sovereign immunity, Kennecott Copper Corp. v. State Tax Comm’n, 327 U.S. 573 (1946), respondents maintain that perhaps Congress simply intended to permit an ADEA suit against a State only in those cases where the State previously has waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity to suit. We disagree. Our decision in Kennecott Copper must be read in context. The petitioner there contended that Utah had waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity to suit in federal court through a state statute that authorized taxpayers to pay their taxes under protest and “ ‘thereafter bring an action in any court of competent jurisdiction for the return thereof … .’ Id., at 575, n. 1 (quoting Utah Code Ann. §80—5—76 (1943)). Although the statute undoubtedly provided for suit against the State of Utah in its own courts, we held that the statute fell short of the required “clear declaration by a State of its consent to be sued in the federal courts.” 327 U.S., at 579—580 (emphasis added). Section 216(b) contains no such ambiguity. The statute authorizes employee suits against States “in any Federal or State court of competent jurisdiction.” §216(b) (emphasis added). That language eliminates the ambiguity identified in Kennecott Copper–whether Utah intended to permit suits against the sovereign in state court only, or in state and federal court. Under §216(b), the answer to that question is clear–actions may be maintained in federal and state court. That choice of language sufficiently indicates Congress’ intent, in the ADEA, to abrogate the States’ Eleventh Amendment immunity to suits by individuals.

    Although Justice Thomas concedes in his opinion that our cases have never required that Congress make its clear statement in a single section or in statutory provisions enacted at the same time, post, at 7, he concludes that the ADEA lacks the requisite clarity because of the “sequence of events” surrounding the enactment and amendment of §§216(b) and 626(b), post, at 4. Justice Thomas states that he is unwilling to assume that when Congress amended §216(b) in 1974, it recognized the consequences that amendment would have for the ADEA. Post, at 5. We respectfully disagree. The fact that Congress amended the ADEA itself in the same 1974 Act makes it more than clear that Congress understood the consequences of its actions. Indeed, Congress amended §216(b) to provide for suits against States in precisely the same Act in which it extended the ADEA’s substantive requirements to the States. See 1974 Act, §6(d)(1), 88 Stat. 61 (amending §216(b)); §28(a), 88 Stat. 74 (extending ADEA to the States). Those provisions confirm for us that the effect on the ADEA of the §216(b) amendment was not mere happenstance. In any event, we have never held that Congress must speak with different gradations of clarity depending on the specific circumstances of the relevant legislation (e.g., amending incorporated provisions as opposed to enacting a statute for the first time). The clear statement inquiry focuses on what Congress did enact, not when it did so. We will not infer ambiguity from the sequence in which a clear textual statement is added to a statute.

    We also disagree with Justice Thomas’ remaining points, see post, at 7—12. Although the ADEA does contain its own enforcement provision in §626(c)(1), the text of §626(b) acknowledges §626(c)(1)’s existence and makes clear that the ADEA also incorporates §216(b), save as indicated otherwise in §626(b)’s proviso. See §626(b) (“The provisions of this chapter shall be enforced in accordance with the powers, remedies, and procedures provided in sectio[n] … 216 (except for subsection (a) thereof) … and subsection (c) of this section” (emphasis added)). We fail to see how the interpretation suggested by Justice Thomas, under which §626(b) would carry over only those §216(b) “embellishments” not already provided for in §626(c)(1) except for the authorization of suits against States, see post, at 9, could be a permissible one. To accept that interpretation, for example, one would have to conclude that Congress intended to incorporate only the portion of §216(b)’s third sentence that provides for collective actions, but not the part of the very same sentence that authorizes suits against States. See §216(b) (“An action to recover the liability prescribed in either of the preceding sentences may be maintained against any employer (including a public agency) in any Federal or State court of competent jurisdiction by any one or more employees for and in behalf of himself or themselves and other employees similarly situated”).

    Justice Thomas also concludes that §216(b) itself fails the clear statement test. Post, at 10—12. As we have already explained, the presence of the word “competent” in §216(b) does not render that provision less than “unmistakably clear.” See supra, at 10—11. Justice Thomas’ reliance on a single phrase from our decision in Employees of Dept. of Public Health and Welfare of Mo. v. Department of Public Health and Welfare of Mo., 411 U.S. 279 (1973), see post, at 11, as support for the contrary proposition is puzzling, given his separate argument with respect to §6(d)(2)(A) of the 1974 Act. Crucial to Justice Thomas’ argument on that front is his acknowledgement that Congress did intend in the 1974 amendments to permit “FLSA plaintiffs who had been frustrated by state defendants’ invocation of Eleventh Amendment immunity under Employees to avail themselves of the newly amended §216(b).” Post, at 5; see also post, at 11—12. We agree with the implication of that statement: In response to Employees, Congress clearly intended through “the newly amended §216(b)” to abrogate the States’ sovereign immunity. In light of our conclusion that Congress unequivocally expressed its intent to abrogate the States’ Eleventh Amendment immunity, we now must determine whether Congress effectuated that abrogation pursuant to a valid exercise of constitutional authority.

IV

A

    This is not the first time we have considered the constitutional validity of the 1974 extension of the ADEA to state and local governments. In EEOC v. Wyoming, 460 U.S. 226, 243 (1983), we held that the ADEA constitutes a valid exercise of Congress’ power “[t]o regulate Commerce … among the several States,” Art. I, §8, cl. 3, and that the Act did not transgress any external restraints imposed on the commerce power by the Tenth Amendment. Because we found the ADEA valid under Congress’ Commerce Clause power, we concluded that it was unnecessary to determine whether the Act also could be supported by Congress’ power under §5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. Wyoming, 460 U.S., at 243. But see id., at 259—263 (Burger, C. J., dissenting). Resolution of today’s cases requires us to decide that question.

    In Seminole Tribe, we held that Congress lacks power under Article I to abrogate the States’ sovereign immunity. 517 U.S., at 72—73. “Even when the Constitution vests in Congress complete lawmaking authority over a particular area, the Eleventh Amendment prevents congressional authorization of suits by private parties against unconsenting States.” Id., at 72. Last Term, in a series of three decisions, we reaffirmed that central holding of Seminole Tribe. See College Savings Bank, 527 U.S., at ____ (slip op., at 4); Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Ed. Expense Bd. v. College Savings Bank, 527 U.S. ____, ____ (1999) (slip op., at 6—7); Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. ____, ____ (1999) (slip op., at 1—2). Indeed, in College Savings Bank, we rested our decision to overrule the constructive waiver rule of Parden v. Terminal R. Co. of Ala. Docks Dept., 377 U.S. 184 (1964), in part, on our Seminole Tribe holding. See College Savings Bank, supra, at ____ (slip op., at 16) (“Recognizing a congressional power to exact constructive waivers of sovereign immunity through the exercise of Article I powers would also, as a practical matter, permit Congress to circumvent the antiabrogation holding of Seminole Tribe”). Under our firmly established precedent then, if the ADEA rests solely on Congress’ Article I commerce power, the private petitioners in today’s cases cannot maintain their suits against their state employers.

    Justice Stevens disputes that well-established precedent again. Compare post, at 1—7, with Alden, supra, at ____ (slip op., at 1—58) (Souter, J., dissenting); College Savings Bank, 527 U.S., at ____ (slip op., at 2, n. 2) (Stevens, J., dissenting); id., at ____ (slip op., at 7—13) (Breyer, J., dissenting); Florida Prepaid, supra, at ____ (slip op., at 18—19) (Stevens, J., dissenting); Seminole Tribe, 517 U.S., at 76—100 (Stevens, J., dissenting); id., at 100—185 (Souter, J., dissenting). In Alden, we explained that, “[a]lthough the sovereign immunity of the States derives at least in part from the common-law tradition, the structure and history of the Constitution make clear that the immunity exists today by constitutional design.” 527 U.S., at ____ (slip op., at 23—24). For purposes of today’s decision, it is sufficient to note that we have on more than one occasion explained the substantial reasons for adhering to that constitutional design. See id., at ____ (slip op., at 2—45); College Savings Bank, supra, at ____ (slip op., at 1—2, 20—24); Seminole Tribe, supra, at 54—55, 59—73; Pennsylvania v. Union Gas Co., 491 U.S. 1, 30—42 (1989) (Scalia, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part). Indeed, the present dissenters’ refusal to accept the validity and natural import of decisions like Hans, rendered over a full century ago by this Court, makes it difficult to engage in additional meaningful debate on the place of state sovereign immunity in the Constitution. Compare Hans, 134 U.S., at 10, 14—16, with post, at 5—6. Today we adhere to our holding in Seminole Tribe: Congress’ powers under Article I of the Constitution do not include the power to subject States to suit at the hands of private individuals.

    Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, however, does grant Congress the authority to abrogate the States’ sovereign immunity. In Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer, 427 U.S. 445 (1976), we recognized that “the Eleventh Amendment, and the principle of state sovereignty which it embodies, are necessarily limited by the enforcement provisions of §5 of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Id., at 456 (citation omitted). Since our decision in Fitzpatrick, we have reaffirmed the validity of that congressional power on numerous occasions. See, e.g., College Savings Bank, supra, at ____ (slip op., at 2); Florida Prepaid, supra, at ____ (slip op., at 7—8); Alden, supra, at ____ (slip op., at 46—48); Seminole Tribe, supra, at 59. Accordingly, the private petitioners in these cases may maintain their ADEA suits against the States of Alabama and Florida if, and only if, the ADEA is appropriate legislation under §5.

B

    The Fourteenth Amendment provides, in relevant part:

“Section 1. … No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

. . . . .

“Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”

As we recognized most recently in City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507, 517 (1997), §5 is an affirmative grant of power to Congress. “It is for Congress in the first instance to ‘determin[e] whether and what legislation is needed to secure the guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment,’ and its conclusions are entitled to much deference.” Id., at 536 (quoting Katzenbach v. Morgan, 384 U.S. 641, 651 (1966)). Congress’ §5 power is not confined to the enactment of legislation that merely parrots the precise wording of the Fourteenth Amendment. Rather, Congress’ power “to enforce” the Amendment includes the authority both to remedy and to deter violation of rights guaranteed thereunder by prohibiting a somewhat broader swath of conduct, including that which is not itself forbidden by the Amendment’s text. 521 U.S., at 518.

    Nevertheless, we have also recognized that the same language that serves as the basis for the affirmative grant of congressional power also serves to limit that power. For example, Congress cannot “decree the substance of the Fourteenth Amendment’s restrictions on the States. … It has been given the power ‘to enforce,’ not the power to determine what constitutes a constitutional violation.” Id., at 519 (emphases added). The ultimate interpretation and determination of the Fourteenth Amendment’s substantive meaning remains the province of the Judicial Branch. Id., at 536. In City of Boerne, we noted that the determination whether purportedly prophylactic legislation constitutes appropriate remedial legislation, or instead effects a substantive redefinition of the Fourteenth Amendment right at issue, is often difficult. Id., at 519—520. The line between the two is a fine one. Accordingly, recognizing that “Congress must have wide latitude in determining where [that line] lies,” we held that “[t]here must be a congruence and proportionality between the injury to be prevented or remedied and the means adopted to that end.” Id., at 520.

    In City of Boerne, we applied that “congruence and proportionality” test and held that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) was not appropriate legislation under §5. We first noted that the legislative record contained very little evidence of the unconstitutional conduct purportedly targeted by RFRA’s substantive provisions. Rather, Congress had uncovered only “anecdotal evidence” that, standing alone, did not reveal a “widespread pattern of religious discrimination in this country.” Id., at 531. Second, we found that RFRA is “so out of proportion to a supposed remedial or preventive object that it cannot be understood as responsive to, or designed to prevent, unconstitutional behavior.” Id., at 532.

    Last Term, we again had occasion to apply the “congruence and proportionality” test. In Florida Prepaid, we considered the validity of the Eleventh Amendment abrogation provision in the Patent and Plant Variety Protection Remedy Clarification Act (Patent Remedy Act). We held that the statute, which subjected States to patent infringement suits, was not appropriate legislation under §5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Patent Remedy Act failed to meet our congruence and proportionality test first because “Congress identified no pattern of patent infringement by the States, let alone a pattern of constitutional violations.” 527 U.S., at ____ (slip op., at 11) (emphasis added). Moreover, because it was unlikely that many of the acts of patent infringement affected by the statute had any likelihood of being unconstitutional, we concluded that the scope of the Act was out of proportion to its supposed remedial or preventive objectives. Id., at ____ (slip op., at 18—19). Instead, “[t]he statute’s apparent and more basic aims were to provide a uniform remedy for patent infringement and to place States on the same footing as private parties under that regime.” Id., at ____ (slip op., at 19). While we acknowledged that such aims may be proper congressional concerns under Article I, we found them insufficient to support an abrogation of the States’ Eleventh Amendment immunity after Seminole Tribe. Florida Prepaid, supra, at ____ (slip op., at 19—20).

C

    Applying the same “congruence and proportionality” test in these cases, we conclude that the ADEA is not “appropriate legislation” under §5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. Initially, the substantive requirements the ADEA imposes on state and local governments are disproportionate to any unconstitutional conduct that conceivably could be targeted by the Act. We have considered claims of unconstitutional age discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause three times. See Gregory v. Ashcroft, 501 U.S. 452 (1991); Vance v. Bradley, 440 U.S. 93 (1979); Massachusetts Bd. of Retirement v. Murgia, 427 U.S. 307 (1976) (per curiam). In all three cases, we held that the age classifications at issue did not violate the Equal Protection Clause. See Gregory, supra, at 473; Bradley, supra, at 102—103, n. 20, 108—112; Murgia, supra, at 317. Age classifications, unlike governmental conduct based on race or gender, cannot be characterized as “so seldom relevant to the achievement of any legitimate state interest that laws grounded in such considerations are deemed to reflect prejudice and antipathy.” Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, Inc., 473 U.S. 432, 440 (1985). Older persons, again, unlike those who suffer discrimination on the basis of race or gender, have not been subjected to a “ ‘history of purposeful unequal treatment.’ Murgia, supra, at 313 (quoting San Antonio Independent School Dist. v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1, 28 (1973)). Old age also does not define a discrete and insular minority because all persons, if they live out their normal life spans, will experience it. 427 U.S., at 313—314. Accordingly, as we recognized in Murgia, Bradley, and Gregory, age is not a suspect classification under the Equal Protection Clause. See, e.g., Gregory, supra, at 470; Bradley, supra, at 97; Murgia, supra, at 313—314.

    States may discriminate on the basis of age without offending the Fourteenth Amendment if the age classification in question is rationally related to a legitimate state interest. The rationality commanded by the Equal Protection Clause does not require States to match age distinctions and the legitimate interests they serve with razorlike precision. As we have explained, when conducting rational basis review “we will not overturn such [government action] unless the varying treatment of different groups or persons is so unrelated to the achievement of any combination of legitimate purposes that we can only conclude that the [government’s] actions were irrational.” Bradley, supra, at 97. In contrast, when a State discriminates on the basis of race or gender, we require a tighter fit between the discriminatory means and the legitimate ends they serve. See, e.g., Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña, 515 U.S. 200, 227 (1995) (“[Racial] classifications are constitutional only if they are narrowly tailored measures that further compelling governmental interests”); Mississippi Univ. for Women v. Hogan, 458 U.S. 718, 724 (1982) (holding that gender classifications are constitutional only if they serve “ ‘important governmental objectives and … the discriminatory means employed’ are ‘substantially related to the achievement of those objectives’ ” (citation omitted)). Under the Fourteenth Amendment, a State may rely on age as a proxy for other qualities, abilities, or characteristics that are relevant to the State’s legitimate interests. The Constitution does not preclude reliance on such generalizations. That age proves to be an inaccurate proxy in any individual case is irrelevant. “[W]here rationality is the test, a State ‘does not violate the Equal Protection Clause merely because the classifications made by its laws are imperfect.’ Murgia, supra, at 316 (quoting Dandridge v. Williams, 397 U.S. 471, 485 (1970)). Finally, because an age classification is presumptively rational, the individual challenging its constitutionality bears the burden of proving that the “facts on which the classification is apparently based could not reasonably be conceived to be true by the governmental decisionmaker.” Bradley, supra, at 111; see Gregory, supra, at 473.

    Our decisions in Murgia, Bradley, and Gregory illustrate these principles. In all three cases, we held that the States’ reliance on broad generalizations with respect to age did not violate the Equal Protection Clause. In Murgia, we upheld against an equal protection challenge a Massachusetts statute requiring state police officers to retire at age 50. The State justified the provision on the ground that the age classification assured the State of the physical preparedness of its officers. 427 U.S., at 314—315. Although we acknowledged that Officer Murgia himself was in excellent physical health and could still perform the duties of a state police officer, we found that the statute clearly met the requirements of the Equal
Protection Clause. Id., at 311, 314—317. “That the State chooses not to determine fitness more precisely through individualized testing after age 50 [does not prove] that the objective of assuring physical fitness is not rationally furthered by a maximum-age limitation.” Id., at 316. In Bradley, we considered an equal protection challenge to a federal statute requiring Foreign Service officers to retire at age 60. We explained: “If increasing age brings with it increasing susceptibility to physical difficulties, … the fact that individual Foreign Service employees may be able to perform past age 60 does not invalidate [the statute] any more than did the similar truth undercut compulsory retirement at age 50 for uniformed state police in Murgia.” 440 U.S., at 108. Finally, in Gregory, we upheld a provision of the Missouri Constitution that required judges to retire at age 70. Noting that the Missouri provision was based on a generalization about the effect of old age on the ability of individuals to serve as judges, we acknowledged that “[i]t is far from true that all judges suffer significant deterioration in performance at age 70,” “[i]t is probably not true that most do,” and “[i]t may not be true at all.” 501 U.S., at 473. Nevertheless, because Missouri’s age classification was subject only to rational basis review, we held that the State’s reliance on such imperfect generalizations was entirely proper under the Equal Protection Clause. Ibid. These decisions thus demonstrate that the constitutionality of state classifications on the basis of age cannot be determined on a person-by-person basis. Our Constitution permits States to draw lines on the basis of age when they have a rational basis for doing so at a class-based level, even if it “is probably not true” that those reasons are valid in the majority of cases.

    Judged against the backdrop of our equal protection jurisprudence, it is clear that the ADEA is “so out of proportion to a supposed remedial or preventive object that it cannot be understood as responsive to, or designed to prevent, unconstitutional behavior.” City of Boerne, 521 U.S., at 532. The Act, through its broad restriction on the use of age as a discriminating factor, prohibits substantially more state employment decisions and practices than would likely be held unconstitutional under the applicable equal protection, rational basis standard. The ADEA makes unlawful, in the employment context, all “discriminat[ion] against any individual … because of such individual’s age.” 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1). Petitioners, relying on the Act’s exceptions, dispute the extent to which the ADEA erects protections beyond the Constitution’s requirements. They contend that the Act’s prohibition, considered together with its exceptions, applies only to arbitrary age discrimination, which in the majority of cases corresponds to conduct that violates the Equal Protection Clause. We disagree.

    Petitioners stake their claim on §623(f)(1). That section permits employers to rely on age when it “is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the particular business.” Petitioners’ reliance on the “bona fide occupational qualification” (BFOQ) defense is misplaced. Our interpretation of §623(f)(1) in Western Air Lines, Inc. v. Criswell, 472 U.S. 400 (1985), conclusively demonstrates that the defense is a far cry from the rational basis standard we apply to age discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause. The petitioner in that case maintained that, pursuant to the BFOQ defense, employers must be permitted to rely on age when such reliance has a “rational basis in fact.” Id., at 417. We rejected that argument, explaining that “[t]he BFOQ standard adopted in the statute is one of ‘reasonable necessity,’ not reasonableness,” id., at 419, and that the ADEA standard and the rational basis test are “significantly different,” id., at 421.

    Under the ADEA, even with its BFOQ defense, the State’s use of age is prima facie unlawful. See 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1); Western Air Lines, 472 U.S., at 422 (“Under the Act, employers are to evaluate employees … on their merits and not their age”). Application of the Act therefore starts with a presumption in favor of requiring the employer to make an individualized determination. See ibid. In Western Air Lines, we concluded that the BFOQ defense, which shifts the focus from the merits of the individual employee to the necessity for the age classification as a whole, is “ ‘meant to be an extremely narrow exception to the general prohibition’ of age discrimination contained in the ADEA.” Id., at 412 (citation omitted). We based that conclusion on both the restrictive language of the statutory BFOQ provision itself and the EEOC’s regulation interpreting that exception. See 29 CFR § 1625.6(a) (1998) (“It is anticipated that this concept of a [BFOQ] will have limited scope and application. Further, as this is an exception to the Act it must be narrowly construed”). To succeed under the BFOQ defense, we held that an employer must demonstrate either “a substantial basis for believing that all or nearly all employees above an age lack the qualifications required for the position,” or that reliance on the age classification is necessary because “it is highly impractical for the employer to insure by individual testing that its employees will have the necessary qualifications for the job.” 472 U.S., at 422—423 (emphases added). Measured against the rational basis standard of our equal protection jurisprudence, the ADEA plainly imposes substantially higher burdens on state employers. Thus, although it is true that the existence of the BFOQ defense makes the ADEA’s prohibition of age discrimination less than absolute, the Act’s substantive requirements nevertheless remain at a level akin to our heightened scrutiny cases under the Equal Protection Clause.

    Petitioners also place some reliance on the next clause in §623(f)(1), which permits employers to engage in conduct otherwise prohibited by the Act “where the differentiation is based on reasonable factors other than age.” This exception confirms, however, rather than disproves, the conclusion that the ADEA’s protection extends beyond the requirements of the Equal Protection Clause. The exception simply makes clear that “[t]he employer cannot rely on age as a proxy for an employee’s remaining characteristics, such as productivity, but must instead focus on those factors directly.” Hazen Paper Co. v. Biggins, 507 U.S. 604, 611 (1993). Under the Constitution, in contrast, States may rely on age as a proxy for other characteristics. See Gregory, 501 U.S., at 473 (generalization about ability to serve as judges at age 70); Bradley, 440 U.S., at 108—109, 112 (generalization about ability to serve as Foreign Service officer at age 60); Murgia, 427 U.S., at 314—317 (generalization about ability to serve as state police officer at age 50). Section 623(f)(1), then, merely confirms that Congress, through the ADEA, has effectively elevated the standard for analyzing age discrimination to heightened scrutiny.

    That the ADEA prohibits very little conduct likely to be held unconstitutional, while significant, does not alone provide the answer to our §5 inquiry. Difficult and intractable problems often require powerful remedies, and we have never held that §5 precludes Congress from enacting reasonably prophylactic legislation. Our task is to determine whether the ADEA is in fact just such an appropriate remedy or, instead, merely an attempt to substantively redefine the States’ legal obligations with respect to age discrimination. One means by which we have made such a determination in the past is by examining the legislative record containing the reasons for Congress’ action. See, e.g., Florida Prepaid, 527 U.S., at ____—____ (slip op., at 11—18); City of Boerne, 521 U.S., at 530—531. “The appropriateness of remedial measures must be considered in light of the evil presented. Strong measures appropriate to address one harm may be an unwarranted response to another, lesser one.” Id., at 530 (citing South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301, 308 (1966)).

    Our examination of the ADEA’s legislative record confirms that Congress’ 1974 extension of the Act to the States was an unwarranted response to a perhaps inconsequential problem. Congress never identified any pattern of age discrimination by the States, much less any discrimination whatsoever that rose to the level of constitutional violation. The evidence compiled by petitioners to demonstrate such attention by Congress to age discrimination by the States falls well short of the mark. That evidence consists almost entirely of isolated sentences clipped from floor debates and legislative reports. See, e.g., S. Rep. No. 93—846, p. 112 (1974); S. Rep. No. 93—690, p. 56 (1974); H. R. Rep. No. 93—913, pp. 40—41 (1974); S. Rep. No. 93—300, p. 57 (1973); Senate Special Committee on Aging, Improving the Age Discrimination Law, 93d Cong., 1st Sess., 14 (Comm. Print 1973); 113 Cong. Rec. 34742 (1967) (remarks of Sen. Steiger); id., at 34749 (remarks of Rep. Donohue); 110 Cong. Rec. 13490 (1964) (remarks of Sen. Smathers); id., at 9912 (remarks of Sen. Sparkman); id., at 2596 (remarks of Rep. Beckworth). The statements of Senator Bentsen on the floor of the Senate are indicative of the strength of the evidence relied on by petitioners. See, e.g., 118 Cong. Rec. 24397 (1972) (stating that “there is ample evidence that age discrimination is broadly practiced in government employment,” but relying on newspaper articles about federal employees); id., at 7745 (“Letters from my own State have revealed that State and local governments have also been guilty of discrimination toward older employees”); ibid. (“[T]here are strong indications that the hiring and firing practices of governmental units discriminate against the elderly …”).

    Petitioners place additional reliance on Congress’ consideration of a 1966 report prepared by the State of California on age discrimination in its public agencies. See Hearings on H. R. 3651 et al. before the Subcommittee on Labor of the House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, 90th Cong., 1st Sess., pp. 161—201 (1967) (Hearings) (reprinting State of California, Citizens’ Advisory Committee on Aging, Age Discrimination in Public Agencies (1966)). Like the assorted sentences petitioners cobble together from a decade’s worth of congressional reports and floor debates, the California study does not indicate that the State had engaged in any unconstitutional age discrimination. In fact, the report stated that the majority of the age limits uncovered in the state survey applied in the law enforcement and firefighting occupations. Hearings 168. Those age limits were not only permitted under California law at the time, see ibid., but are also currently permitted under the ADEA. See 5 U.S.C. § 3307(d), (e); 29 U.S.C. § 623(j) (1994 ed., Supp. III). Even if the California report had uncovered a pattern of unconstitutional age discrimination in the State’s public agencies at the time, it nevertheless would have been insufficient to support Congress’ 1974 extension of the ADEA to every State of the Union. The report simply does not constitute “evidence that [unconstitutional age discrimination] had become a problem of national import.” Florida Prepaid, supra, at ____ (slip op., at 13).

    Finally, the United States’ argument that Congress found substantial age discrimination in the private sector, see Brief for United States 38, is beside the point. Congress made no such findings with respect to the States. Although we also have doubts whether the findings Congress did make with respect to the private sector could be extrapolated to support a finding of unconstitutional age discrimination in the public sector, it is sufficient for these cases to note that Congress failed to identify a widespread pattern of age discrimination by the States. See Florida Prepaid, 527 U.S., at ___ (slip op., at 11).

    A review of the ADEA’s legislative record as a whole, then, reveals that Congress had virtually no reason to believe that state and local governments were unconstitutionally discriminating against their employees on the basis of age. Although that lack of support is not determinative of the §5 inquiry, id., at ____ (slip op., at 17—18); City of Boerne, 521 U.S., at 531—532, Congress’ failure to uncover any significant pattern of unconstitutional discrimination here confirms that Congress had no reason to believe that broad prophylactic legislation was necessary in this field. In light of the indiscriminate scope of the Act’s substantive requirements, and the lack of evidence of widespread and unconstitutional age discrimination by the States, we hold that the ADEA is not a valid exercise of Congress’ power under §5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. The ADEA’s purported abrogation of the States’ sovereign immunity is accordingly invalid.

D

    Our decision today does not signal the end of the line for employees who find themselves subject to age discrimination at the hands of their state employers. We hold only that, in the ADEA, Congress did not validly abrogate the States’ sovereign immunity to suits by private individuals. State employees are protected by state age discrimination statutes, and may recover money damages from their state employers, in almost every State of the Union.1 Those avenues of relief remain available today, just as they were before this decision.

    Because the ADEA does not validly abrogate the States’ sovereign immunity, however, the present suits must be dismissed. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.

It is so ordered.


Notes

1. See Alaska Stat. Ann. §18.80.010 et seq. (1998); Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §41—1401 et seq. (1999); Ark. Code Ann. §§21—3—201, 21—3—203 (1996); Cal. Govt. Code Ann. §12900 et seq. (West 1992 and Supp. 1999); Colo. Rev. Stat. §24—34—301 et seq. (1998); Conn. Gen. Stat. §46a—51 et seq. (1999); Del. Code Ann., Tit. 19, §710 et seq. (Supp. 1998); Fla. Stat. Ann. §§112.044, 760.01 et seq. (1997 and Supp. 1998); Ga. Code Ann. §45—19—21 et seq. (1990 and Supp. 1996); Haw. Rev. Stat. §378—1 et seq. (1993 and Cum. Supp. 1998); Idaho Code §67—5901 et seq. (1995 and Supp. 1999); Ill. Comp. Stat., ch. 775, §5/1—101 et seq. (1998); Ind. Code §22—9—2—1 et seq. (1993); Iowa Code §216.1 et seq. (1994 and Supp. 1999); Kan. Stat. Ann. §44—1111 et seq. (1993 and Cum. Supp. 1998); Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. §344.010 et seq. (Michie 1997 and Supp. 1998); La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §23:311 et seq. (West 1998); id., §51:2231 et seq. (West Supp. 1999); Me. Rev. Stat. Ann., Tit. 5, §4551 et seq. (1998—1999 Supp.); Md. Ann. Code, Art. 49B, §1 et seq. (1998 and Supp. 1999); Mass. Gen. Laws §151:1 et seq. (West 1997 and Supp. 1998); Mich. Comp. Laws §37.2101 et seq. (West 1985 and Supp. 1999); Minn. Stat. §363.01 et seq. (1991 and Supp. 1999); Miss. Code Ann. §25—9—149 (1991); Mo. Rev. Stat. §213.010 et seq. (1994 and Cum. Supp. 1998); Mont. Code Ann. §49—1—101 et seq. (1997); Neb. Rev. Stat. §48—1001 et seq. (1998); Nev. Rev. Stat. §613.310 et seq. (1995); N. H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §354—A:1 et seq. (1995 and Supp. 1998); N. J. Stat. Ann. §§10:3—1, 10:5—1 et seq. (West 1993 and Supp. 1999); N. M. Stat. Ann. §28—1—1 et seq. (1996); N. Y. Exec. Law §290 et seq. (McKinney 1993 and Supp. 1999); N. C. Gen. Stat. §126—16 et seq. (1999); N. D. Cent. Code §14—02.4—01 et seq. (1997 and Supp. 1999); Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §4112.01 et seq. (1998); Okla. Stat., Tit. 25, §1101 et seq. (1991 and Supp. 1999); Ore. Rev. Stat. §659.010 et seq. (1997); 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. §951 et seq. (1991 and Supp. 1999); R. I. Gen. Laws §28—5—1 et seq. (1995 and Supp. 1997); S. C. Code Ann. §1—13—10 et seq. (1986 and Cum. Supp. 1998); Tenn. Code Ann. §4—21—101 et seq. (1998); Tex. Lab. Code Ann. §21.001 et seq. (1996 and Supp. 1999); Utah Code Ann. §34A—5—101 et seq. (Supp. 1999); Vt. Stat. Ann., Tit. 21, §495 et seq. (1987 and Supp. 1999); Va. Code Ann. §2.1—116.10 et seq. (1995 and Supp. 1999); Wash. Rev. Code §49.60.010 et seq. (1994); W. Va. Code §5—11—1 et seq. (1999); Wis. Stat. Ann. §111.01 et seq. (West 1997 and Supp. 1998); Wyo. Stat. Ann. §27—9—101 et seq. (1999).