throbber
(Slip Opinion)
`
`
`
` OCTOBER TERM, 2012
`
`
`Syllabus
`
`1
`
` NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is
`
`
`
` being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.
`
`
`
` The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been
`
` prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.
`
` See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.
`
`
`SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
`
`
`
` Syllabus
`
`UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SOUTHWESTERN MEDICAL
`CENTER v. NASSAR
`
`CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
`
`THE FIFTH CIRCUIT
`
` No. 12–484. Argued April 24, 2013—Decided June 24, 2013
`
` Petitioner, a university medical center (University) that is part of the
`
`
`University of Texas system, specializes in medical education. It has
`an affiliation agreement with Parkland Memorial Hospital (Hospi-
`tal), which requires the Hospital to offer vacant staff physician posts
`to University faculty members. Respondent, a physician of Middle
`
`Eastern descent who was both a University faculty member and a
`
`
`Hospital staff physician, claimed that Dr. Levine, one of his supervi-
`sors at the University, was biased against him on account of his reli-
`gion and ethnic heritage. He complained to Dr. Fitz, Levine’s super-
`
`
`visor. But after he arranged to continue working at the Hospital
`without also being on the University’s faculty, he resigned his teach-
`ing post and sent a letter to Fitz and others, stating that he was leav-
`
`ing because of Levine’s harassment. Fitz, upset at Levine’s public
`
`humiliation and wanting public exoneration for her, objected to the
`Hospital’s job offer, which was then withdrawn. Respondent filed
`
`suit, alleging two discrete Title VII violations. First, he alleged that
`Levine’s racially and religiously motivated harassment had resulted
`in his constructive discharge from the University, in violation of 42
`U. S. C. §2000e–2(a), which prohibits an employer from discriminat-
`
`ing against an employee “because of such individual’s race, color, re-
`ligion, sex, and national origin” (referred to here as status-based dis-
`crimination). Second, he claimed that Fitz’s efforts to prevent the
`Hospital from hiring him were in retaliation for complaining about
`Levine’s harassment, in violation of §2000e–3(a), which prohibits
`employer retaliation “because [an employee] has opposed . . . an un-
`
`
`lawful employment practice . . . or . . . made a [Title VII] charge.”
`The jury found for respondent on both claims. The Fifth Circuit va-
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`

`
`2
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`
`UNIVERSITY OF TEX. SOUTHWESTERN MEDICAL
`
`CENTER v. NASSAR
`
`
`Syllabus
`
`cated as to the constructive-discharge claim, but affirmed as to the
`retaliation finding on the theory that retaliation claims brought un-
`der §2000e–3(a)—like §2000e–2(a) status-based claims—require only
`a showing that retaliation was a motivating factor for the adverse
`
`employment action, not its but-for cause, see §2000e–2(m). And it
`found that the evidence supported a finding that Fitz was motivated,
`at least in part, to retaliate against respondent for his complaints
`
`about Levine.
`Held: Title VII retaliation claims must be proved according to tradi-
`tional principles of but-for causation, not the lessened causation test
`stated in §2000e–2(m). Pp. 5–23.
`
`(a) In defining the proper causation standard for Title VII retalia-
`
`tion claims, it is presumed that Congress incorporated tort law’s cau-
`
`sation in fact standard—i.e., proof that the defendant’s conduct did in
`
`
`fact cause the plaintiff’s injury—absent an indication to the contrary
`in the statute itself. See Meyer v. Holley, 537 U. S. 280, 285. An em-
`ployee alleging status-based discrimination under §2000e–2 need not
`show “but-for” causation. It suffices instead to show that the motive
`
`to discriminate was one of the employer’s motives, even if the em-
`ployer also had other, lawful motives for the decision. This principle
`
`is the result of Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U. S. 228, and the
`ensuing Civil Rights Act of 1991 (1991 Act), which substituted a new
`burden-shifting framework for the one endorsed by Price Waterhouse.
`
`
`As relevant here, that Act added a new subsection to §2000e–2,
`providing that “an unlawful employment practice is established when
`
`the complaining party demonstrates that race, color, religion, sex, or
`national origin was a motivating factor for any employment practice,
`even though other factors also motivated the practice,” §2000e–2(m).
`
`
`Also relevant here is this Court’s decision in Gross v. FBL Finan­
`
`cial Services, Inc., 557 U. S. 167, 176, which interprets the Age Dis-
`crimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) phrase “because of
`. . . age,” 29 U. S. C. §623(a)(1). Gross holds two insights that inform
`
`the analysis of this case. The first is textual and concerns the proper
`interpretation of the term “because” as it relates to the principles of
`causation underlying both §623(a) and §2000e–3(a). The second is
`
`the significance of Congress’ structural choices in both Title VII itself
`and the 1991 Act. Pp. 5–11.
`
`(b) Title VII’s antiretaliation provision appears in a different sec-
`tion from its status-based discrimination ban. And, like §623(a)(1),
`the ADEA provision in Gross, §2000e–3(a) makes it unlawful for an
`employer to take adverse employment action against an employee
`“because” of certain criteria. Given the lack of any meaningful textu-
`al difference between §2000e–3(a) and §623(a)(1), the proper conclu-
`
`sion is that Title VII retaliation claims require proof that the desire
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`

`
`
`Cite as: 570 U. S. ____ (2013)
`
`
`Syllabus
`to retaliate was the but-for cause of the challenged employment ac-
`tion. Respondent and the United States maintain that §2000e–2(m)’s
`motivating-factor test applies, but that reading is flawed. First, it is
`inconsistent with the provision’s plain language, which addresses on-
`ly race, color, religion, sex, and national origin discrimination and
`says nothing about retaliation. Second, their reading is inconsistent
`with the statute’s design and structure. Congress inserted the moti-
`vating-factor provision as a subsection within §2000e–2, which deals
`only with status-based discrimination. The conclusion that Congress
`
`acted deliberately in omitting retaliation claims from §2000–2(m) is
`
`
`reinforced by the fact that another part of the 1991 Act, §109, ex-
`pressly refers to all unlawful employment actions. See EEOC v. Ara­
`bian American Oil Co., 499 U. S. 244, 256. Third, the cases they rely
`on, which state the general proposition that Congress’ enactment of a
`broadly phrased antidiscrimination statute may signal a concomitant
`intent to ban retaliation against individuals who oppose that discrim-
`
`
`ination, see, e.g., CBOCS West, Inc. v. Humphries, 553 U. S. 442,
`
`452–453; Gómez-Pérez v. Potter, 553 U. S. 474, do not support the
`quite different rule that every reference to race, color, creed, sex, or
`nationality in an antidiscrimination statute is to be treated as a syn-
`onym for “retaliation,” especially in a precise, complex, and exhaus-
`tive statute like Title VII. The Americans with Disabilities Act of
`1990, which contains seven paragraphs of detailed description of the
`practices constituting prohibited discrimination, as well as an ex-
`press antiretaliation provision, and which was passed only a year be-
`fore §2000e–2(m)’s enactment, shows that when Congress elected to
`address retaliation as part of a detailed statutory scheme, it did so
`clearly. Pp. 11–17.
`
`
`
`(c) The proper interpretation and implementation of §2000e–3(a)
`and its causation standard are of central importance to the fair and
`responsible allocation of resources in the judicial and litigation sys-
`tems, particularly since retaliation claims are being made with ever-
`
`increasing frequency. Lessening the causation standard could also
`contribute to the filing of frivolous claims, siphoning resources from
`efforts by employers, agencies, and courts to combat workplace har-
`
`assment. Pp. 18–20.
`
`(d) Respondent and the Government argue that their view would
`be consistent with longstanding agency views contained in an Equal
`
`Employment Opportunity Commission guidance manual, but the
`
`manual’s explanations for its views lack the persuasive force that is a
`
`necessary precondition to deference under Skidmore v. Swift & Co.,
`323 U. S. 134, 140. Respondent’s final argument—that if §2000e–
`
`2(m) does not control, then the Price Waterhouse standard should—is
`foreclosed by the 1991 Act’s amendments to Title VII, which dis-
`
`3
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`

`
`4
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`
`UNIVERSITY OF TEX. SOUTHWESTERN MEDICAL
`
`CENTER v. NASSAR
`
`
`Syllabus
`
`
`placed the Price Waterhouse framework. Pp. 20–23.
`674 F. 3d 448, vacated and remanded.
`KENNEDY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS,
`
`
`C. J., and SCALIA, THOMAS, and ALITO, JJ., joined. GINSBURG, J., filed a
`
`
`
` dissenting opinion, in which BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ.,
`
`
`
`joined.
`
`
`
`

`
`
`
`
`
` Cite as: 570 U. S. ____ (2013)
`
`Opinion of the Court
`
`1
`
`
` 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, Wash-
`
` ington, 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
`
`_________________
`
` No. 12–484
`_________________
` UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SOUTHWESTERN MEDICAL
`CENTER, PETITIONER v. NAIEL NASSAR
`ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
`
`APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT
`[June 24, 2013]
`JUSTICE KENNEDY delivered the opinion of the Court.
`When the law grants persons the right to compensation
`
`for injury from wrongful conduct, there must be some
`demonstrated connection, some link, between the injury
`sustained and the wrong alleged. The requisite relation
`between prohibited conduct and compensable injury is
`governed by the principles of causation, a subject most
`often arising in elaborating the law of torts. This case
`requires the Court to define those rules in the context of
`Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U. S. C. §2000e
`et seq., which provides remedies to employees for injuries
`related to discriminatory conduct and associated wrongs
`
`by employers.
`Title VII is central to the federal policy of prohibiting
`
`wrongful discrimination in the Nation’s workplaces and in
`all sectors of economic endeavor. This opinion discusses
`the causation rules for two categories of wrongful employer
`
`conduct prohibited by Title VII. The first type is called,
`for purposes of this opinion, status-based discrimination.
`The term is used here to refer to basic workplace protec-
`tion such as prohibitions against employer discrimination
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`

`
`UNIVERSITY OF TEX. SOUTHWESTERN MEDICAL
`CENTER v. NASSAR
`
`
`Opinion of the Court
`
`on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,
`
`in hiring, firing, salary structure, promotion and the like.
`See §2000e–2(a). The second type of conduct is employer
`retaliation on account of an employee’s having opposed,
`complained of, or sought remedies for, unlawful workplace
`
`discrimination. See §2000e–3(a).
`
`An employee who alleges status-based discrimination
`under Title VII need not show that the causal link be-
`tween injury and wrong is so close that the injury would
`not have occurred but for the act. So-called but-for causa-
`tion is not the test. It suffices instead to show that the
`motive to discriminate was one of the employer’s motives,
`even if the employer also had other, lawful motives that
`
`were causative in the employer’s decision. This principle
`is the result of an earlier case from this Court, Price Water­
`house v. Hopkins, 490 U. S. 228 (1989), and an ensuing
`statutory amendment by Congress that codified in part
`and abrogated in part the holding in Price Waterhouse, see
`§§2000e–2(m), 2000e–5(g)(2)(B). The question the Court
`must answer here is whether that lessened causation
`standard is applicable to claims of unlawful employer
`retaliation under §2000e–3(a).
`
`Although the Court has not addressed the question of
`the causation showing required to establish liability for a
`Title VII retaliation claim, it has addressed the issue of
`causation in general in a case involving employer discrim-
`ination under a separate but related statute, the Age
`Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), 29
`U. S. C. §623. See Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc.,
`557 U. S. 167 (2009). In Gross, the Court concluded that
`the ADEA requires proof that the prohibited criterion was
`the but-for cause of the prohibited conduct. The holding
`and analysis of that decision are instructive here.
`I
`Petitioner, the University of Texas Southwestern Medi-
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`2
`
`
`
`
`

`
`3
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
` Cite as: 570 U. S. ____ (2013)
`
`Opinion of the Court
`cal Center (University), is an academic institution within
`the University of Texas system. The University specializes
`
`in medical education for aspiring physicians, health
`professionals, and scientists. Over the years, the Univer-
`sity has affiliated itself with a number of healthcare facili-
`ties including, as relevant in this case, Parkland Memorial
`Hospital (Hospital). As provided in its affiliation agree-
`ment with the University, the Hospital permits the Uni-
`versity’s students to gain clinical experience working in its
`facilities. The agreement also requires the Hospital to
`offer empty staff physician posts to the University’s faculty
`members, see App. 361–362, 366, and, accordingly, most of
`the staff physician positions at the Hospital are filled by
`those faculty members.
`
`Respondent is a medical doctor of Middle Eastern de-
`scent who specializes in internal medicine and infectious
`diseases. In 1995, he was hired to work both as a member
`of the University’s faculty and a staff physician at the
`Hospital. He left both positions in 1998 for additional
`medical education and then returned in 2001 as an assis-
`tant professor at the University and, once again, as a
`physician at the Hospital.
`
`
`In 2004, Dr. Beth Levine was hired as the University’s
`Chief of Infectious Disease Medicine. In that position
`Levine became respondent’s ultimate (though not direct)
`superior. Respondent alleged that Levine was biased
`against him on account of his religion and ethnic heritage,
`a bias manifested by undeserved scrutiny of his billing
`practices and productivity, as well as comments that
`
`“‘Middle Easterners are lazy.’” 674 F. 3d 448, 450 (CA5
`2012). On different occasions during his employment,
`respondent met with Dr. Gregory Fitz, the University’s
`Chair of Internal Medicine and Levine’s supervisor, to
`
`complain about Levine’s alleged harassment. Despite
`obtaining a promotion with Levine’s assistance in 2006,
`respondent continued to believe that she was biased
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`

`
`4
`
`
`UNIVERSITY OF TEX. SOUTHWESTERN MEDICAL
`CENTER v. NASSAR
`
`
`Opinion of the Court
`
`against him. So he tried to arrange to continue working
`at the Hospital without also being on the University’s
`faculty. After preliminary negotiations with the Hospital
`suggested this might be possible, respondent resigned his
`teaching post in July 2006 and sent a letter to Dr. Fitz
`(among others), in which he stated that the reason for his
`departure was harassment by Levine. That harassment,
`
`he asserted, “‘stems from . . . religious, racial and cultural
`bias against Arabs and Muslims.’” Id., at 451. After
`reading that letter, Dr. Fitz expressed consternation at
`
`respondent’s accusations, saying that Levine had been
`“publicly humiliated by th[e] letter” and that it was “very
`important that she be publicly exonerated.” App. 41.
`
`Meanwhile, the Hospital had offered respondent a job as
`a staff physician, as it had indicated it would. On learning
`of that offer, Dr. Fitz protested to the Hospital, asserting
`that the offer was inconsistent with the affiliation agree-
`
`ment’s requirement that all staff physicians also be members
`
`of the University faculty. The Hospital then withdrew
`its offer.
`
`After exhausting his administrative remedies, respond-
`ent filed this Title VII suit in the United States District
`Court for the Northern District of Texas. He alleged two
`discrete violations of Title VII. The first was a status-
`based discrimination claim under §2000e–2(a). Respondent
`alleged that Dr. Levine’s racially and religiously moti-
`vated harassment had resulted in his constructive dis-
`charge from the University. Respondent’s second claim
`was that Dr. Fitz’s efforts to prevent the Hospital from
`hiring him were in retaliation for complaining about Dr.
`Levine’s harassment, in violation of §2000e–3(a). 674
`F. 3d, at 452. The jury found for respondent on both
`claims. It awarded him over $400,000 in backpay and
`more than $3 million in compensatory damages. The
`District Court later reduced the compensatory damages
`award to $300,000.
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`

`
` Cite as: 570 U. S. ____ (2013)
`
`Opinion of the Court
`On appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
`
`affirmed in part and vacated in part. The court first con-
`cluded that respondent had submitted insufficient evi-
`dence in support of his constructive-discharge claim, so it
`vacated that portion of the jury’s verdict. The court af-
`firmed as to the retaliation finding, however, on the theory
`that retaliation claims brought under §2000e–3(a)—like
`claims of status-based discrimination under §2000e–2(a)—
`require only a showing that retaliation was a motivating
`factor for the adverse employment action, rather than its
`but-for cause. See id., at 454, n. 16 (citing Smith v. Xerox
`
`Corp., 602 F. 3d 320, 330 (CA5 2010)). It further held that
`the evidence supported a finding that Dr. Fitz was moti-
`vated, at least in part, to retaliate against respondent for
`his complaints against Levine. The Court of Appeals then
`
`remanded for a redetermination of damages in light of its
`decision to vacate the constructive-discharge verdict.
`
`Four judges dissented from the court’s decision not to
`
`rehear the case en banc, arguing that the Circuit’s appli-
`cation of the motivating-factor standard to retaliation
`
`cases was “an erroneous interpretation of [Title VII] and
`controlling caselaw” and should be overruled en banc. 688
`F. 3d 211, 213–214 (CA5 2012) (Smith, J., dissenting from
`denial of rehearing en banc).
`
` Certiorari was granted. 568 U. S. ___ (2013).
`
` II
`
`A
`
`This case requires the Court to define the proper stand-
`
`ard of causation for Title VII retaliation claims. Causation
`in fact—i.e., proof that the defendant’s conduct did in fact
`cause the plaintiff ’s injury—is a standard requirement of
`any tort claim, see Restatement of Torts §9 (1934) (defini-
`tion of “legal cause”); §431, Comment a (same); §279, and
`Comment c (intentional infliction of physical harm); §280
`(other intentional torts); §281(c) (negligence). This in-
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`5
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`
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`
`
`

`
`6
`
`
`
`
`UNIVERSITY OF TEX. SOUTHWESTERN MEDICAL
`CENTER v. NASSAR
`
`
`Opinion of the Court
`
`cludes federal statutory claims of workplace discrimina-
`tion. Hazen Paper Co. v. Biggins, 507 U. S. 604, 610
`(1993)
`(In
`intentional-discrimination cases, “liability
`depends on whether the protected trait” “actually motivated
`the employer’s decision” and “had a determinative in-
`fluence on the outcome”); Los Angeles Dept. of Water and
`Power v. Manhart, 435 U. S. 702, 711 (1978) (explaining
`that the “simple test” for determining a discriminatory
`employment practice is “whether the evidence shows
`treatment of a person in a manner which but for that
`person’s sex would be different” (internal quotation marks
`omitted)).
`
`In the usual course, this standard requires the plaintiff
`to show “that the harm would not have occurred” in the
`
`absence of—that is, but for—the defendant’s conduct.
`Restatement of Torts §431, Comment a (negligence);
`
`§432(1), and Comment a (same); see §279, and Comment c
`(intentional infliction of bodily harm); §280 (other inten-
`tional torts); Restatement (Third) of Torts: Liability for
`Physical and Emotional Harm §27, and Comment b (2010)
`(noting the existence of an exception for cases where an
`injured party can prove the existence of multiple, inde-
`pendently sufficient factual causes, but observing that
`“cases invoking the concept are rare”). See also Restate-
`ment (Second) of Torts §432(1) (1963 and 1964) (negli-
`gence claims); §870, Comment l (intentional injury to
`another); cf. §435a, and Comment a (legal cause for inten-
`tional harm). It is thus textbook tort law that an action “is
`not regarded as a cause of an event if the particular event
`would have occurred without it.” W. Keeton, D. Dobbs, R.
`Keeton, & D. Owen, Prosser and Keeton on Law of Torts
`265 (5th ed. 1984). This, then, is the background against
`which Congress legislated in enacting Title VII, and these
`are the default rules it is presumed to have incorporated,
`absent an indication to the contrary in the statute itself.
`See Meyer v. Holley, 537 U. S. 280, 285 (2003); Carey v.
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`

`
`
`
` Cite as: 570 U. S. ____ (2013)
`
`Opinion of the Court
`Piphus, 435 U. S. 247, 257–258 (1978).
`B
`Since the statute’s passage in 1964, it has prohibited
`
`employers from discriminating against their employees on
`
`any of seven specified criteria. Five of them—race, color,
`religion, sex, and national origin—are personal character-
`istics and are set forth in §2000e–2.
`(As noted at the
`outset, discrimination based on these five characteristics
`is called status-based discrimination in this opinion.) And
`then there is a point of great import for this case: The two
`remaining categories of wrongful employer conduct—the
`employee’s opposition to employment discrimination, and
`the employee’s submission of or support for a complaint
`that alleges employment discrimination—are not wrongs
`based on personal traits but rather types of protected
`employee conduct. These latter two categories are covered
`by a separate, subsequent section of Title VII, §2000e–
`3(a).
`Under the status-based discrimination provision, it is an
`
`“unlawful employment practice” for an employer “to dis-
`criminate against any individual . . . because of such
`individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”
`§2000e–2(a). In its 1989 decision in Price Waterhouse, the
`Court sought to explain the causation standard imposed
`by this language. It addressed in particular what it means
`for an action to be taken “because of ” an individual’s race,
`religion, or nationality. Although no opinion in that case
`
`commanded a majority, six Justices did agree that a plain-
`tiff could prevail on a claim of status-based discrimination
`if he or she could show that one of the prohibited traits
`was a “motivating” or “substantial” factor in the employ-
`
`er’s decision. 490 U. S., at 258 (plurality opinion); id., at
`
`259 (White, J., concurring in judgment); id., at 276
`(O’Connor, J., concurring in judgment). If the plaintiff
`made that showing, the burden of persuasion would shift
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`7
`
`
`
`
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`
`
`

`
`8
`
`
`UNIVERSITY OF TEX. SOUTHWESTERN MEDICAL
`CENTER v. NASSAR
`
`
`Opinion of the Court
`
`to the employer, which could escape liability if it could
`prove that it would have taken the same employment
`action in the absence of all discriminatory animus. Id., at
`258 (plurality opinion); id., at 259–260 (opinion of White,
`
`J.); id., at 276–277 (opinion of O’Connor, J.). In other
`words, the employer had to show that a discriminatory
`motive was not the but-for cause of the adverse employ-
`ment action.
`
`
`Two years later, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of
`
`1991 (1991 Act), 105 Stat. 1071. This statute (which had
`many other provisions) codified the burden-shifting and
`lessened-causation framework of Price Waterhouse in part
`but also rejected it to a substantial degree. The legislation
`
`first added a new subsection to the end of §2000e–2, i.e.,
`Title VII’s principal ban on status-based discrimination.
`See §107(a), 105 Stat. 1075. The new provision, §2000e–
`2(m), states:
`“[A]n unlawful employment practice is established
`when the complaining party demonstrates that race,
`color, religion, sex, or national origin was a motivating
`factor for any employment practice, even though other
`
`factors also motivated the practice.”
`
`This, of course, is a lessened causation standard.
`
`The 1991 Act also abrogated a portion of Price Water­
`house’s framework by removing the employer’s ability to
`defeat liability once a plaintiff proved the existence of an
`impermissible motivating factor. See Gross, 557 U. S., at
`178, n. 5. In its place, Congress enacted §2000e–5(g)(2),
`which provides:
`
`“(B) On a claim in which an individual proves a vio-
`lation under section 2000e–2(m) of this title and [the
`employer] demonstrates that [it] would have taken
`the same action in the absence of the impermissible
`
`motivating factor, the court—
`
`
`“(i) may grant declaratory relief, injunctive relief . . .
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`9
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` Cite as: 570 U. S. ____ (2013)
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`Opinion of the Court
`and [limited] attorney’s fees and costs . . . ; and
`
`“(ii) shall not award damages or issue an order
`requiring any admission, reinstatement, hiring, promo-
`tion, or payment . . . .”
`
`So, in short, the 1991 Act substituted a new burden-
`shifting framework for the one endorsed by Price Water­
`house. Under that new regime, a plaintiff could obtain
`declaratory relief, attorney’s fees and costs, and some
`forms of injunctive relief based solely on proof that race,
`color, religion, sex, or nationality was a motivating factor
`
`in the employment action; but the employer’s proof that it
`would still have taken the same employment action would
`save it from monetary damages and a reinstatement
`order. See Gross, 557 U. S., at 178, n. 5; see also id., at
`175, n. 2, 177, n. 3.
`After Price Waterhouse and the 1991 Act, considerable
`time elapsed before the Court returned again to the mean-
`
`ing of “because” and the problem of causation. This time it
`arose in the context of a different, yet similar statute, the
`ADEA, 29 U. S. C. §623(a). See Gross, supra. Much like
`the Title VII statute in Price Waterhouse, the relevant
`portion of the ADEA provided that “‘[i]t shall be 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, condi-
`tions, or privileges of employment, because of such indi-
`vidual’s age.’” 557 U. S., at 176 (quoting §623(a)(1);
`emphasis and ellipsis in original).
`
`
`Concentrating first and foremost on the meaning of the
`
`
`phrase “‘because of . . . age,’” the Court in Gross explained
`that the ordinary meaning of “‘because of ’” is “‘by reason
`of ’” or “‘on account of.’” Id., at 176 (citing 1 Webster’s
`Third New International Dictionary 194 (1966); 1 Oxford
`English Dictionary 746 (1933); The Random House Dic-
`
`tionary of the English Language 132 (1966); emphasis in
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` 10
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`UNIVERSITY OF TEX. SOUTHWESTERN MEDICAL
`
` CENTER v. NASSAR
`
`Opinion of the Court
`
`original). Thus, the “requirement that an employer took
`adverse action ‘because of ’ age [meant] that age was the
`‘reason’ that the employer decided to act,” or, in other
`words, that “age was the ‘but-for’ cause of the employer’s
`adverse decision.” 557 U. S., at 176. See also Safeco Ins.
`Co. of America v. Burr, 551 U. S. 47, 63–64, and n. 14
`(2007) (noting that “because of ” means “based on” and
`that “‘based on’ indicates a but-for causal relationship”);
`Holmes v. Securities Investor Protection Corporation, 503
`U. S. 258, 265–266 (1992) (equating “by reason of ” with
`“‘but for’ cause”).
`
`
`In the course of approving this construction, Gross
`declined to adopt the interpretation endorsed by the plu-
`rality and concurring opinions in Price Waterhouse. Not-
`ing that “the ADEA must be ‘read . . . the way Congress
`wrote it,’” 557 U. S., at 179 (quoting Meacham v. Knolls
`Atomic Power Laboratory, 554 U. S. 84, 102 (2008)), the
`Court concluded that “the textual differences between
`Title VII and the ADEA” “prevent[ed] us from applying
`Price Waterhouse . . . to federal age discrimination claims,”
`557 U. S., at 175, n. 2. In particular, the Court stressed
`the congressional choice not to add a provision like
`§2000e–2(m) to the ADEA despite making numerous other
`
`changes to the latter statute in the 1991 Act. Id., at 174–
`
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`175 (citing EEOC v. Arabian American Oil Co., 499 U. S.
`244, 256 (1991)); 557 U. S., at 177, n. 3 (citing 14 Penn
`Plaza LLC v. Pyett, 556 U. S. 247, 270 (2009)).
`
`Finally, the Court in Gross held that it would not be
`proper to read Price Waterhouse as announcing a rule that
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`applied to both statutes, despite their similar wording and
`near-contemporaneous enactment. 557 U. S., at 178, n. 5.
`This different reading was necessary, the Court concluded,
`because Congress’ 1991 amendments to Title VII, includ-
`ing its “careful tailoring of the ‘motivating factor’ claim”
`and the substitution of §2000e–5(g)(2)(B) for Price Water­
`house’s full affirmative defense, indicated that the moti-
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`Opinion of the Court
`vating-factor standard was not an organic part of Title VII
`and thus could not be read into the ADEA. See 557 U. S.,
`
`at 178, n. 5.
` In Gross, the Court was careful to restrict its analysis to
`the statute before it and withhold judgment on the proper
`resolution of a case, such as this, which arose under Title
`VII rather than the ADEA. But the particular confines of
`Gross do not deprive it of all persuasive force. Indeed,
`
`that opinion holds two insights for the present case. The
`first is textual and concerns the proper interpretation of
`the term “because” as it relates to the principles of causa-
`tion underlying both §623(a) and §2000e–3(a). The second
`is the significance of Congress’ structural choices in both
`Title VII itself and the law’s 1991 amendments. These
`principles do not decide the present case but do inform its
`analysis, for the issues possess significant parallels.
`
`III
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`
`A
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`As noted, Title VII’s antiretaliation provision, which is
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`set forth in §2000e–3(a), appears in a different section
`from Title VII’s ban on status-based discrimination. The
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` antiretaliation provision states, in relevant part:
`“It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an
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`employer to discriminate against any of his employees
`. . . because he has opposed any practice made an
`unlawful employment practice by this subchapter, or
`because he has made a charge, testified, assisted, or
`participated in any manner in an investigation,
`proceeding, or hearing under this subchapter.”
`This enactment, like the statute at issue in Gross,
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`makes it unlawful for an employer to take adverse em-
`ployment action against an employee “because” of certain
`criteria. Cf. 29 U. S. C. §623(a)(1). Given the lack of any
`meaningful textual difference between the text in this
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` 12
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`UNIVERSITY OF TEX. SOUTHWESTERN MEDICAL
`
` CENTER v. NASSAR
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`Opinion of the Court
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` statute and the one in Gross, the proper conclusion here,
`as in Gross, is that Title VII retaliation claims require
`proof that the desire to retaliate was the but-for cause of
`the challenged employment action. See Gross, supra, at
`176.
`The principal counterargument offered by respondent
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`and the United States relies on their different understand-
`ing of the motivating-factor section, which—on its face—
`applies only to status discrimination, discrimination on
`the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.
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`In substance, they contend that: (1) retaliation is defined
`by the statute to be an unlawful employment practice; (2)
`§2000e–2(m) allows unlawful employment practices to be
`proved based on a showing that race, color, religion, sex, or
`national origin was a motivating factor for—and not nec-
`essarily the but-for factor in—the challenged employment
`action; and (3) the Court has, as a matter of course, held
`that “retaliation for complaining about race discrimination
`is ‘discrimination based on race.’”

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