Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO

PETITIONER:Northwest Airlines, Inc.
RESPONDENT:Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO
LOCATION:Congress

DOCKET NO.: 79-1056
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 451 US 77 (1981)
ARGUED: Dec 02, 1980
DECIDED: Apr 20, 1981

ADVOCATES:
Lawrence G. Wallace – on behalf of the United States as amicus curiae
Philip A. Lacovara – on behalf of the Petitioner
Stephen B. Moldof – on behalf of the Respondents

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – December 02, 1980 in Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – April 20, 1981 in Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in Northwest Airlines against Transport Workers Union will be announced by Mr. Justice Stevens and he will also announce the disposition of City of Memphis against Green.

John Paul Stevens:

The first to these two cases, Northwest Airlines against the Transport Workers Union of America comes to us from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The airline was held liable to the class of female cabin attendants for backpay because wage differentials between male and female cabin attendants were found to have violated the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In a separate proceeding between the company and the union, the company contended that the wage differentials were the product of collective bargaining with the union and that the union should share the responsibility for making the backpay awards to the female cabin attendants.

The question of law that the case presents is whether assuming that the union is in fact partially responsible for the statutory violations, thus the company have a right of contribution requiring that the union share in the payments that are necessary to make the injured employees whole.

Although we recognized that there are substantial policy reasons that support the company’s position, we conclude that the statutes of Congress has enacted which contain elaborate procedures covering various contingencies do not include the remedy that the employer seeks and it is not therefore within our authority as judges to add a remedy to the statute.

We also hold that there is no federal common law contribution remedy that would provide the employer relief in this case.

Accordingly, we affirm the Court of Appeals insofar as it held that no such remedy was available under the Equal Pay Act and we modify its judgment insofar as it left open the question under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Justice Blackmun took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.