United States v. Burke

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: Burke et al.
LOCATION: Circuit Court of Vermilion County

DOCKET NO.: 91-42
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 504 US 229 (1992)
ARGUED: Jan 21, 1992
DECIDED: May 26, 1992

ADVOCATES:
Joseph E. Finley - on behalf of the Respondents
Jeffrey P. Minear - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case

Question

Media for United States v. Burke

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 21, 1992 in United States v. Burke

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - May 26, 1992 in United States v. Burke

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinions of the Court in two cases will be announced by Justice Blackmun.

Harry A. Blackmun:

The first one is No. 91-42, United States against Burke.

In this case, it was a settlement of a sex discrimination case under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

And under that settlement, the Tennessee Valley Authority paid backpay to affected employees.

It withheld federal income taxes from that backpay.

The IRS disallowed the respondent's claim for refund of the taxes so withheld.

In a refund action, the District Court ruled that the settlement proceeds could not be excluded from gross income as, to use the words of the statute, damages received on account of personal injuries.

The Sixth Circuit, however, reversed and it held that the discrimination was a personal and tort-like injury.

In an opinion filed with the Clerk today, we reverse that judgment.

We hold that these backpay awards in settlement of Title VII claims are not excludable from gross income under Section 104(a)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Justice Scalia and Justice Souter each have filed opinions concurring in the judgment, and Justice O'Connor has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Thomas has joined.