AARP v. EEOC - ED Pa. - September 27, 2005http://www.paed.uscourts.gov/documents/opinions/05D1174P.pdf
The Court rejected AARP's challenge to a regulation proposed by the EEOC to implement the Age Discrimination in Employement Act, 29 USC sec. 621 et seq. The regulation would permit employers who provide health care benefits to retired employees to decrease those benefits when the employees become eligible for Medicare.
The case involved the seminal decision in Chevron USA v. Natural Resource Defense Council, 467 US 837 (1984) and the recent decision in Natl. Cable & Telecommunications Assn. v. Brand X Internet Services (Brand X), 125 SCt 2688 (2005). The AARP argued and the court had previously held that a prior Third Circuit decision had interpreted the ADEA to prohibit the practice in the proposed regulation. The court reversed itself, after reconsidering the case in light of Brand X.
Under Brand X, a court interpretation of a statute bars an agency from later interpreting that statute differently from the court only "if the court has the determined the only permissible meaning of the statute." (emphasis in original). "[O]nly a judicial precedent holding that the statute unambiguously forcloses the agency's interpretation and therefore contains no gap for the agency to fill, displaces a conflicting agency construction….Put differently, Brand X states that the only court decision that forecloses a later, contrary interpretation of a statute by an agency is a decision that determines the only permissible reading of the statute, not merely the best of several alternatives." (emphasis in original)
The court held that the prior Third Circuit decision involved only one possible reading of the statute, not the only permissible one, and that the proposed EEOC regulation was not contrary to the federal Administrative Procedure Act or the ADEA.
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