CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT
Rehnquist, Burger, Stewart, White, Marshall, Blackmun, Powell, Brennan, Stevens.
MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.
In the 1972 Amendments to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Congress, acting under § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, authorized federal courts to award money damages in favor of a private individual against a state government found to have subjected that person to employment discrimination on the basis of
"race, color, religion, sex, or national origin."*fn1 The principal question presented by these cases is whether, as against the shield of sovereign immunity afforded the State by the Eleventh Amendment, Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651 (1974), Congress has the power to authorize federal courts to enter such an award against the State as a means of enforcing the substantive guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that the effect of our decision in Edelman was to foreclose Congress' power. We granted certiorari to resolve this important constitutional question. 423 U.S. 1031 (1975). We reverse.
Petitioners in No. 75-251 sued in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut on behalf of all present and retired male employees of the State of Connecticut. Their amended complaint asserted, inter alia, that certain provisions in the State's statutory retirement benefit plan discriminated against them because of their sex, and therefore contravened Title VII of the 1964 Act, 78 Stat. 253, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (1970 ed. and Supp. IV). Title VII, which originally did not include state and local governments,
had in the interim been amended to bring the States within its purview.*fn2
The District Court held that the Connecticut State Employees Retirement Act violated Title VII's prohibition against sex-based employment discrimination. 390 F. Supp. 278, 285-288 (1974).*fn3 It entered prospective injunctive relief in petitioners' favor against respondent state officials.*fn4 Petitioners also sought an award of retroactive retirement benefits as compensation for losses
caused by the State's discrimination,*fn5 as well as "a reasonable attorney's fee as part of the costs."*fn6 But the District Court held that both would constitute recovery of money damages from the State's treasury, and were therefore precluded by the Eleventh Amendment and by this Court's decision in Edelman v. Jordan, supra.
On petitioners' appeal,*fn7 the Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. It agreed with the District Court that the action, "insofar as it seeks damages, is in essence against the state and as such is subject to the Eleventh Amendment." 519 F.2d 559, 565 (1975). The Court of Appeals also found that under the 1972 Amendments to Title VII, "Congress intended to authorize a private suit for backpay by state employees against the state." Id., at 568. Notwithstanding this statutory authority, the Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court and held that under Edelman a "private federal action for retroactive damages" is not a "constitutionally
permissible method of enforcing Fourteenth Amendment rights." 519 F.2d, at 569. It reversed the District Court and remanded as to attorneys' fees, however, reasoning that such an award would have only an "ancillary effect" on the state treasury of the kind permitted under Edelman, supra, at 667-668. 519 F.2d, at 571. The petition filed here by the state employees in No. 75-251 contends that Congress does possess the constitutional power under § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment to authorize their Title VII damages action against the State. The state officials' cross-petition, No. 75-283, argues that under Edelman the Eleventh Amendment bars any award of attorneys' fees here because it would be paid out of the state treasury.
In Edelman this Court held that monetary relief awarded by the District Court to welfare plaintiffs, by reason of wrongful denial of benefits which had occurred previous to the entry of the District Court's determination of their wrongfulness, violated the Eleventh Amendment. Such an award was found to be indistinguishable from a monetary award against the State itself which had been prohibited in Ford Motor Co. v. Department of Treasury, 323 U.S. 459, 464 (1945). It was therefore controlled by that case rather than by Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908), which permitted suits against state officials to obtain prospective relief against violations of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Edelman went on to hold that the plaintiffs in that case could not avail themselves of the doctrine of waiver expounded in cases such as Parden v. Terminal R. Co., 377 U.S. 184 (1964), and Employees v. Missouri Public Health Dept., 411 U.S. 279 (1973), ...