U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs

Civil rights requirements associated with OJP awards

Updated as of July 2017

This webpage is intended to give applicants for OJP awards a general overview of award requirements that relate to civil rights and nondiscrimination. These requirements will be addressed in several of the "General Conditions" for FY 2017 OJP awards.  Certain OJP awards will include additional conditions related to civil rights and nondiscrimination.

Civil rights laws and nondiscrimination provisions

States and units of local government, public and nonprofit institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations, for-profit businesses, and other recipients of OJP grants and cooperative agreements may be subject to various federal civil rights laws for reasons other than their receipt of OJP funds. Some examples include federal civil rights laws related to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, or disability.

Because an OJP award (that is, an OJP grant or cooperative agreement) is a form of "federal financial assistance," the recipient of an OJP award (and any "subrecipient" at any tier) must comply with additional civil-rights-related requirements above and beyond those that otherwise would apply.

In general, these additional requirements fall into one of two categories:

  • Civil rights laws (sometimes referred to as "cross-cutting" federal civil rights statutes). These apply to essentially any entity that receives an award of federal financial assistance -- regardless of which federal agency awards the grant or cooperative agreement -- and encompass the "program or activity" funded in whole or in part with the federal financial assistance.
  • Nondiscrimination provisions. These are requirements or restrictions that apply to certain OJP awards -- in addition to the civil rights laws -- because they are set out in a statute that applies specifically to one or more particular OJP grant programs, or to OJP awards made under a particular legal authority. Much like the civil rights laws, these provisions apply variously to the programs, activity, or undertaking funded in whole or in part by OJP.
    • Such nondiscrimination provisions apply to some, but not all, OJP grant programs.
    • The nondiscrimination provisions that apply to an OJP award (above and beyond the requirements in "cross-cutting" civil rights laws) may vary from award to award, even for awards made during the same fiscal year.
    • Typically, no more than one of these nondiscrimination provisions will apply to any particular OJP award.

General information on the civil rights laws that apply to every OJP award, and on the nondiscrimination provisions that apply to some OJP awards, is available at https://ojp.gov/about/ocr/statutes.htm

NOTE:  As discussed in more detail below, if a civil rights law or nondiscrimination provision prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of religion, the prohibition is read together with the provisions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

Award requirements: Assurances and award conditions

Each applicant for an OJP award must certify prior to acceptance of an award (typically, through OJP’s "Standard Assurances") that it will comply (and it will require any subrecipient at any tier to comply) with applicable civil rights laws and nondiscrimination provisions. In addition, FY 2017 OJP awards will include multiple conditions related to civil rights and nondiscrimination, including in the "General Conditions."

A State agency that applies for an FY 2017 OJP award should expect that an award also will include a condition concerning implementation of "Methods of Administration" to help ensure recipient and subrecipient compliance with civil rights laws. Pertinent "methods of administration" include matters such as policies and procedures for reviewing complaints of impermissible discrimination, and for monitoring compliance with civil rights laws.

When a prospective recipient executes the standard "assurances," and when a prospective recipient accepts an FY 2017 OJP award, the prospective recipient agrees to comply with these award requirements.

Civil rights compliance:  Access to services and benefits by individuals with limited English proficiency

Compliance with the civil rights laws entails, among other things, taking reasonable steps to ensure that individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP) have meaningful access to OJP-funded programs or services. An individual with limited English proficiency is one whose first language is not English and who has a limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English. To assist recipients of DOJ awards in meeting their obligations with respect to such individuals, DOJ has published a guidance document, available on the LEP.gov website.

Nondiscrimination provisions that may apply to an FY 2017 OJP award

  • Many OJP awards are made under OJP legal authorities set out in either Title I of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (the "1968 Act") or the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 (the "JJDPA"). A nondiscrimination provision that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex applies to each OJP award made under either Title I of the 1968 Act or the JJDPA.

    The award document for each FY 2017 OJP award indicates (in Box 13) the "statutory authority" under which OJP is making the award. Title I of the 1968 Act is codified at 42 U.S.C. 3711 through 3797ff-5. The JJDPA is codified at 42 U.S.C. 5601 through 5792a. The nondiscrimination provision that applies to both Title I of the 1968 Act and to the JJDPA is set out at 42 U.S.C. 3789d(c). Associated regulations appear in subpart D of 28 C.F.R. Part 42.

    Two examples of OJP grant programs that are encompassed by this nondiscrimination provision are Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grants ("JAG") and Title II ("Part B") Juvenile Justice Formula Grants.

  • Many other OJP awards are made under the authority of the Victims of Crime Act of 1984. A nondiscrimination provision in the Victims of Crime Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, handicap (disability), or sex applies to each such award.

    The Victims of Crime Act is codified at 42 U.S.C. 10601 through 10605. The nondiscrimination provision is set out at 42 U.S.C 10604(e); the associated regulations appears at subpart B of 28 C.F.R. Part 94.

    Two examples of OJP grant programs that are encompassed by this nondiscrimination provision are VOCA Compensation Formula Grants and VOCA Assistance Formula Grants.

Nondiscrimination provisions and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act

As noted earlier, a nondiscrimination provision that deals with discrimination in employment on the basis of religion is read together with the pertinent provisions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. As a result, even if an otherwise-applicable nondiscrimination provision states that a recipient or subrecipient may not discriminate in employment based on religion, an OJP recipient or subrecipient that is a faith-based organization may consider religion in hiring, provided it satisfies particular requirements.

An OJP recipient that is a faith-based organization and that seeks to consider religion in hiring despite an applicable nondiscrimination provision must properly execute and submit to OJP a specific formal certification to OJP to the effect that--

  1. The recipient is a religious organization that sincerely believes that providing the programs or services funded by the OJP award is an expression of its religious beliefs, that employing individuals of particular religious belief is important to its religious exercise, and that having to abandon its religious hiring practice to receive federal funding would substantially burden its religious exercise.
  2. The recipient will not discriminate against beneficiaries (or prospective beneficiaries) of the programs or services funded by the OJP award on the basis of religion, a religious belief, a refusal to hold a religious belief, or a refusal to attend or participate in a religious practice.
  3. The recipient will keep any explicitly religious activities separate in time or location from programs or services funded by the OJP award.
  4. The recipient will not require beneficiaries (or prospective beneficiaries) of programs or services funded by the OJP award to attend or participate in any explicitly religious activities. Any such participation will be purely voluntary.

To make the required certification, an appropriate, authorized official of the recipient organization must execute the Certification Regarding Hiring Practices on the Basis of Religion (rev. 2017) on behalf of the recipient. A copy of the executed certification must be submitted to OJP through the Grants Management System, promptly after acceptance of the award. The recipient must retain the signed original on file as part of its records for the OJP award.

An OJP recipient that executes and submits a certification that satisfies these requirements ordinarily may consider religion in hiring. Different rules may apply, however, if there is good reason to question the truthfulness of the certification, or if the Department of Justice determines that it is necessary to restrict the recipient from considering religion in hiring to further a compelling government interest. (If the Department makes such a determination, the Department may impose limitations that represent the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling government interest.)

The rules that apply to subrecipients of OJP awards that are faith-based organizations are similar, except that the subrecipient is to submit the required certification to the recipient, rather than to OJP.

"Methods of Administration" - Requirements applicable to States (FY 2017 Update)

"Methods of Administration" requirements incorporated by reference through an award condition in FY 2017 awards to States will be posted at https:/ojp.gov/funding/Explore/StateMethodsAdmin-FY2017update.htm.

"Civil Rights Compliance Specific to State Administering Agencies"

"Methods of Administration" requirements incorporated by reference through an award condition in certain awards made prior to FY 2017 are posted at https:/ojp.gov/funding/Explore/StateMethodsAdmin-preFY2017.htm.

Return to "Overview of Legal Requirements Generally Applicable to OJP Awards - FY 2017"

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