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

Civil Rights Requirements

This webpage is intended to provide applicants for OJP awards with a general overview of select statutes, regulations, and award conditions related to civil rights that apply to many or all OJP grants and cooperative agreements.

IMPORTANT ALERT: An update to this webpage to address recent changes in applicable law and related matters is expected by September 2016. OJP encourages applicants to return to this page to review the updated information once it is posted.

Civil Rights Compliance

As a condition for receiving funding from OJP, recipients must comply with applicable federal civil rights laws, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and the Justice Department’s regulation for the Equal Treatment of Faith-Based Organizations. Depending on the funding source, a recipient must also comply with the nondiscrimination provisions within the applicable program statutes, which may include the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, the Victims of Crime Act, or the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. Collectively, these federal laws prohibit a recipient of OJP funding from discriminating either in employment (subject to the exemption for certain faith-based organizations discussed below; see “Funding to Faith-based Organizations”) or in the delivery of services or benefits on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, or disability. In addition, OJP recipients may not discriminate on the basis of age in the delivery of services or benefits. See more information on Statutes and Regulations.

Compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits recipients from discriminating on the basis of national origin in the delivery of services or benefits, entails taking reasonable steps to ensure that persons with limited English proficiency (LEP) have meaningful access to funded programs or activities. An LEP person is one whose first language is not English and who has a limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English. To assist recipients in meeting their obligation to serve LEP persons, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has published a guidance document, which is available on the LEP.gov website. OJP encourages applicants and recipients to include within their program budgets the costs for providing interpretation and translation services to eligible LEP service populations.

For technical assistance on complying with the civil rights laws linked to the receipt of federal financial assistance from OJP, please contact the:

Office of Justice Programs
Office for Civil Rights
810 7th Street NW
Washington, DC 20531
202-307-0690
Fax: 202-616-9865
TTY: 202-307-2027

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Civil Rights Compliance Specific to State Administering Agencies

All State Administering Agencies (SAAs) have a responsibility to monitor their subrecipients to ensure that the subrecipients are complying with the federal civil rights laws that are applicable to recipients of federal financial assistance. In accordance with 28 C.F.R. §§ 42.105(d)(2), 42.504(a), 42.725, and 54.115, SAAs must establish and implement written Methods of Administration for ensuring their subrecipients' compliance with the prohibition against race, color, and national origin discrimination contained in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act (Title VI) of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) regulations at 28 C.F.R. pt. 42, subpt. C; the prohibition against disability discrimination contained in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) of 1973, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 794, and the DOJ regulations at 28 C.F.R. pt. 42, subpt. G; the prohibition against age discrimination contained in the Age Discrimination Act (Age Act) of 1975, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 6102, and the DOJ regulations at 28 C.F.R. pt. 42, subpt. I; and the prohibition against sex discrimination in education programs contained in Title IX of the Education Amendments (Title IX) of 1972, as amended, 20 U.S.C. § 1681, and the DOJ regulations at 28 C.F.R. pt. 54. These Methods of Administration are the reasonable assurance that SAAs provide to the DOJ that they are ensuring the civil rights compliance of their subrecipients. The Office for Civil Rights will consider an SAA's expansion of its written Methods of Administration to include the prohibitions of nondiscrimination contained in the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act (Safe Streets Act) of 1968, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 3789d(c); the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) of 1974, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 5672(b); the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) of 1984, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 10604(e); the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 13925(b)(13); and the DOJ regulation on the Equal Treatment for Faith-Based Organizations (Equal Treatment Regulation), 28 C.F.R. pt. 38, as strong evidence of the SAA's fulfillment of its responsibility to ensure subrecipients' compliance with these laws. All the cited laws collectively prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, disability, religion, sex, gender identity, and sexual orintation in both the delivery of services and employment practices. The Age Act also prohibits discrimination on the basis of age in the delivery of services or benefits. The Equal Treatment Regulation prohibits recipients from using federal financial assistance to engage in explicitly religious activities.

The Methods of Administration, as required under Title VI, Section 504, the Age Act, and Title IX, or as expanded to address compliance, as applicable, with the nondiscrimination provisions of the Safe Streets Act, the JJDPA, VOCA, VAWA, and the Equal Treatment Regulation, must be in writing and must contain the following elements:

I. Policy for Addressing Discrimination Complaints

A narrative description of the SAA’s written policies or procedures for addressing complaints alleging discrimination from employees and clients, customers, or program participants of the SAA (as applicable) and from employees and clients, customers, or program participants of subrecipients implementing funding from the DOJ (as applicable). Each document should include the following elements:

  1. Designating a coordinator who is responsible for overseeing the complaint process;
  2. Notifying employees and subrecipients of prohibited discrimination in the SAA’s programs and activities and the SAA’s policy and procedures for handling discrimination complaints;
  3. Establishing written procedures for receiving discrimination complaints from employees and clients, customers, or program participants of the SAA (as applicable) and from employees and clients, customers, or program participants of subrecipients implementing funding from the DOJ (as applicable);
  4. Investigating each complaint internally, or referring each complaint to the appropriate agency for investigation and resolution, such as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a local or state human rights commission, or the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), Office of Justice Programs. If the complaint is referred to the OCR for investigation, the OCR will work with the SAA to resolve the complaint;
  5. Notifying the complainant that the complainant may also file a complaint with the OCR by submitting a written complaint to the following address: Office for Civil Rights; Office of Justice Programs; U.S. Department of Justice; 810 Seventh Street N.W.; Washington, DC 20531.
  6. Training SAA staff on their responsibility to refer discrimination complaints, or potential discrimination issues, to the SAA’s complaint coordinator for processing as soon as the alleged discrimination comes to their attention;
  7. Notifying employees and clients, customers, and program participants of prohibited discrimination and the procedures for filing a complaint of discrimination, and ensuring that subrecipients do the same; and
  8. Ensuring that subrecipients have procedures in place for responding to discrimination complaints that employees and clients, customers, and program participants file directly with the subrecipient.

The SAA shall have on file copies of its written complaint procedures. The OCR has drafted template complaint procedures addressing prohibited discrimination under the laws that the OCR enforces, which may be found on the OCR Sample Documentation page. The SAA may find the template complaint procedures helpful as it establishes its written complaint procedures.

II. Notifying Subrecipients of Civil Rights Requirements

A narrative description of how the SAA is ensuring that its standard assurances, subgrant agreements, and other documents that are binding on DOJ-funded subrecipients are notifying subrecipients of applicable civil rights laws and nondiscrimination provisions and the DOJ implementing regulations, as outlined above.

The SAA shall have on file copies of the relevant portions of its standard assurances, subgrant agreements, Requests for Grant Applications, or other documents in which the SAA notifies DOJ-funded subrecipients of federal civil rights requirements.

III. Monitoring for Compliance with Civil Rights Requirements

A narrative explanation of the SAA’s methods for monitoring whether subrecipients are complying with the applicable civil rights laws and nondiscrimination provisions and the DOJ implementing regulations.

The SAA shall have on file copies of any checklists or monitoring forms that it uses during desk audits or onsite monitoring visits along with any progress reports that inquire about a subrecipient’s compliance with civil rights laws. The OCR has developed a Federal Civil Rights Compliance Checklist which monitors for compliance with the laws that the OCR enforces and which may be found at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/about/ocr/sample_documentation.htm. The SAA may wish to utilize this checklist during desk audits or onsite monitoring visits or to incorporate these questions into any existing checklists.

IV. Training Subrecipients on Civil Rights Requirements

A narrative description of the SAA’s methods for training DOJ-funded subrecipients on their obligations to comply with the applicable civil rights laws and nondiscrimination provisions and the DOJ implementing regulations. The SAA should be sure to conduct periodic training sessions for its subrecipients at a minimum of once per grant award period.

The SAA shall have on file copies of any training presentations on federal civil rights requirements that it provides to DOJ-funded subrecipients. In developing any training presentations, the SAA may wish to review presentations that the OCR has provided on the civil rights laws that it enforces and which are available upon request.

If required to develop written Methods of Administration as a condition of a grant award, a SAA shall submit the Methods of Administration to the Office of Justice Programs, Office for Civil Rights at CivilRightsMOA@usdoj.gov within 90 days of receiving the grant award.

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Funding to Faith-Based Organizations

In 2002, President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13279 and in 2004, DOJ issued the regulation, Equal Treatment for Faith-Based Organizations, 28 C.F.R. Part 38. In general, the Executive Order and regulation require funding organizations to treat faith-based organizations (FBOs) the same as any other applicant or recipient of DOJ funding, neither favoring nor discriminating against FBOs in making and administering grant awards, and require that FBOs be allowed to retain their independence, autonomy, expression, and religious character when competing for DOJ financial assistance used to support social service programs and participating in the social service programs supported with DOJ financial assistance.

The Executive Order and regulation also prohibit recipient FBOs from using Justice Department funding to engage in inherently religious activities, such as proselytizing, scripture study, or worship. Funded FBOs may, of course, engage in inherently religious activities; however, these activities must be separate in time or location from the federally assisted program. Moreover, funded FBOs must not compel program beneficiaries to participate in inherently religious activities. Funded faith-based organizations must also not discriminate on the basis of religion in the delivery of services or benefits.
Some program statutes, including the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, the Victims of Crime Act, and the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, contain express nondiscrimination provisions that prohibit all recipients of funding under these statutes from discriminating on the basis of religion in employment. Despite these nondiscrimination provisions, the Justice Department has concluded that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is reasonably construed, on a case-by-case basis, to require that its funding agencies permit FBOs applying for funding under the applicable program statutes both to receive DOJ funds and to continue considering religion when hiring staff, even if the statute that authorizes the funding program generally forbids considering of religion in employment decisions by grantees.

If the statute that authorizes a DOJ funding program generally forbids consideration of religion in employment decisions by grantees, an FBO may receive DOJ funds and continue to consider religion when hiring staff if it meets the following criteria:

  1. The FBO demonstrates that its program for which it seeks federal funding is an exercise of religion;
  2. The FBO demonstrates that requiring it to either forgo its religious preference in hiring or forgo the federal funding would substantially burden its exercise of religion; and
  3. The funding entity is unable to demonstrate that applying the nondiscrimination provision to this FBO would both further a compelling government interest and be the least restrictive means of furthering this interest.

The OJP and state administering agencies will grant exemptions to the prohibition against hiring discrimination on the basis of religion in the program statutes on a case-by-case basis to FBOs that certify to the following, unless there is good reason to question its truthfulness:

  1. The FBO will offer all federally-funded services to all qualified beneficiaries without regard for the religious or non-religious beliefs of those individuals; and
  2. Any activities of the FBO that contain inherently religious content will be kept separate in time or location from any services supported by direct federal funding, and if provided under such conditions, will be offered only on a voluntary basis; and
  3. The FBO is a religious organization that sincerely believes that providing the services in question 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.

FBOs that are seeking federal financial assistance under the Safe Streets Act, VOCA, and JJDPA as well as an exemption to their prohibition against religious discrimination in hiring, must complete and retain an original, signed document for their records (see Certificate of Exemption for Hiring Practices on the Basis of Religion), certifying to the three provisions set forth above, and then, must submit a copy of the signed Certificate of Exemption to the DOJ through the Grants Management System, after receipt of an award. For more information, please consult the Office for Civil Rights.

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