Agency Spotlight: U.S. Department of Labor

Agency Spotlight: U.S. Department of Labor

AGENCY SPOTLIGHT

A Message from Naomi Barry-Perez, Director, Civil Rights Center,

U.S. Department of Labor

The Civil Rights Center (CRC) in the Department of Labor (DOL) administers and enforces civil rights laws that protect individuals who apply to, participate in, work for, or benefit from programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance from DOL, including programs and activities that are operated by American Job Center partners (i.e., one-stop partners) as part of the American Job Center system (i.e., the one-stop delivery system).

One of CRC’s most significant recent accomplishments is the December 2, 2016 publication of the final rule updating the nondiscrimination and equal opportunity regulations of the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, (WIOA), 81 Fed. Reg. 87130 (Dec. 2, 2016) (go.usa.gov/x9UjH). WIOA mandates that DOL issue regulations to implement Section 188, which requires equal opportunity and prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or political affiliation or belief in the workforce development system. Title I of WIOA also prohibits discrimination based on citizenship status or participation in a program or activity receiving federal financial assistance under WIOA.

Over the course of the year, CRC collaborated with a number of internal DOL agencies, as well as other federal agencies to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and the final rule to update the Section 188 nondiscrimination regulations. The final rule addresses developments in equal opportunity and nondiscrimination law since the substantive provisions of the rule were last updated in 1999. The final rule also revises nondiscrimination and equal opportunity enforcement procedures to reflect changes in recipient practices, including the use of digital and online systems to provide aid, benefits, services and training.

Significant changes include:

  • Expanding the explanation of the obligations to prevent discrimination based on national origin and to provide services to limited English proficient (LEP) individuals;
  • Making changes to reflect the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008; and
  • Clarifying that sex discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions, transgender status, gender identity, and sex-based stereotyping.
  • The changes make the law easier to understand and follow, ultimately improving integration and inclusion of every community into the workforce development system.

CRC developed an extensive rollout plan and supporting documents for the final rule, including fact sheets and FAQs (go.usa.gov/x9Ujz) that were translated into 10 languages. Additionally, CRC produced a video featuring the CRC Director, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Disability Employment Policy, and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Employment and Training Administration to promote an understanding of the regulations. The final rule is effective as of January 3, 2017. The press release on the WIOA update can be found here (go.usa.gov/x9UDx). For more information about CRC, call (202) 693-6500 or visit our website at go.usa.gov/x9UNH.

DOL Enforcement Activity Highlights

During fiscal year 2016, CRC’s Office of External Enforcement received 813 complaints (63 more than fiscal year 2015). CRC obtained 16 resolutions (final determinations and settlement agreements), and issued five initial determinations. Thirteen of the 16 cases resolved during FY 2016 involved formal findings of reasonable cause to believe the law had been violated. In addition to settling matters involving disability and sex discrimination, CRC obtained settlements in matters implicating Title VI. Those included settlement of two systemic cases involving failure to provide in-language services and information to LEP persons by three different state agencies, two in North Carolina (the workforce development agency and the Unemployment Insurance (UI) agency) and one in Kentucky (UI). The Kentucky matter also involved withdrawal of felony criminal fraud charges filed against an LEP claimant who did not adequately understand the English-only claims filing process. Find full descriptions of these cases in the Fall issue of the Title VI Newsletter (go.usa.gov/x9UDg). 

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