Frequently Asked questions

Frequently Asked questions

This document is provided for historical purposes only.  The Department of Justice will not use, cite, or rely on this document except to establish historic fact.  There should be no expectation that the information contained in this document is current or correct.

How does the Department of Justice provide counsel, direction, and assistance on Title VI enforcement to federal agencies?

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is charged, through the Attorney General’s delegated authority under Executive Order 12250 (EO 12250) and the regulations entitled Coordination of Enforcement of Non-discrimination in Federally Assisted Programs (Coordination Regulations) 28 C.F.R. Part 42 Subpart F, with ensuring that federal agencies effectively and consistently enforce Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) and similar provisions in federal grant statutes. 28 C.F.R. § 42.401. The Coordination Regulations delegate the Attorney General’s Executive Order 12250 authority to the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division (AAG) who “may issue directives or take other such actions… necessary to [e]nsure that federal agencies carry out their responsibilities under Title VI.” 28 C.F.R. § 42.412(a)-(b). Under this authority, the AAG enforces and interprets Title VI by establishing legal standards; reviews and approves proposed agency regulations implementing Title VI (final regulations must be approved by the Attorney General); provides counsel and technical assistance to agencies on their Title VI investigations and compliance reviews; provides Title VI training; and issues Title VI guidance. The Federal Coordination and Compliance Section is the Section within the Division that provides Title VI assistance and oversight to agency civil rights offices.

How does the Department of Justice work with federal agencies to ensure that Title VI is interpreted and enforced consistently?

One way that DOJ ensures consistent and effective interpretation and enforcement of Title VI is to review and approve all agencies’ proposed and final Title VI implementing regulations, including amendments to existing regulations, prior to publication. DOJ may also review other types of agency Title VI documents. For instance, FCS often collaborates with other agencies in the development of Title VI policy guidance documents interpreting Title VI in specific areas. In addition, FCS develops guidance regarding implementation of Title VI and related statutes and executive orders. FCS has issued this guidance in a range of formats in the past, including notice-and-comment rulemaking; Frequently Asked Questions and Answers; tips and tools; promising practices documents; and correspondence to federal agencies, recipients, or beneficiaries. FCS also offers training for federal agencies that have Title VI responsibilities and provides less formal assistance through ongoing technical assistance, including legal and policy guidance to federal funding agencies. On an almost daily basis, the FCS staff answer questions presented by staff from other federal agencies. FCS also provides hands-on assistance to individual agencies, including legal counsel on novel issues or complex investigations. For more information, see: August 19, 2010, Executive Order 12250 Memo to Federal Agencies from the Assistant Attorney General.

Does a recipient’s denial of services or benefits to someone because of his/her limited ability to speak, read, or understand English constitute national origin discrimination under Title VI?

Title VI’s prohibitions against national origin discrimination includes discrimination against individuals on the basis of their limited English proficiency. The Supreme Court held in Lau v. Nichols, 414 U.S. 563 (1974), that Title VI requires that limited English proficient (LEP) individuals be provided with “meaningful access,” and that a denial of such language assistance services constitutes national origin discrimination. Therefore, recipients of federal financial assistance are required to take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to their program and activities by LEP populations. For more information please read this FAQ from the Federal Interagency Website on LEP,

How do I determine whether an entity is a recipient or subrecipient for the purposes of Title VI?  

A Title VI recipient is an entity that receives, directly or indirectly, financial assistance from a federal agency to operate a “program or activity.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000d-4a(1)(A). A recipient voluntarily enters into a relationship with the federal government and receives federal assistance under a condition or assurance of compliance with Title VI and/or other nondiscrimination obligations. 28 C.F.R. § 42.102(f). A recipient is not an ultimate beneficiary who enjoys the benefits of participation in a program or activity operated with federal financial assistance. Id. The primary recipient is “any recipient which is authorized or required to extend federal financial assistance to another recipient.” 28 C.F.R. § 42.102(g). When a primary recipient extends federal financial assistance to another entity, that entity is a subrecipient.  The primary recipient and any subrecipients must comply with Title VI and its implementing regulations. For example, a state agency, such as the Department of Children and Family Services, receives a substantial portion of its funding from the federal government. The state agency, as the primary recipient, in turn, funds local social service organizations, in part, with its federal funds. The local organizations receive federal financial assistance, and therefore must comply with Title VI and its implementing regulations. It should be noted that Title VI does not apply to the federal government and a federal agency cannot be a “recipient” as the Title VI definition of “program or activity” does not apply to programs that are “conducted directly by a federal agency using its own budget.” Halim v. Donovan, 951 F. Supp. 2d 201, 207 (D.D.C. 2013). 

Should a recipient use automatic or machine translation software or applications like Google Translate or Bing Translator, to provide language access to limited English proficient individuals? 

Generally, no. Automatic or machine translation software or applications cannot provide the level of translation required for meaningful access. It may be used limitedly to establish the general concept or essence of written text, or used by a qualified translator to check materials before a formal translation, or in extremely time sensitive or emergency situations where no other alternative is available. Machine translation should not be used alone, absent human quality control, when materials are vital to an individual’s rights or benefits, or when the source materials contain non-literal language (e.g., slang, metaphor), lack clear grammar or structure, contain abbreviations or acronyms, or are overly complex, technical, or wordy. For more information, read GSA’s Lost in Translation.

Does Title VI protect individuals from discrimination in the workplace? 

Title VI applies very narrowly to employment discrimination claims. While Title VI was not meant to be the primary federal law prohibiting employment discrimination, it does forbid employment discrimination by recipients in certain situations. Title VI applies to the recipient’s employment practices if the recipient receives federal financial assistance and a “primary objective” of the federal funding is to provide employment. 42 U.S.C. § 2000d-3. Title VI may also apply where a recipient’s employment practices negatively affect the delivery of services to ultimate beneficiaries (i.e., individuals and/or entities that Title VI is intended to protect).






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