Ten-Year Check-Up: Have Federal Agencies Responded to Civil Rights Recommendations?

Volume I: A Blueprint for Civil Rights Enforcement

Chapter 3

Findings and Recommendations

This volume described the civil rights enforcement of federal agencies the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has studied in the past decade as a first step in determining the progress those agencies have made in furthering their enforcement efforts. No information was analyzed beyond that contained in the 16 volumes of enforcement reports the Commission issued in the 1990s. Later reports in the series will review individual agencies and give recommendations based on their enforcement achievements. Nonetheless, the review of past reports has revealed areas in which the need for improvement was often widespread. Thus, a number of general recommendations are offered here. The recommendations that follow emphasize key aspects of civil rights enforcement that agencies should follow. Agencies that have not responded to recommendations the Commission has issued to them, agencies that the Commission has not reviewed, and agencies that are tasked with new civil rights responsibilities requiring the design and implementation of enforcement systems will benefit from using these recommendations to direct or evaluate their efforts.

Past Commission reports have continuously stressed important elements of civil rights enforcement. Without establishing priority of civil rights and gaining sufficient funding and staffing, federal agencies will struggle to even implement a civil rights enforcement system. However, once the priority of civil rights is recognized and resources are provided, the agency must implement civil rights planning, policy guidance and regulations, technical assistance, education and outreach, a complaint processing system, a compliance review system for federal funding recipients, and staff training. The Commission finds that enforcement efforts are fragmented without each of these elements. The preceding chapter provided detailed recommendations regarding the elements, highlights of which follow.

Over the decade the Commission’s recommendations regarding civil rights enforcement matured, partly as enforcement systems themselves developed. This review reveals that apart from the basic components of civil rights enforcement, superior enforcement systems were maximizing effectiveness and efficiency of civil rights enforcement by integrating it throughout the agency, delegating responsibility, establishing oversight for others performing civil rights responsibilities, coordinating civil rights enforcement activities with other federal agencies, streamlining them, and involving the affected community in their development. Thus, the recommendations that follow raise the standard for effective civil rights enforcement beyond that asked of many federal agencies in the Commission’s past reports.


Resources—Funding and Staffing

Finding 1.1: Commission reviews of civil rights implementation, compliance, and enforcement programs at several federal agencies over the past decade revealed a system that was often unequal to the task. The greatest hindrances to fulfilling the civil rights obligations were insufficient funding and inefficient, thus ineffective, use of available funds.

Recommendation 1.1: Congress should allocate more funding and resources to agencies for civil rights enforcement activities. Several federal agencies have increased civil rights enforcement responsibilities owing to jurisdiction over new civil rights statutes but are expected to enhance their civil rights efforts with insufficient funding. Civil rights enforcement requires funding sufficient to the tasks at hand and maintenance at a level that is not eroded by inflation or increased enforcement responsibilities. The Commission established in its evaluations of civil rights enforcement funding that after adjusting for inflation, none of the civil rights offices had received continuous increases in funding during the past nine years.[1]

Organizational Structure to Meet Civil Rights Goals

Finding 1.2: Civil rights programs at federal agencies were often void of clear authority, responsibility, and accountability. Whether authority for civil rights activities was centralized in one office or distributed throughout several, civil rights personnel often had no direct line of authority to the Department Secretary or agency head. The organizational placement of the office and staff in charge of civil rights often impaired the staff’s ability to gain the funding and resources needed to carry out the office mission and failed to provide the office the authority to ensure that civil rights concerns were fully integrated into all departmental or agency programs. Civil rights staff was frequently encumbered with both internal (EEO) and external civil rights responsibilities, with resources moved between them and no protection to ensure that any particular civil rights statute was enforced.

Recommendation 1.2: Federal agencies should ensure that civil rights enforcement is given priority through the organizational structure for civil rights, allocation of resources and staffing, and efforts to integrate civil rights into every component of the agency. At the same time, the implementation, compliance, and enforcement of external civil rights programs should be directed by an office and staff that are separate from the office and staff responsible for internal (EEO) civil rights functions. Accordingly, these offices and staff should be provided with separate budgets so that each and every civil rights statute is properly enforced without resources being taken from one to enforce another.

Strategic Planning With Civil Rights Objectives

Finding 1.3: Federal agencies’ strategic planning to accomplish civil rights goals and objectives needed improvement. The Department of Justice requires all agencies with financial assistance programs to submit civil rights implementation plans (CRIPs) for review; however, the plans were often vague in detailing the civil rights activities, such as technical assistance and education and outreach, that were to be conducted and in specifying timeframes for their accomplishment. Although the implementation of the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA) required all federal agencies to begin preparing strategic plans with goals, performance measures, and timeframes in which to address them, civil rights goals and objectives were not required in the strategic plans developed under GPRA. Many of the Commission’s past recommendations asked that CRIPs be improved to include goals, measures of performance, and timeframes for accomplishing various civil rights activities. Federal agencies also had to proactively assist and oversee the development of strategic plans by those units performing civil rights activities, including the development of civil rights implementation plans adhering to Department of Justice (DOJ) guidelines. Finally, federal agencies had to realistically assess the budget and staff resources needed for civil rights implementation, compliance, and enforcement.

Recommendation 1.3: First, all federal agencies should include civil rights objectives and goals in their strategic plans. These objectives should specify the agency’s responsibilities for enforcing all applicable civil rights statutes and specify goals, performance measures, and timeframes for fulfilling the responsibilities of each statute as well as the resources necessary to do so.

Second, federal agencies with Title VI responsibilities should enhance civil rights implementation plans and ensure that they conform to DOJ guidelines. Plans should clearly and fully describe implementation, compliance, and enforcement programs; specify goals and objectives and the period for achieving them; and realistically detail all available resources, such as staff and funding, for meeting civil rights obligations, so that they may be used as an effective management tool. Plans should also specify the extent to which civil rights activities, such as technical assistance, education and outreach, policy guidance, and the enforcement of statutes, are conducted.

Third, federal agencies should proactively assist and oversee the development of strategic plans or CRIPs by those units having civil rights responsibilities. Finally, federal agencies should consult with stakeholders, advocacy groups, and other pertinent parties in developing strategic plans so that the concerns of affected communities are addressed through civil rights enforcement.

Management of Enforcement Through Tracking of Civil Rights Activities

Finding 1.4: Although some federal agencies were able to report the number of complaints processed or compliance reviews completed during the fiscal year, many were unable to provide detailed information on the full range of civil rights enforcement activities that were accomplished each year, particularly technical assistance and education and outreach. Furthermore, the agencies were unable to relate the various types of enforcement activities or the statutes these activities were designed to enforce to the amount of resources expended for or needed to complete these tasks. Budget submissions requesting more resources for civil rights enforcement from departmental appropriations or from Congress would be strengthened with justifications that tied additional funds and staff to expected increases in the number and types of civil rights activities that could be accomplished and to the need to provide civil rights enforcement across all civil rights statutes.

Recommendation 1.4: Federal agencies must implement or enhance their systems of tracking their workload, accomplishments of civil rights enforcement activities, and expenditures. They must use a management information system to prepare annual civil rights enforcement plans with goals and objectives in each program area, assign specific resources to accomplish them, conduct ongoing analyses of resource allocation to support increasingly accurate budget submissions, and justify requests for additional resources according to the number and types of civil rights enforcement activities that will be accomplished and the need for broader coverage of civil rights statutes to fulfill the agency’s civil rights obligations.


Policy Guidance

Finding 2.1: Federal agencies’ civil rights staff were encumbered with far too many civil rights responsibilities. Not only were staff members expected to perform compliance and enforcement duties but they were also required to develop civil rights policy. The end result of this overtasking was that very little time and energy were left for successful work in any area. The slow development of Title VI regulations, guidelines, policies, and procedures was cited as an example of the overburdensome multitasking required of civil rights staff at most federal agencies. Similarly, both internal and external procedural and policy guidance development and distribution were found inadequate at most federal funding agencies. Federal agencies had failed to develop policy guidance interpreting civil rights obligations as they apply to each and every federally assisted program. Moreover, many federal agencies were not addressing substantive issues, such as limited English proficiency or disability issues, when developing policy. Finally, policy development efforts at nearly all federal agencies neglected to seek the input of community and advocacy groups, resulting in civil rights policies poorly geared to assisting the individuals for whom they were developed.

Recommendation 2.1: Federal agencies should establish policy development units with staff members who are free of civil rights compliance and enforcement responsibilities and thus able to direct their full attention to developing and issuing civil rights standards and policies. Policy development units should have the authority and responsibility to modify and maintain regulations, guidelines, policies, and procedures. The policy unit should (1) regularly develop or update both internal guidance on enforcement procedures and external policies, including policy related to issues such as state recipients’ obligations under Title VI, the application of Title VI to block grants, and disabilities and limited English proficiency; (2) oversee and assist with all aspects of the agency’s policy development and dissemination for civil rights enforcement among divisions and field offices and ensure that policy is interpreted specific to every federally assisted program; (3) ensure policies and procedures are consistently interpreted in agency components; (4) involve community and advocacy groups in the development of policy guidance, guidelines, and regulations; and (5) ensure the regular and timely dissemination of all policy to appropriate audiences. Policy units should be provided the necessary legal staff to perform the legal work required for developing policy related to civil rights enforcement.

Finding 2.2: The Commission identified a number of civil rights issues that federal agencies needed to address. They included such issues as promoting diversity and cultural competency and overcoming the barrier of limited English proficiency. In short, federal agencies were not promoting an atmosphere of understanding among ethnic and racial groups nor were they ensuring that federally funded programs were equally available to all groups, including minorities and women, by overcoming cultural and language barriers. Federal agencies were also failing to verify whether work and educational environments were free of sexual discrimination and harassment. Lastly, federal agencies needed to collect additional data and expand research on substantive areas of enforcement, such as job patterns and health needs.

Recommendations 2.2: Federal agencies should promote an atmosphere of understanding among ethnic and racial groups throughout society. They should design programs to overcome cultural and language barriers as well as harassment. To do so, agencies should consult with advocacy groups and community organizations and include them in the process of developing policy and planning civil rights enforcement activities such as education and outreach. Finally, federal agencies should regularly collect and analyze additional data from the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other sources. They must expand research on substantive areas of enforcement, such as disparities in educational opportunities, job patterns, and health needs, to identify areas of discrimination that can be subjected to civil rights enforcement.

Updating Regulations

Finding 2.3: Federal agencies had been negligent in updating regulations in order to stay abreast of pertinent new legislation. In particular, the Departments of Labor and Transportation had not updated them in light of the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 that extended the applicability of Title VI to all parts of an institution or program, not just the part receiving the federal assistance. Furthermore, DOJ, through CRD and CORS, was lax in reviewing and assisting federal agencies in updating their regulations to be in accord with new civil rights legislation and in informing Congress when new regulations had negative consequences for civil rights. Similarly, federal agencies were not assisting their subagencies in issuing and updating regulatory guidelines to enforce civil rights.

Recommendation 2.3: Federal agencies should regularly update regulations to reflect changes in pertinent legislation. In particular, all regulations should be updated to reflect the broader coverage of Title VI since the Civil Rights Restoration Act was passed. Federal agencies should ensure that their subagencies have regulatory guidelines in conformance with current civil rights statutes.

DOJ, through CRD and CORS, should periodically review the regulations of all agencies with Title VI responsibilities and ensure that these regulations are updated when changes in legislation or its interpretation occur. DOJ should also enhance its process of reviewing proposed legislation concerning civil rights or federal financial assistance programs and inform Congress of any civil rights consequences.

Technical Assistance

Finding 2.4: Several federal agencies did not have programs to provide either internal or external technical assistance. Furthermore, many agencies that did provide technical assistance had not formalized their efforts, thus hindering their effectiveness and the number of individuals reached. In addition, federal agencies were not taking full advantage of on-site compliance reviews by offering funding recipients technical assistance during these face-to-face meetings. External technical assistance to parallel agencies and offices sharing jurisdiction was similarly lacking and, with improvement, may have eliminated overlapping efforts that resulted in wasted human and monetary resources. Finally, federal agencies were not tracking, or even able to track, the resources expended for technical assistance.

Recommendation 2.4: Federal agencies should establish formal technical assistance programs. They should provide regular, perhaps annual or semiannual, events providing technical assistance for both internal units, such as field offices and contracting agencies, and external audiences. Technical assistance should also be provided as needed to address unique individual situations or noncompliance of funding recipients. In particular, technical assistance should be provided to funding recipients when conducting on-site compliance reviews.

Federal agencies should attempt to involve representatives of other federal agencies, particularly those with parallel jurisdiction that may be funding the same recipients, in their technical assistance events so that federal staff as well as those compelled to comply with civil rights laws and the public become aware of overlapping jurisdictions and so that federal staff can plan coordinated enforcement efforts that conserve resources.

Agencies should formalize their technical assistance programs so that they can track the types of technical assistance provided, the number of persons reached through technical assistance, and resources expended on it. The agencies should also consider assigning full-time coordinators to headquarters staff to monitor and coordinate technical assistance, education, and outreach activities in regional offices that perform civil rights enforcement.

Education and Outreach to Potential Victims, Violators, and the Public

Finding 2.5: Federal agencies had weak or nonexistent education and outreach programs that failed to clearly designate the responsibilities of agency components. They were not ensuring that education and outreach programs were available to all affected communities. Existing education and outreach programs sometimes neglected to address specific audiences and their specialized needs, and frequently provided information only in English, thus excluding individuals not fully proficient in English or non-English speakers. Lastly, federal agencies were not carefully crafting education and outreach to reach their intended program beneficiaries or making use of new technological innovations such as the Internet.

Recommendation 2.5: Federal agencies should implement or improve education and outreach programs that designate the specific responsibilities of individual agency components, establish clear and realistic goals and objectives, and hold components accountable for reaching them. They should ensure that civil rights information is readily available to all parties, including funding recipients, program participants, intended beneficiaries, potential victims of discrimination and violators, the public and, where appropriate, specific audiences such as attorneys, small businesses, and persons with limited English proficiency. Hence, federal agencies should develop and disseminate civil rights information in English and other languages. Lastly, federal agencies should creatively design education and outreach to best reach intended program beneficiaries using innovative resources, including but not limited to, the Internet.


Complaint Handling and Intake

Finding 3.1: Reviewing complaints of discrimination is an important aspect of any civil rights enforcement program. In examining federal agencies’ complaint processing, particularly that of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Commission found that both charging parties and the recipients of their complaints considered the charge intake and investigative processes bewildering. Charging parties did not always find complaint policies and procedures to be accessible to them. They received limited information about the merits of their complaints and the probability that their charges would be investigated. Finally, complaint processing, investigation, and/or resolution of charges required a very long time.

Recommendation 3.1: Federal agencies need to dramatically improve their customer service in handling complaints. They must improve the charge intake process and promulgate its policies and procedures in order to increase its accessibility to charging parties. Federal agencies must provide charging parties more information on the status of their charges, the merits of the case, and information on the probability that their charge will be investigated. The time for charge processing must be reduced. Agencies must establish standards for dismissing complaints, provide written communication of their decisions regarding complaints, provide for an appeals process for charges that are dismissed without investigation, and assist in directing complainants to external organizations that can assist them.

To make filing a complaint more accessible, federal agencies should consider such customer service techniques as expanding office hours to include evenings and weekends and establishing intake booths at convenient locations such as malls and community centers. They should consider extending the time allotted to charging parties for submission of required information; making enforcement staff more accessible to charging parties; increasing the quality and quantity of interaction with charging parties and respondents in order to more readily gather necessary information and provide information on the status of the charge; assessing why many complaints never become formal charges; and enhancing the interaction and communication skills of complaint intake staff. They should reassess intake functions on a continual basis and use customer satisfaction surveys to obtain feedback from complainants.

Federal agencies should ensure that their complaint intake process will direct individuals with civil rights complaints outside their jurisdiction to the agencies or nongovernmental organizations that may be able to assist them. Agencies should buttress this effort by maintaining referral lists of organizations and advocacy groups for individuals they cannot help. All agency civil rights components should implement this program consistently and ensure that it remains consistent.

Finding 3.2: Complaints took a long time to resolve, and complaint backlogs and large caseloads contributed to the lengthy time agencies took to resolve them.

Recommendation 3.2: Federal agencies must reduce and avoid complaint backlogs and process complaints in a timely fashion. To do so, they should develop management plans that will permit them to eliminate backlogs by efficiently, thoroughly, and properly processing complaints. These plans should implement procedures to streamline processing and yet ensure that complaints with the largest impact are pursued. Thus, agencies should develop charge-prioritization procedures, similar to those EEOC uses, with clearly defined methods of prioritizing charges for further processing. High-priority charges should include those with the most grievous discrimination, those affecting the most people (such as systemic and class cases), those that will result in the largest monetary relief, or those that will clarify the interpretation of law. The charge-prioritizing methods must be clearly defined and systematically applied so that the resources expended on every investigation can be justified.

Complaint processing may also be streamlined by training complaint intake staff to begin the initial stages of an investigation and fully develop charges before referring cases to other enforcement staff. If charge processing time cannot be reduced, the agency should conduct an internal audit to determine why charges are not processed more rapidly.

Finding 3.3: Federal agencies were not clearly delineating the duties, such as goals and responsibilities, of every office and individual processing complaints. Furthermore, federal agencies were not properly training individuals responsible for processing complaints nor were they systematically developing and issuing procedures for this activity.

Recommendation 3.3: Federal agencies should clearly delineate the duties, such as goals and responsibilities, of every office and individual responsible for complaint processing. They should ensure that the civil rights personnel processing complaints are properly trained for such activity.

Complaint Investigation

Finding 3.4: Federal agencies also failed to develop and promulgate procedures for conducting complaint investigations and to provide model investigative plans for priority issues, with the result that regional offices lacked uniformity in complaint investigations. Furthermore, staff members were not issuing investigative plans for all charges, if at all, so that enforcement managers or supervisory investigators were not able to review the investigative process for accuracy, thoroughness, and consistency. In many instances, when investigative plans were issued they needed to be improved. The quality of investigations was further compromised by the infrequency of on-site investigations and the lack of guidance offered to investigative staff during the investigation. Finally, there was no standard guideline for the timeframe within which the investigative process should be completed.

Recommendation 3.4:Federal agencies should systematically develop and issue complaint processing and investigation procedures that clearly establish the process of handling complaints and indicate the types of information needed to support a finding. Model investigative plans should be developed and issued for each priority issue as a method of ensuring uniformity across regional enforcement offices. Investigative staff must consult and follow the written guidance for investigative procedures. Those procedures must establish a standard timeframe for initiating and concluding the stages of an investigation. Finally, federal agencies should initiate more on-site investigations.

Finding 3.5: Quality assurance reviews of the complaint or charge handling process were rarely initiated to ensure accountability or consistency across field offices and contractual organizations. In complaint investigations, contacts with witnesses were not uniformly tracked and written reports on complaints and investigations were not always provided.

Recommendation 3.5: Agency head offices should develop guidelines for mandatory quality assurance review procedures of charge handling, including investigations, across field offices, to increase enforcement staff accountability. They should authorize trained staff to regularly conduct quality assurance reviews of case files to assess whether an investigator used the proper analyses in reaching a conclusion. When reviews reveal that a case was conducted superficially or improperly, it should be reopened and reinvestigated. If a federal agency prefers, it can hire independent external auditors to review case files and make a determination as to the accuracy of the investigation.

The guidelines agencies develop should require charge review at various stages of development, such as after initial assessment, during investigation, and upon issuance of a determination. They should require that regional and district offices uniformly track witness contact so that investigators are held accountable for the thoroughness of their work.

All organizations, such as state agencies, conducting investigations must be required to submit a written report on each complaint and investigation.

Agency-Initiated Charges

Finding 3.6: Federal agencies did not have strategies for proactive enforcement and needed to intensify efforts to target cases not easily reached via individual complaints.

Recommendation 3.6: Federal agencies should improve or develop strategies for proactive enforcement and intensify efforts to target cases not easily reached through individual complaints. First, they should ensure that they have the legislated authority to pursue cases in the absence of a complaint. Second, they should use tools such as analyses of statistical data, testing, and contact with community organizations to identify discrimination, including systemic discrimination.

Complaint Resolution: Dismissals, Conciliation, and Litigation

Finding 3.7: Federal agencies were not always notifying involved parties regarding the outcome of complaints via comprehensive and lucid letters of determination or finding.

Recommendation 3.7:Federal agencies should notify all concerned parties—including both complainant and respondent—of the outcome of a complaint via a comprehensive and clear letter of determination or letter of finding.

Finding 3.8: Federal agencies were not always making the most or best use of alternate dispute resolution techniques, such as mediation or conciliation. Concerned parties were not always informed about alternative dispute resolution or about the consequences involved with these and other types of resolution.

Recommendation 3.8: Federal agencies should begin or increase use of mediation, conciliation, or other alternative dispute resolution techniques. At the same time, these types of resolution should only be used when appropriate and when the respondent agrees to change the policies or procedures that might have a discriminatory effect.

Finding 3.9: Federal agencies did not have litigation strategies. They did not view litigation as a central enforcement strategy and were not developing litigation strategies to address important or emergent issues. They often were not delegating litigation authority to field office staff, or if they did, were not monitoring the appropriateness and diversity of cases on district office dockets. Further, they were not making appropriate use of an attorney-referral system to assist complainants in pursuing charges that, because they were more routine or of lesser import, could not be handled by the federal enforcement system. Finally, federal agencies were not always pursuing benefits on behalf of charging parties and were not involving the affected communities in developing their litigation strategies.

Recommendation 3.9: Federal agencies should make litigation central to an enforcement strategy and develop a litigation strategy that addresses important or emerging issues. Affected communities and advocacy groups should have input into the litigation strategy.

To make the most of their budget constraints, agencies’ litigation strategies should consider (1) delegating litigation authority to field office staff or to agencies or offices with parallel jurisdiction and (2) developing an attorney-referral system and criteria for identifying cases to be referred to the private bar. If litigation authority is delegated, federal agencies should monitor the dockets of units that handle delegated litigation to ensure that the cases being litigated are the most appropriate as well as diverse. Similarly, if an attorney-referral system is used, the charges to be referred should include those that do not concern the priority issues established in the litigation strategy and those that are less important because the discrimination is less grievous or the outcome will not have broad impact in terms of the number of people or the monetary relief it entails. Finally, the litigation strategy should include obtaining benefits for complainants as an important outcome.

Monitoring Compliance

Finding 3.10: In many instances, federal agencies were not actively monitoring the current status of respondents to complaints that were resolved with settlements agreements and court rulings. Furthermore, litigation was not being used as a method of ensuring compliance or addressing conciliation breaches.

Recommendation 3.10: Federal agencies should strengthen compliance monitoring of existing decrees and agreements and use litigation as a method of ensuring compliance or addressing conciliation breaches. They should provide enforcement staff with specific examples of monitoring activities appropriate for the various kinds of compliance agreements. For example, they may wish to use testers to ensure that recipients are meeting the terms of their compliance agreement.


Compliance Reviews

Pre-award Reviews

Finding 4.1: In ensuring that recipients of federal funding were complying with civil rights statutes requiring nondiscrimination, several federal agencies were relying on the good-faith effort of funding applicants, who submit certificates of assurance of their compliance. The agencies were not conducting pre-award reviews of all applicants for funding assistance. They were not requiring applicants to submit data that could be used to analyze their compliance, or self-assessments of such data concerning civil rights compliance.

Recommendation 4.1: Federal agencies should require all recipients to acknowledge, sign, and adhere to a certificate of assurance. However, a signed assurance of discrimination by a recipient is merely a first step in ensuring the equal participation of all groups in publicly funded programs. Federal agencies must supplement this with a pre-award review system.

Federal agencies must implement pre-award review systems that perform at least desk audits on all applicants for federal funding. These systems must impose requirements on funding applicants to report statistical evidence and to provide a self-assessment of civil rights compliance, which the federal agencies must then analyze. The reported information must include data by race, ethnicity, and gender on the applicant’s staffing patterns; program participation rates or beneficiaries, and rejection rates; the demographic makeup of the program’s affected community or pool of potential participants; and the outcomes of all federal agencies’ previous findings of civil rights compliance or noncompliance concerning the applicant; and other information. Federal agencies must analyze this information and either not fund any applicants with deficiencies or provide technical assistance to the applicant to achieve compliance before providing funding.

Post-award Reviews

Finding 4.2: Similar to the situation with pre-award reviews, federal agencies were conducting very few, if any, post-award reviews of funding recipients. They did not have effective post-award systems or procedures in place or the reviews were not sufficiently thorough to identify recipients with questionable compliance. Many of the agencies had failed to require recipients to submit annual reports containing statistical evidence and self-assessments that could be analyzed in a desk audit to determine their civil rights compliance. Nor did the agencies have effective means of selecting funding recipients with questionable compliance to receive on-site reviews. Post-award reviews that were completed often did not have written findings and recommendations.

Recommendation 4.2: Federal agencies should implement post-award desk-audit programs to review recipients annually for Title VI compliance. They should impose reporting requirements on recipients and analyze recipients’ information and self-assessments in the desk audits. The systems should use the information in the desk audits to select recipients with existing or potential civil rights violations for on-site compliance reviews. Criteria for selecting recipients for on-site reviews should be uniformly applied and include analyses performed in the desk audits, complaints of discrimination filed with the agency, statistical data on a funding recipient’s beneficiaries, input from advocacy groups and community organizations, and results from an ongoing program of research projects. Recipients with existing violations should be selected first for on-site compliance reviews. Finally, when post-award reviews are completed, federal agencies should produce written results of the findings and recommendations for achieving recipient compliance and provide them to the recipient.

Requiring Recipients to Submit Data on Compliance and Analyzing the Data

Finding 4.3: Federal agencies were not requiring recipients to submit annual data on program participants and beneficiaries or self-evaluations of their civil rights compliance. What data recipients did submit were not being comprehensively analyzed, if at all, by funding agencies. Furthermore, in their on-site compliance reviews, federal agencies were not reviewing and assessing the quality of recipients’ data collection and reporting systems to ensure that the information they submitted accurately reflected their compliance status.

Recommendation 4.3: Federal agencies should require recipients to annually submit data on program participants and beneficiaries that can be used to determine the compliance status of the recipient. The data submission should be required both as a precondition of receiving grants and as support for post-award compliance reviews and should be accompanied with the recipients’ self-assessments of their compliance with civil rights obligations.

Moreover, the federal agencies should analyze data the recipients submit to determine whether federally assisted programs ensure that all demographic groups have equal opportunity to participate in the programs. Analyses should compare participants in the federally funded programs with relevant applicant pools, eligible populations, and the populations adversely affected by federally funded programs.

When conducting on-site compliance reviews, federal agencies should review and assess the data collection and reporting systems to ensure that the information reported is reflective of the recipient’s civil rights compliance status.

Monitoring Civil Rights Enforcement

Finding 4.4: Federal agencies were not monitoring the quality of their civil rights enforcement activities, such as compliance reviews, conducted by headquarters staff, their agency components, regional offices, or contractors.

Recommendation 4.4: Federal agencies should monitor the quality and consistency of civil rights enforcement activities, whether pre- or post-award reviews or desk audits or site visits, and whether conducted by headquarters staff, agency administrations or divisions, regional or district offices, or contractors. Any required technical assistance should be provided to ensure that future activities are carried out according to standard procedures.

Deficiencies, Remedies, and Sanctions

Finding 4.5: When deficiencies in compliance were found, federal agencies were to offer technical assistance to recipients to correct the deficiencies and obtain recipients’ agreements to voluntarily comply. But recipients’ commitments to corrective action were not being monitored to ensure that compliance was fully achieved. Furthermore, the Department of Justice was not assisting agencies with guidelines and examples for when they should seek fund termination or temporary suspension for noncomplying recipients. Federal agencies needed more resources to develop methods to better apply administrative sanctions to Title VI enforcement and to determine whether the existing sanctions needed to be strengthened, for example, through the addition of a monetary penalty.

Recommendation 4.5: Federal agencies must establish systems of regularly and uniformly monitoring recipients’ voluntary agreements to address civil rights deficiencies in their programs and should request the resources they need to develop and use administrative sanctions effectively. The Department of Justice must require federal agencies to develop mechanisms to monitor voluntary compliance agreements. It must establish guidelines and provide examples for the federal agencies on when and how to apply administrative sanctions and assist them in using the sanctions. Finally, the Department of Justice should conduct a study to determine whether existing administrative sanctions are sufficient to enforce civil rights and make recommendations as to any further sanctions that are needed.


Finding 5.1: Federal agencies were not providing the appropriate training or retraining for enforcement staff in numerous areas critical to effective job performance. Title VI training, especially as concerned agency-specific guidance, was also being ignored, as was advanced training on other civil rights statutes. Finally, DOJ was not taking the lead role in coordinating training or providing training resources for federal agencies with civil rights responsibilities under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

Recommendation 5.1: DOJ should assume the lead in offering training and providing training resources for federal agencies. It should assist federal agencies in coordinating joint training efforts, particularly when agencies are funding the same recipients or have overlapping jurisdictions.

Federal agencies should provide training and retraining for enforcement staff on appropriate civil rights statutes and activities, including (1) complaint processing and investigative techniques; (2) Title VI compliance reviews, whether pre- or post-award reviews, desk audits, or on-site reviews; and (3) advanced knowledge of federal civil rights statutes, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, that would allow trained individuals to serve as specialists or resources for other staff.


Finding 6.1:Constrained by limited civil rights enforcement budgets for the reasons discussed throughout this report, most federal agencies have been unable to meet their civil rights obligations. Limited resources demand that creative and effective methods be used to enhance civil rights enforcement. The Commission has identified six strategies for maximizing enforcement:

Recommendation 6.1: Federal agencies should create task forces to examine and recommend how best to employ these six strategies in their respective agency. Assessments should discuss how to rapidly and successfully incorporate these strategies without disrupting the work of any agency office. For those agencies that have already developed one or more of these strategies, the goal is to incorporate all of them and thus establish or further an effective civil rights program.


Finding 6.2: The Commission found that few agencies had integrated civil rights enforcement throughout the agency, including in every program that receives federal funding. The Department of Labor, for example, had concentrated its civil rights efforts on its main job-training program and achieved superior results, but had not expanded enforcement efforts to other programs. The Department of Transportation had a few good elements for civil rights enforcement but in only a couple of operating administrations. Furthermore, agencies had not made a concerted effort to develop policy guidance to interpret how civil rights enforcement applies to each and every assisted program.

Recommendation 6.2: Federal agencies must integrate civil rights enforcement throughout the agency in order to most effectively and efficiently use all available human and monetary civil rights resources. This integration must first develop policy guidance with specific programmatic examples of civil rights policies and enforcement in the context of every program. It must draw upon any current exemplary enforcement efforts to expand efforts to other programs. Agencies should explore ways programmatic staff can be properly trained in, or involved in, civil rights efforts. Large programmatic units should support a full-time trained civil rights analyst to monitor the civil rights implications of program developments and policies and to provide civil rights training and expertise to program staff and to act as liaison between the program and the civil rights offices. A civil rights specialist assigned to a program office should also develop mechanisms by which program staff, particularly any who make site visits, can provide feedback that could be used for a desk audit or as a selection criterion for choosing recipients for on-site compliance reviews.


Finding 6.3: Agencies’ success in handling a workload of thousands of complaints needing to be processed or funding recipients and subrecipients requiring compliance reviews rested on whether the work was delegated. Delegation of the civil rights enforcement workload could occur at various levels within departments or agencies, as well as with contracting organizations and recipients (such as states) that have subrecipients. Thus, the responsibilities for civil rights enforcement could be distributed among the agencies’ various divisions, administrations, or bureaus and among district or other field offices. Some agencies, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, contracted with state or local human rights organizations to handle their civil rights workload, which was investigating complaints. The EEOC also offloaded time-intensive complaint investigations by referring complainants with cases that did not have broad civil rights impact to private attorneys.

Federal agencies can also reduce their workload by having the recipient collect the appropriate information to determine compliance and conduct a self-assessment. Thus, the Commission stressed the need to impose requirements for reporting and self-assessments on recipients. Furthermore, many recipients of funding assistance are states that disburse block grants to subrecipients. States must pass the reporting and self-analysis requirements on to their subrecipients.

Recommendation 6.3: Every federal agency should develop a civil rights enforcement system that appropriately delegates enforcement activities. Agencies unable to meet their civil rights obligations should convene a task force to determine appropriate means to distribute the work either internally or externally to achieve an efficient and effective civil rights enforcement system.

Oversight and Accountability of Civil Rights Enforcement Programs

Finding 6.4: Several federal agencies were running Title VI civil rights implementation, compliance, and enforcement programs that were not adhering to DOJ guidelines. DOJ, through CORS, was lax in its oversight of federal agencies’ civil rights programs and had thus allowed deficient agencies to continue running ineffective and inefficient, some worse than others, programs. Furthermore, federal agencies had not sufficiently stressed the compliance and enforcement responsibilities of agency components, such as operating administrations and operating divisions, nor had they sufficiently seen to the oversight, accountability, and coordination of the civil rights programs directed by their components. Regular monitoring and evaluation of agency components, such as field offices, had also been dismal in numerous instances. The oversight and monitoring of contracting organizations, such as Tribal Employment Rights Organizations (TEROs), had not been as stringent as conditions demanded. Finally, federal agencies had been remiss in their oversight and monitoring of state recipients that distribute their block grants to subrecipients.

Recommendation 6.4: DOJ, through CORS, should ensure that federal agencies are strictly adhering to the regulations established for the implementation and enforcement of civil rights programs. Oversight of all agencies and technical assistance to those agencies whose Title VI programs are found lacking should be proactive and exhaustive. Accountability should extend to the effective and efficient use of all resources, including funds and staff.

All federal agencies with funding recipients should implement civil rights enforcement programs in accordance with DOJ’s guidelines for Title VI enforcement. Furthermore, they should clarify the civil rights implementation, compliance, and enforcement responsibilities of all agency components, such as operating administrations and operating divisions. To improve their oversight, accountability, and coordination of the civil rights programs that agency components direct, federal agencies should (1) establish regular channels of communication with the components having civil rights responsibilities; (2) require them to submit annual self-evaluations that will be reviewed and evaluated by knowledgeable agency personnel free of any conflicting interests with said agency components and who will be authorized to direct deficient programs, based on DOJ guidelines, to improve their performance; (3) conduct regular on-site monitoring and evaluation reviews of agency components with civil rights obligations and provide them with comprehensive reports evaluating and recommending improvements in implementation, compliance, and enforcement programs; and (4) monitor and evaluate field offices to ensure the consistency of procedures and resource materials across these offices and provide them with comprehensive reports citing where improvements must be made.

Furthermore, federal agencies should carefully select any contracting organizations that perform civil rights functions, and closely oversee and monitor the contractor’s performance through on-site visits that include accompanying contractors when performing enforcement activities such as conducting complaint investigations or on-site compliance reviews of recipients. Finally, federal agencies should improve their oversight and monitoring of state recipients that distribute their block grants to subrecipients. One method of accomplishing this is through improved coordination between these entities, including the training, certification, and periodic recertification of pertinent recipient staff by the concerned federal agency.

Coordination Between Federal Agencies

Finding 6.5: Despite its oversight responsibility to ensure that federal agencies ensure compliance with Title VI, DOJ was not promoting inter-agency coordination. Nor were federal agencies with overlapping jurisdiction for ensuring compliance among the same recipients sharing information or coordinating compliance reviews. Indeed, agencies had no way of knowing which of their recipients were being funded by another federal agency subject to Title VI enforcement responsibilities.

Recommendation 6.5: DOJ should direct inter-agency coordination as part of its oversight responsibilities. It should hold conferences for federal agencies with Title VI responsibilities so that they may communicate with each other and take advantage of the exemplary aspects of one another’s enforcement programs in improving their own efforts.

As part of enhancing inter-agency coordination, DOJ should conduct a study of how much overlap exists among agencies concerning recipient funding. DOJ should develop and require federal agencies to help maintain a centralized database of Title VI funding recipients and the enforcement activities to which they have been subjected to permit the federal agencies to know when recipients are receiving funds from more than one agency and to facilitate inter-agency coordination on compliance activities such as on-site reviews. Congress should allocate funding to support the development and maintenance of this database.

The study should also develop guidance for procedures by which agencies can share responsibility for enforcement activities or eliminate the need to perform a particular activity on one recipient since another agency has or will perform it. The use of a memorandum of understanding or other formal agreements for sharing responsibilities should be explored.


Finding 6.6: A number of agencies had huge backlogs in unprocessed complaints and large numbers of funding recipients that had not been reviewed for compliance. Nonetheless, little attention had been paid to trying to find ways for more efficient and effective processes.

Recommendation 6.6: Federal agencies should regularly evaluate their enforcement activities for efficiency and effectiveness. They should, for example, ensure that charge intake staff collects appropriate information from complainants and that this task does not fall to investigators. Charges of discrimination should be appropriately prioritized and, if not meritorious for handling in the federal system, resolved quickly through dismissal, referral to private attorneys, mediation, or conciliation. Efforts to conduct compliance reviews should be appropriately balanced between desk audits and on-site reviews, and funding recipients should be required to provide the information reviewed in the desk audits. Agencies should explore whether and how program staff who monitor recipients’ general compliance might provide civil rights feedback that could be included in civil rights desk audits or among selection criteria for an on-site civil rights compliance review.

Involving the Affected Community

Finding 6.7:Federal agencies were not actively involving the affected communities in developing their civil rights programs. Federal agencies should have been at least contacting community organizations and advocacy groups when conducting education and outreach; however, many agencies had weak or nonexistent education and outreach programs. Furthermore, for civil rights enforcement to be most effective, the affected communities must be involved in developing policy to ensure that it addresses their needs, in designing education and outreach to make the best appeal to the communities that are victimized, and in developing litigation strategies that address the issues that concern these communities and provide the remedies they desire.

Recommendation 6.7: Federal agencies must involve advocacy groups and community organizations in their civil rights enforcement programs. These groups must be involved in developing policy and litigation strategies, in identifying priority civil rights issues, and in designing education and outreach programs and strategies that will be most effective in reaching the victims of discrimination.

[1] See U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Funding Federal Civil Rights Enforcement, June 1995; Funding Federal Civil Rights Enforcement: 2000 and Beyond, February 2001; and Funding Federal Civil Rights Enforcement: 2000–2003, April 2002.