Understanding Your Title VI Civil Rights

21 July 2017

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on “race, color, or national origin … under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” The law explicitly applies to intentional discrimination. However, in some cases, organizations that fail to act on reports of discrimination can also be found in violation of the law. Also prohibited is the unequal treatment of people due to something called “disparate impact”.


The language of the statute uses multiple terms for the same thing—race. People and organization that discriminate often use skin color, ethnicity, accent, country of birth, and immigrant status as markers of racial identity—and as a sign that equal treatment is not deserved. The people who wrote Title VI wanted to make it clear that using such markers of race could not be cited as loopholes for not complying with the law.


The second clause of Title VI is as important. “Any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” includes, but is not limited to the following:


  • Military
  • Civil Service
  • Government contracting
  • Job training
  • Unemployment
  • Law enforcement
  • Schools
  • Medicare and Medicaid, as well as all other public health safety net programs
  • Social Security
  • Housing programs
  • Food assistance
  • Grants and Loans, especially federally guaranteed college loans and mortgages


Nearly every public service provider receives federal funds in some form, which gives people Title VI rights in almost all situations in which they interact with a government office, educational institution, and charitable organization.


It is important to understand, however, that Title VI ensures access, not best results. In other words, no one can be denied the opportunity to apply for, say, public assistance simply because he or she is a member of a particular race. The program that receives or reviews the application can legally reject the application for all kinds of reasons.


Programs are permitted to issue and follow rules for how they spend their funds and conduct their operations. Those rules must be followed explicitly and cannot be written or applied in ways that consistently result in rejecting people of certain races or ethnicities. Rules that are technically fair but create or perpetuate discrimination are what constitute disparate impact.


Proving disparate impact is always difficult, so anyone who believes that the rules for a program are being applied in ways that lead to unintentional discrimination should contact a Columbus civil rights lawyer to discuss the situation. Extensive research and multiple interviews with individuals who may have suffered discrimination through disparate impact must be completed before any official complaint is filed.


The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice has sections dedicated to protecting immigrants, individuals accused of and convicted of crimes, disabled persons, students and faculty in schools and training programs, employees and employers, subsidized housing residents and homeowners, and government workers and contractors. The Educational Opportunities Section takes a lead role in investigating and litigating many Title VI cases, and several other federal laws may come into play when a Title VI complaint is filed.


Title VI also provides for remedies through private causes of action.  It is important to consult a knowledgeable civil rights attorney who can help determine the best options available for those who are victims of racial discrimination by a federally funded agency.


Civil rights protections related to the ones guaranteed under Title VI also exist within:


  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which applies specifically to employment and applying for jobs
  • Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972, which applies specifically to sex and gender discrimination and to sexual harassment and assault
  • Americans with Disability Act
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act


Race-based discrimination persists. Victims of unequal treatment by federally funded programs, and those who have witnessed such mistreatment, have ready legal allies in the Columbus Title VI discrimination lawyers with the Calig Law Firm. Free, confidential consultation can be scheduled online or requested by calling (614) 252-2300.

Sources: https://www.justice.gov/crt/fcs/TitleVI-Overview AND https://www.justice.gov/crt/fcs/Title-6-Manual#VIII.%20What%20Constitutes%20Discriminatory%20Conduct?


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