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Civil Rights

The following are civil rights requirements you must be aware of as you design your programs, hire employees, contract out work and provide services.    

Title VI

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that “no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance” (see 42U.S. Code Section 2000d).  This applies to both recipients and sub-recipients.  Contractors and subcontractors do not have to prepare or submit their own separate Title VI Programs, but they are responsible for being aware of and complying with the Title VI Program of the recipient with whom they are contracting. The following are general requirements for Title VI programs found in FTA Circular 4702.1B:

  • Submission of an annual Title VI certification and assurance to FTA
  • Development of Title VI complaint procedures
  • Tracking of Title VI investigations, complaints, and lawsuits
  • Provision of meaningful access to individual with Limited English Proficiency (LEP)
  • Notice to the public of protections offered under Title VI
  • Minority representation on planning and advisory bodies (see the Mission and Leadership section for more information)
  • Submission of a Title VI program to FTA every three years, including:

o  Summary of public outreach and involvement activities, and a description of steps to ensure that minority and low-income people have meaningful access to activities

o  LEP  plan

o  Procedures for tracking and investigating Title VI complaints

o  List of any Title VI investigations, complaints or lawsuits

o  Title VI notice and instructions on how to file a discrimination complaint

For more information on Title VI Programs, and to view sample checklists, templates, standards, etc, see the "Title VI Requirements and Guidelines for Federal Transit Administration Recipients" circular, FTA C 4702.1B (this supersedes FTA Circular 4702.1A, dated May 13, 2007).

Limited English Proficiency (LEP) persons are persons for whom English is not their primary language.  They are also limited in their ability to speak, understand, read or write English.  If you receive FTA funding, you are required to take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to information, services and the benefits of your programs for LEP persons.  This can include, but is not limited to, translating service information into commonly spoken languages or using images to convey information instead of words.

For more information about LEP programs, please see the guides Implementing the Department of Transportation’s Policy Guidance Concerning Recipients’ Responsibilities to Limited English Proficient (LEP) Persons, as prepared by the FTA Office of Civil Rights, here.

Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE)

A DBE is a small business (see US Small Business Administration for definition) owned and controlled by a socially and economically disadvantaged individual.  You must develop a DBE program if you receive FTA planning, capital or operating assistance and you will award prime contracts exceeding $250,000 in FTA funds in a federal fiscal year.   The following are the required elements of a DBE program document, as presented by the FTA in a training webinar for Region VI entitled "U.S. DOT’s Disadvantaged Enterprise (DBE) Program: The Basics":
  • Policy statement – this is a written statement of commitment to the DBE program, and it should be signed by the highest officer in your organization

  • Standard contract assurances – a nondiscrimination clause should be included in every contract you sign with a contractor and every contract contractors sign with subcontractors (when drafting, use exact language from 49 C.F.R. Part 26.13 (b))

  • DBE liaison officer – this is the individual responsible for the implementation of the DBE program

  • Prompt payment/retainage provision(s) – this is a clause in prime contracts requiring the prime to pay subcontractors for satisfactorily completed work no later than 30 days from receipt of payment from the recipient

  • Good faith efforts criteria – this is a requirement that a process/criteria must be in place for evaluating bids on solicitations with DBE contract goals

  • Monitoring mechanisms – requires site visits and certification to the government agency (FTA, FHWA) that DBEs are performing the contracted work

  • Small business provision (new rule) – recipients must add an element to their plan that fosters small business participation

  • Goal setting methodology – organizations must submit a letter to the FTA stating the overall DBE goal, a copy of the published notice and a copy of the methodology use to calculate the goal.

A DBE goal should be based on ready, able and willing DBE firms relative to all firms available to perform on your contracts. The Unified Certification Program (UCP) is the state-level entity responsible for certifying eligible firms as DBEs. 

To view all available FTA Training materials, please click here.

Environmental Justice

Executive Order 12898, "Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations,"  “requires the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), to make environmental justice (EJ) part of their mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of their programs, policies and activities on minority populations and/or low-income populations.”  FTA’s new circular dedicated to environmental justice took effect on August 15, 2012, and its purpose is to give grantees greater clarity and guidance about EJ by separating this topic out of the Title VI Circular. 

FTA Circular 4703.1, "Environmental Justice Policy Guidance for Federal Transit Administration Recipients," contains information that will assist State DOTs, MPOs and transit providers in (1) engaging  EJ populations during the transportation decision-making process; (2) determining the impact of projects, policies and activities on EJ populations, and assessing whether those impacts are disproportionately high and have adverse human health or environmental effects; and (3) avoiding, minimizing, or mitigating these negative effects.  This circular provides recommendations, clarification and guidance, and does not contain any new requirements, policies, or directives.

The following are the three fundamental environmental justice principles as defined in the FTA circular:   

  • To avoid, minimize, or mitigate disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects, including social and economic effects, on minority populations and low-income populations.

  • To ensure the full and fair participation by all potentially affected communities in the transportation decision-making process.

  • To prevent the denial of, reduction in, or significant delay in the receipt of benefits by minority and low-income populations.

FTA regulations state that Title VI and environmental justice apply to all U.S. DOT programs, policies, and activities, including, but not limited to: contracting, system planning, project development, implementation, operation, monitoring, and maintenance. 

For more information about environmental justice, and to learn more about how it compares and relates to Title VI, see FTA Circular 4703.1"Environmental Justice Policy Guidance for Federal Transit Administration Recipients," which went into effect on August 15, 2012.

Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)

The EEO regulations state that employers cannot discriminate on the basis of age, disability, equal pay/compensation, genetic information, national origin, pregnancy, race/color, religion, retaliation, sex, sexual harassment.  You should have an EEO program in place for your organization.  According to an FTA EEO PowerPoint Presentation for FTA Grantees, a successful EEO program comprises:
  • Statement of policy
  • Dissemination
  • Designation of personnel responsibility
  • Utilization analysis
  • Goals and timetables
  • Assessment of employment practices
  • Monitoring and reporting

To view the full presentation, please see the FTA Civil Rights EEO webpage.

For more information on each of these Civil Rights topics, please see the FTA website’s Civil Rights section.

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