Discrimination in Federally Assisted Programs Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

A wide variety of federal statutes prohibit discrimination in programs which receive federal financial assistance.  Among these provisions are Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in ”any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”  ‘Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender or blindness in education.  Finally, the Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of handicap or disability in a variety of contexts.

42 U.S.C.  2000d 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.”

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits invidious discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in federally assisted programs.  The statute is applicable to discrimination by the relevant federal authority as well as by the recipient of the assistance.  It provides no relief for discrimination on the basis of sex, geographical locale, or wealth.

Section 2000d-1 provides that compliance with the section may be effected by the termination or refusal to grant or continue assistance, or ”by any other means authorized by law.”  Termination of funding is therefore not mandatory.  The Title does not reach direct benefit federal programs, such as social security.  It has been interpreted to ”cover only those situations where federal funding is given to a non-federal entity which, in turn, provides financial assistance to the ultimate beneficiary.”  To claim protection under Section 2000d, the plaintiff’s interests must be within the ”zone of interests” given protection by the statute.

To come within the purview of section 2000d, the challenged program or activity must receive federal financial assistance.  In addition, the requirements of section 2000d are applicable only to the particular program which is the beneficiary of federal funding.  For example, if a plaintiff complains of discrimination in employment, one of the purposes of the federal assistance must have been employment.  However, an institution may not manipulate funds in an effort to thwart the purpose of the Act.  Section 2000d, when implemented by administrative regulations, reaches both intentional discrimination and discriminatory effects.

Intimidatory or retaliatory acts are prohibited under Title VI.  No recipient or other person shall intimidate, threaten, coerce, or discriminate against any individual for the purpose of interfering with any right or privilege secured by section 601 of the Act or this part, or because he has made a complaint, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this part.

Since only intentional discrimination was prohibited by the statute, a retaliation claim is valid only if the plaintiff had opposed practices reasonably believed to constitute intentional discrimination.  Nevertheless, an affirmative action program may itself be invidiously discriminatory and violate section 2000d.  In Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (U.S. 2003) the Supreme Court sustained the consideration of race by a state law school in its admissions decisions in pursuit of its interest in attaining a diverse student body.  The Court found the policy compatible with the requirements of the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause.  The Court noted, however, that the petitioner’s Title VI claim failed as well, because the Act proscribed only those racial classifications that would violate the Equal Protection Clause.


Inside Discrimination in Federally Assisted Programs Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.