6 requires States Parties to assure persons within their jurisdictions
effective protection and remedies through tribunals and other
institutions for acts of racial discrimination, including the right to
seek "just and adequate reparation or satisfaction for any damage
suffered as a result of such discrimination."
As set forth
throughout this report, U.S. law offers those affected by racial
discrimination a number of different remedies, ranging from individual
suits in the courts, to reliance on administrative procedures to
criminal prosecution of offenders.
The federal statutes derived from the Civil Rights Act of 1868,
including most of the laws dealing with discrimination by governments
and their officials, give the individual a "cause of action,"
i.e., a right to sue in federal court to correct the alleged
discrimination. See, e.g., 42 U.S.C. sec. 1981-1985. These suits may
seek injunctive relief, which requires the governmental unit or official
to correct the conduct, and monetary relief, which requires the payment
of damages. A government official who "knew or ought to have
known" that the conduct was unconstitutional or in violation of
federal law may also be subjected to punitive or exemplary damages. If
the plaintiff "substantially prevails" in one of these suits,
the plaintiff can also recover attorneys' fees. Private litigation under
these provisions has played a substantial role in promoting and
protecting racial equality. Non-governmental organizations that promote
civil rights are frequently involved in assisting individual lawsuits.
Further, the availability of recovery of attorneys fees has encouraged
lawyers and organizations to come to the assistance of such individuals
and provides the financial wherewithal to pursue future cases.
by the United States.
In many circumstances, the Federal government is authorized to initiate
suits to enforce racial equality. See, e.g., the Voting Rights Act, the
Fair Housing Act; Titles II, IV and VII of the Civil Rights Act; and the
Equal Credit Opportunity Act. Involvement of the government agency in
such litigation is important because these suits usually include
allegations of discriminatory "patterns or practices" that
require intensive investigation that would be difficult for a private
party to pursue. The Department of Justice also administers the
pre-clearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act, which requires
review and approval of changes in state and local voting practices and
procedures to assure that they do not have the purpose or effect of
denying or abridging the right to vote of members of minority groups. It
applies in states and other jurisdictions which historically have denied
or abridged minority voting rights.
under the Fair Housing Act, the Secretary of Housing and Urban
Development may initiate investigations and file complaints relating to
cases of housing discrimination. The Secretary can also commence actions
in administrative tribunals to enforce laws prohibiting housing
A number of federal statutes also provide for criminal penalties for
intentional or willful violations. In these cases, the U.S. Attorney for
the district in question will initiate an investigation, either on the
prosecutor's own initiative or on information provided by the Civil
Rights Division or by the private complaining party.
An entire federal agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC),
is devoted to the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws relating to
employment. An individual may file a complaint with the Commission,
which engages in initial investigation and attempts to provide a
resolution of the matter through conciliation. In cases where
conciliation fails and a determination is made to file a lawsuit to
vindicate the public interest, it may assume direct responsibility for
prosecuting the case. In other cases, it will issue a "right to
sue" letter, permitting the individual to pursue the claim in
By statute, the
EEOC has five Commissioners and a General Counsel, each of whom is
appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the
Senate. With its headquarters in Washington, DC, the EEOC operates
approximately fifty field offices nationwide, including district, area
and local offices. Each of these field offices has an enforcement staff
responsible for accepting charges of discrimination from the public,
investigating the charges, and attempting conciliation and mediation.
Each district and most area offices also have a legal unit, responsible
for providing legal advice to the enforcement staff and bringing
lawsuits in federal court to enforce Title VII.
In addition to
enforcement efforts through the administrative process and litigation,
the EEOC enforces Title VII though various other means. For instance,
the EEOC issues procedural regulations implementing Title VII, requires
employers to post notices summarizing the requirements of Title VII, and
requires large employers to file reports on the relationship of minority
workers to the employer's total workforce in specified job categories.
recently has been able to implement significant changes in the pursuit
of ending race discrimination. The EEOC has increased its staff of
investigators and attorneys and has modernized its technology. In
addition, the EEOC has developed a comprehensive strategic enforcement
model to reduce the backlog of charges, increase the number of charges
resolved through mediation, develop closer ties with its stakeholders in
local communities, and increase public awareness of discrimination. In
the arena of federal employment, the EEOC has modified the regulation
governing the administrative complaint process, 29 C.F.R. ¤1614, to
streamline the process by eliminating unnecessary layers of review and
addressing perceptions of unfairness. The most significant change is the
transfer of authority to issue a final decision on discrimination
complaints from the agency charged with discrimination to the EEOC.
its creation in 1965, the EEOC (and state and local fair employment
practice agencies, known as FEPAs) have received approximately 1.2
million charges of discrimination based on race and approximately
275,000 charges of discrimination based on national origin. In Fiscal
Year 1999, the EEOC and the FEPAs received approximately 50,000 charges
of discrimination based on race and approximately 13,000 charges of
discrimination based on national origin. Since 1965, the EEOC and the
FEPAs have recovered more than $2.2 billion in monetary damages through
voluntary settlement or conciliation during the administrative process
on behalf of victims of discrimination. In 1999 alone, the EEOC
recovered over $210 million in monetary damages in the administrative
process. The EEOC also has initiated lawsuits based on many meritorious
charges that were not resolved in the administrative process, recovering
over $8.5 million in 1999. Over the past ten years, the EEOC has filed
866 lawsuits alleging discrimination based on race and 242 lawsuits
alleging discrimination based on national origin. In many cases, the
EEOC secures other valuable relief in addition to monetary damages, such
as reinstatement of wrongfully discharged employees, court-ordered
training in the equal employment opportunity laws, the development of
written equal employment opportunity policies, and court orders
prohibiting specific discriminatory practices. Taken together, the
monetary and non-monetary relief serve the dual purpose of compensating
victims of discrimination and preventing similar forms of discrimination
from recurring in the future.
agencies also play important roles in enforcing civil rights and equal
Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs,
individuals may file complaints if they believe they have been
discriminated against by federal contractors or subcontractors, and the
Office itself may conduct compliance investigations to determine whether
contractors are complying with Executive Order 11246's
non-discrimination and affirmative action obligations. Complaints may
also be filed by organizations on behalf of the person or persons
affected. Other departments administer laws requiring recipients of
federal financial assistance to provide equal opportunity for
participants of programs that receive the federal financial assistance.
earlier, the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR)
bears primary responsibility for enforcing laws prohibiting
discrimination in educational programs and activities receiving federal
financial assistance. But while a large share of OCR's work is
enforcement, OCR also issues national policy statements that define to
the nation-at-large the scope of legal requirements to eliminate racial
barriers to equal educational opportunity. These policies address many
key, sometimes controversial issues, including:
Opportunity for English Language Learners.
OCR requires school districts to ensure equal educational opportunity to
English language learners. Districts are required to take affirmative
steps to provide equal educational opportunity where the inability to
speak and understand the English language excludes national origin
minority group children from effective participation in the district's
educational program. The Supreme Court in Lau v. Nichols, 414
U.S. 563 (1974) upheld OCR's policy that requires school districts to
ensure that language barriers do not exclude English language learners
from effective participation in their programs.
OCR's policy provides guidance to institutions of higher education
pursuant to the Supreme Court's decision in Ayers v. Fordice, 111
F. 3d 1183 (4th Cir. 1997) cert. denied, 522 U.S. 1084 (1998), requiring
the elimination of vestiges of desegregation in formerly de jure higher
OCR's policy guidance on race based financial assistance sets forth five
principles that satisfy the requirements of Title VI. These principles
college may make awards of financial aid to disadvantaged students
without regard to race or national origin even if that means that such
awards go disproportionately to minority students.
college may award financial aid on the basis of race or national origin
if the aid is awarded under a federal statute that authorizes the use of
race or national origin.
college may award financial aid on the basis of race or national origin
if the aid is necessary to overcome the effects of past discrimination.
A finding of discrimination may be made by a court or administrative
body, and may also be made by a State or local legislative body, as long
as the legislature has a strong basis in evidence identifying
discrimination within its jurisdiction for which that remedial action is
necessary. In addition, a college may voluntarily take action to remedy
its past discrimination where it has a strong basis in evidence for
concluding the action is necessary to redress its past discrimination
and its financial aid program is narrowly tailored to that purpose.
college may promote its First Amendment interest in diversity by
weighing many factors -- including race and national origin and its
efforts to attract and retain a student population with different
experiences, opinions, backgrounds, and cultures -- provided that the
use of race or national origin is consistent with the constitutional
standards reflected in Title VI, i.e., that it is a narrowly tailored
means of achieving the goal of a diverse student body.
VI does not prohibit an individual or an organization that is not a
recipient of federal financial assistance from directly giving
scholarships or other forms of financial aid to students based on their
race or nation origin. Principles 3 and 4 apply to the use or
race-targeted privately donated funds by a college and may justify
awarding these funds on the basis of race or national origin if the
college is remedying past discrimination or attempting to achieve a
diverse student body.
Harassment. OCR's policy on racial harassment provides that a recipient of federal
financial assistance violates Title VI if 1) an official representative
of a recipient treats someone differently in a way that interferes with
or limits the ability of the student to participate in or benefit from
the recipients' program; 2) the different treatment occurred in the
course of the official or representative's assigned duties or
responsibilities, and 3) the different treatment was based on race,
color, or national origin, and there was no legitimate nondiscriminatory
non-pretextual basis for the different treatment. An official
representative will also be in violation of Title VI if his or her
actions establish or contributes to a "racially hostile
environment" (1) when the recipient had actual or constructive
notice of a racially hostile environment and (2) a racially hostile
environment existed, and (3) the recipient failed to respond adequately
to redress the racially hostile environment.
Commission on Civil Rights Oversight.
In addition to institutions devoted to law enforcement, other bodies are
involved in making policy recommendations to improve the protection of
the rights of minorities. The Civil Rights Commission conducts studies
and makes recommendations in this regard, and it receives communications
from individuals and groups about alleged discrimination.
through fifty-one State Advisory Committees, including the District of
Columbia, the Civil Rights Commission receives information on civil
rights issues in the states. Through the Commission's regional
directors, the Committees hold regular meetings, cooperate on
race-related projects, and submit findings to the Commission on civil
rights issues that have regional importance. From time to time, the
Commission may recommend specific projects to be undertaken.
opportunity officers. Another approach to protecting individuals is the requirement that many
larger employers designate an "equal opportunity officer"
within their organization, whose responsibility is to receive and
respond to complaints about employment discrimination within the firm.
In effect, this requirement provides an internal advocate within the
firm for protection of the rights secured by this Convention. The equal
opportunity officers may make recommendations to prevent discriminatory
practices, as well as to remedy instances that have occurred. They are
not, strictly speaking, "enforcement" officers, but have had a
significant impact on realization of the goals of non-discrimination.