All federal civil rights laws have a common purpose: prohibit discrimination and promote equal opportunity. For purposes of this paper, we’ll assume that you are the Equal Opportunity (EO) professional of an agency or organization that operates federally funded programs and activities.

As an EO professional, you are obliged to understand and provide notice of applicable civil rights laws, but this is, at times, easier said than done. With that in mind, we’ll cover distinctions between two required notices, “Equal Opportunity (EO) is The Law” and “Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) is The Law”. Similarities in the titles of these notices often lead to confusion in understanding some of their differences.

“Equal Opportunity is The Law”.

“Equal Opportunity is The Law” is the guiding civil rights policy for all federally funded programs and activities including publicly funded educational programs, transportation, housing, lending, Medicare, small business development, and a myriad of others. For purposes here, you serve as the EO Officer for an entity offering workforce development programs and activities funded by the U.S. Department of Labor through Title I of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998. Some examples of such entities, besides state and local government agencies, would include Local Workforce Investment Boards, One Stop Career Centers, and Job Corps Centers. By law, you must provide the following notice:

Equal Opportunity Is the Law

It is against the law for this recipient of Federal financial assistance to discriminate on the following bases:

against any individual in the United States, on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, political affiliation or belief; and

against any beneficiary of programs financially assisted under Title I of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA), on the basis of the beneficiary’s citizenship/status as a lawfully admitted immigrant authorized to work in the United States, or his or her participation in any WIA Title I-financially assisted program or activity.

The recipient must not discriminate in any of the following areas:

deciding who will be admitted, or have access, to any WIA Title I-financially assisted program or activity;

providing opportunities in, or treating any person with regard to, such a program or activity; or

making employment decisions in the administration of, or in connection with, such a program or activity.

What to Do If You Believe You Have Experienced Discrimination

If you think that you have been subjected to discrimination under a WIA Title I-financially assisted program or activity, you may file a complaint within 180 days from the date of the alleged violation with either:

the recipient’s Equal Opportunity Officer (or the person whom the recipient has designated for this purpose); or

the Director, Civil Rights Center (CRC), U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue NW, Room N-4123, Washington, DC 20210.

If you file your complaint with the recipient, you must wait either until the recipient issues a written Notice of Final Action, or until 90 days have passed (whichever is sooner), before filing with the Civil Rights Center (see address above).

If the recipient does not give you a written Notice of Final Action within 90 days of the day on which you filed your complaint, you do not have to wait for the recipient to issue that Notice before filing a complaint with CRC. However, you must file your CRC complaint within 30 days of the 90-day deadline (in other words, within 120 days after the day on which you filed your complaint with the recipient).

If the recipient does give you a written Notice of Final Action on your complaint, but you are dissatisfied with the decision or resolution, you may file a complaint with CRC. You must file your CRC complaint within 30 days of the date on which you received the Notice of Final Action.

29 C.F.R. § 37.30.

Indeed, as the EO professional for a recipient of WIA Title I-funding, you must ensure that “initial and continuing notice” is provided. 29 C.F.R. § 37.29. What does this mean?

It means that the “Equal Opportunity is The Law” notice must be “prominently” posted in a variety of places at your Center, agency, facility, office headquarters, and the like. And, it must be available in an alternative format for persons with visual impairments along with “a record that such notice has been given” in “the participant’s file.”

Limited English Proficient (LEP) persons must also receive notice. Based on considerations such as the scope of your programs and activities involved as well as the size and concentration of the population needing information in a language other than English, you must take reasonable steps to provide the “EO is The Law” notice in appropriate languages. Check with your state EO leadership for LEP-related materials. The U.S. Department of Justice website, at www.lep.gov, also offers valuable guidance.

Providing notice on a “continuing basis”, means that, in addition to prominently-placed posters, the notice must be communicated through internal memoranda and other written or electronic communications. It must be included in your handbooks and materials. And, the notice must be made available to each participant in your programs and activities and should be located in each participant’s file.

Continuing notice extends to including taglines that the recipient is an “equal opportunity employer/program” and “auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to persons with disabilities” in your:

√ recruitment brochures;
√ orientation materials and presentations;
√ any written or oral communications to staff, clients, or the public regarding WIA Title I programs and activities; and
√ publications and broadcasts regarding the WIA Title I programs and activities.

Moreover, during each orientation session, you must include a discussion of rights under WIA’s nondiscrimination and equal opportunity laws, including the right to file a complaint of discrimination with the Director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Civil Rights Center.

As you can see, requirements for dissemination of the “EO is The Law” notice are extensive. This is because the notice applies to a wide variety of folks, including registrants, applicants, eligible registrants and applicants, participants, applicants for employment and employees, unions holding collective bargaining agreements with the recipient, sub-recipients, and members of the public.

“Equal Employment Opportunity is The Law”.

From its title, we already understand that the “EEO is The Law” notice is limited in scope to employment-related discrimination. And, the required EEO notice developed by the U.S. Economic Opportunities Commission (EEOC) contains information that is different from the “EO is The Law” notice. The EEOC’s “EEO is The Law” notice reads, in part, as follows:

Equal Employment Opportunity is THE LAW

Private Employers, State and Local Governments, Educational Institutions, Employment Agencies and Labor Organizations
Applicants to and employees of most private employers, state and local governments, educational institutions, employment agencies and labor organizations are protected under Federal law from discrimination on the following bases:

RACE, COLOR, RELIGION, SEX, NATIONAL ORIGIN
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, protects applicants and employees from discrimination in hiring, promotion, discharge, pay, fringe benefits, job training, classification, referral, and other aspects of employment, on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), or national origin. Religious discrimination includes failing to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious practices where the accommodation does not impose undue hardship.

DISABILITY
Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, protect qualified individuals from discrimination on the basis of disability in hiring, promotion, discharge, pay, fringe benefits, job training, classification, referral, and other aspects of employment. Disability discrimination includes not making reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability who is an applicant or employee, barring undue hardship.

AGE
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended, protects applicants and employees 40 years of age or older from discrimination based on age in hiring, promotion, discharge, pay, fringe benefits, job training, classification, referral, and other aspects of employment.

SEX (WAGES)
In addition to sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as amended, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, as amended, prohibits sex discrimination in the payment of wages to women and men performing substantially equal work, in jobs that require equal skill, effort, and responsibility, under similar working conditions, in the same establishment.

GENETICS
Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 protects applicants and employees from discrimination based on genetic information in hiring, promotion, discharge, pay, fringe benefits, job training, classification, referral, and other aspects of employment. GINA also restricts employers’ acquisition of genetic information and strictly limits disclosure of genetic information. Genetic information includes information about genetic tests of applicants, employees, or their family members; the manifestation of diseases or disorders in family members (family medical history); and requests for or receipt of genetic services by applicants, employees, or their family members.

RETALIATION
All of these Federal laws prohibit covered entities from retaliating against a person who files a charge of discrimination, participates in a discrimination proceeding, or otherwise opposes an unlawful employment practice.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU BELIEVE DISCRIMINATION HAS OCCURRED
There are strict time limits for filing charges of employment discrimination. To preserve the ability of EEOC to act on your behalf and to protect your right to file a private lawsuit, should you ultimately need to, you should contact EEOC promptly when discrimination is suspected: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 1-800-669-4000 (toll-free) or 1-800-669-6820 (toll-free TTY number for individuals with hearing impairments). EEOC field office information is available at www.eeoc.gov or in most telephone directories in the U.S. Government or Federal Government section. Additional information about EEOC, including information about charge filing, is available at www.eeoc.gov.

Employers Holding Federal Contracts or Subcontracts
Applicants to and employees of companies with a Federal government contract or subcontract are protected under Federal law from discrimination on the following bases:

RACE, COLOR, RELIGION, SEX, NATIONAL ORIGIN
Executive Order 11246, as amended, prohibits job discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, and requires affirmative action to ensure equality of opportunity in all aspects of employment.

INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES
Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, protects qualified individuals from discrimination on the basis of disability in hiring, promotion, discharge, pay, fringe benefits, job training, classification, referral, and other aspects of employment. Disability discrimination includes not making reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability who is an applicant or employee, barring undue hardship. Section 503 also requires that Federal contractors take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment qualified individuals with disabilities at all levels of employment, including the executive level.

DISABLED, RECENTLY SEPARATED, OTHER PROTECTED, AND ARMED FORCES SERVICE MEDAL VETERANS
The Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, as amended, 38 U.S.C. 4212, prohibits job discrimination and requires affirmative action to employ and advance in employment disabled veterans, recently separated veterans (within three years of discharge or release from active duty), other protected veterans (veterans who served during a war or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized), and Armed Forces service medal veterans (veterans who, while on active duty, participated in a U.S. military operation for which an Armed Forces service medal was awarded).

RETALIATION
Retaliation is prohibited against a person who files a complaint of discrimination, participates in an OFCCP proceeding, or otherwise opposes discrimination under these Federal laws.
Any person who believes a contractor has violated its nondiscrimination or affirmative action obligations under the authorities above should contact immediately:

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210, 1-800-397-6251 (toll-free) or (202) 693-1337 (TTY). OFCCP may also be contacted by e-mail at OFCCP-Public@dol.gov, or by calling an OFCCP regional or district office, listed in most telephone directories under U.S. Government, Department of Labor.

The remainder of the “EEO is The Law” notice addresses “Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance”. At first blush, this component of the notice appears to address federally funded programs and activities in addition to employment practices. However, if you look at the prohibited bases of discrimination set forth in this part of the EEO notice, only race, color, national origin, gender, and disability are mentioned. From reading the WIA “EO is The Law” notice, you’ll see that the bases of prohibited discrimination are much broader. For a detailed discussion of “basis”, see prior paper titled, “The ‘Basis’ of a Discrimination Complaint: What It Is and Why It’s Important”. As a result, if you operate WIA Title I programs and activities, you must post the “EO is The Law” notice; you cannot rely solely on the “EEO is The Law” notice.

Comparing the notices.

Comparing the “EO is The Law” notice with the “EEO is The Law” notice, we see that both notices set forth nondiscrimination requirements and inform us regarding where to file a discrimination complaint. However, the “EEO is The Law” notice is limited to addressing nondiscrimination with regard to your employment practices, whereas the “EO is The Law” notice is much broader—it applies to employment practices as well as your agency’s or organization’s delivery of federally funded aid, training, benefits, and services.

Moreover, while some “bases” of prohibited discrimination are the same in the two notices (race, color, national origin, religion, disability, gender), there are differences as well. For example, the WIA “EO is The Law” notice also prohibits discrimination on the bases of citizenship, WIA participant status, and political affiliation. The “EEO is The Law” notice prohibits discrimination in employment practices on the basis of genetics. And, although both notices prohibit discrimination on the basis of age, the “EEO is The Law” nondiscrimination provisions apply to persons over 40 years of age. On the other hand, the age-based provisions of the “EO is The Law” notice prohibit discrimination in federally funded programs and activities on the basis of any age.

Finally, both notices provide instructions for filing discrimination complaints, but we see that the complaints are filed at different locations. The WIA “EO is The Law” notice provides that complaints may be filed with:

√ the recipient’s Equal Opportunity Officer (or the person whom the recipient has designated for this purpose); or

√ the Director, Civil Rights Center (CRC), U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue NW, Room N-4123, Washington, DC 20210.

This is compared to the discrimination complaint process set forth in the “EEO is The Law” notice, which provides:

There are strict time limits for filing charges of employment discrimination. To preserve the ability of EEOC to act on your behalf and to protect your right to file a private lawsuit, should you ultimately need to, you should contact EEOC promptly when discrimination is suspected: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 1-800-669-4000 (toll-free) or 1-800-669-6820 (toll-free TTY number for individuals with hearing impairments). EEOC field office information is available at www.eeoc.gov or in most telephone directories in the U.S. Government or Federal Government section. Additional information about EEOC, including information about charge filing, is available at www.eeoc.gov.

Therefore, if you operate WIA Title I programs and activities, you must provide initial and ongoing communication of the U.S. Department of Labor’s “Equal Opportunity is The Law” notice at your agency, One Stop Career Centers, Local Workforce Investment Board offices, Job Corps Centers, operator offices, service provider locations, and the like.

The same holds true if you operate programs and activities funded through other federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Small Business Administration, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to name a few. As with the WIA “EO is The Law” notice provided by the U.S. Department of Labor, each federal agency has an “Equal Opportunity is The Law” notice for you to use. These notices are tailored to address the specific civil rights laws applicable to the program or activity funded by that federal agency.

Seena Foster is an attorney and author of “Civil Rights Investigations Under the Workforce Investment Act and Other Title VI-Related Laws: From Intake to Final Determination.” She is also a Partner with Title VI Consulting in Alexandria, VA. You may visit her website at www.titleviconsulting.com.