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Civil Rights Requirements- E. Federal Employment Discrimination Laws

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended, 42 U.S.C. Section 621 et. seq. (ADEA) and the Equal Pay Act of 1963, 29 U.S.C. Section 206 (d) (EPA), are Federal employment discrimination laws that offer civil rights protection to all employees, including TANF beneficiaries who make the transition from welfare to employment.

Title VII prohibits private and State and local government employers with 15 or more employees and employment agencies from discriminating on the basis of race, color, sex (including pregnancy), religion or national origin in all aspects of an employment relationship, including hiring, discharge, compensation, assignments, and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment. The ADEA prohibits employers with 20 or more employees, and state and local governments from discriminating against persons 40 or older because of age. The EPA requires payment of equal wages to men and women performing substantially the same work unless the pay discrepancy is based on a seniority or merit system, a system that measures quantity or quality of production, or a factor other than sex. The EPA applies to employers of any size.

Set forth below are examples of conduct by welfare agencies that assign TANF participants to work activities and the employers to whom they are assigned that may violate Title VII:

  • Denying employment opportunities to a TANF participant because he looks "foreign" or has an accent.
  • Prohibiting an employee from wearing religious clothing would be religious discrimination unless this would pose an undue hardship for the employer, e.g. a young Muslim woman who wears a shawl covering her head in keeping with Muslim teachings, or a young man who wears a turban in keeping with Sikh religious teachings.
  • A male supervisor constantly makes remarks about a female mechanic trainee's anatomy and invites her to the movies after work. When she refuses he usually states that there are many other persons interested in her trainee position.
  • An employer refuses to hire female TANF beneficiaries between the ages of 18 and 25 on grounds that they may become pregnant.

Title I of the ADA is another statute that offers protection to TANF beneficiaries engaged in work activities. Title I prohibits private and State and local government employers with 15 or more employees and employment agencies from discriminating in employment, on the basis of disability. As in Section 504, employers must make reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of a qualified person with a disability unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship. It also prohibits retaliation for opposing disability discrimination or participating in the complaint process. Title I applies to all employers who are covered by Title VII and prohibits discrimination based on disability in all aspects of the employment relationship.

In addition to the above statutes it should be noted that employment discrimination by recipients of Federal assistance also is prohibited by Title II of the ADA, Section 504, Title IX and Title VI (Title VI employment jurisdiction is limited to cases in which the primary purpose of the Federal assistance is to provide employment and to those cases in which the employment discrimination tends to discriminate against beneficiaries).Each of these laws prohibit retaliation against individuals because they oppose practices that they reasonably believe are unlawful under the employment discrimination statutes or because they participate in proceedings under the employment discrimination statutes.

The Federal agencies will continue to work with you and other benefit providers as welfare reform is implemented. Attached are addresses and telephone numbers of the Federal agencies as a helpful reference for questions related to civil rights and welfare reform. Each agency has provided a toll free number for your convenience and is available to provide technical assistance, and answer questions. Please share this information with your colleagues, constituents and other interested organizations.

Index: Civil Rights Laws and Welfare Reform, Overview