Overview of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 42 U.S.C. 2000d et seq.
Title VI, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq., was enacted as part of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. As President John F. Kennedy said in 1963:
Simple justice requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of all races [colors, and national origins] contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, entrenches, subsidizes, or results in racial [color or national origin] discrimination.
Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in any program or activity that receives Federal funds or other Federal financial assistance. Programs that receive Federal funds cannot distinguish among individuals on the basis of race, color, or national origin, either directly or indirectly, in the types, quantity, quality, or timeliness of program services, aids or benefits that they provide or the manner in which they provide them. This prohibition applies to intentional discrimination as well as to procedures, criteria, or methods of administration that appear neutral, but have a discriminatory effect on individuals because of their race, color, or national origin. Policies and practices that have such an effect must be eliminated unless a recipient can show that they were necessary to achieve a legitimate nondiscriminatory objective. Even if there is such a reason the practice cannot continue, if there are alternatives that would achieve the same objectives but that would exclude fewer minorities. Persons with limited English proficiency (LEP) must be afforded a meaningful opportunity to participate in programs that receive Federal funds. Policies and practices may not deny or have the effect of denying persons with limited English proficiency equal access to Federally-funded programs for which such persons qualify.
Overview of Executive Order 13166
On August 11, 2000, the President signed Executive Order 13166, "Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency." The Executive Order requires Federal agencies to examine the services they provide, identify any need for services to those with limited English proficiency (LEP), and develop and implement a system to provide those services so LEP persons can have meaningful access to them. It is expected that agency plans will provide for such meaningful access consistent with, and without unduly burdening, the fundamental mission of the agency. The Executive Order also requires that the Federal agencies work to ensure that recipients of Federal financial assistance provide meaningful access to their LEP applicants and beneficiaries. To assist Federal agencies in carrying out these responsibilities, the U.S. Department of Justice has issued a Policy Guidance Document, "Enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - National Origin Discrimination Against Persons With Limited English Proficiency" (LEP Guidance). This LEP Guidance sets forth the compliance standards that recipients of Federal financial assistance must follow to ensure that their programs and activities normally provided in English are accessible to LEP persons and thus do not discriminate on the basis of national origin in violation of Title VI's prohibition against national origin discrimination.