Civil rights obligations not being met by CJPA says USDOJ
A U.S. Department of Justice review of financial assistance awarded to ASG’s Criminal Justice Planning Agency found non-compliance of CJPS with “federal civil rights laws”, according to the federal agency’s letter to CJPA.
The 20-page letter dated Jan. 7, 2013 was addressed to then CJPA director Taufete’e John Faumuina, Jr. from Michael L. Alston, director for the Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR) Office of Justice Program at USDOJ
Alston pointed out that OCR is responsible for ensuring that recipients of federal financial assistance from various USDOJ programs comply with federal civil rights laws. Additionally, “recipients of federal financial assistance have an obligation not to discriminate against protected classes of people either in employment or in the delivery of services.
In carrying out the OCR’s civil rights enforcement responsibilities, the OCR is conducting a broad compliance review of all state administering agencies (SAA) in accordance with federal regulation.
The focus of this review is to determine both compliance with applicable federal civil rights laws and SAA monitoring procedures for ensuring the compliance of sub-recipients with these laws. As part of that review, the OCR is evaluating the CJPA, according to the letter.
Of particular interest to the OCR is the CJPA’s compliance with the federal regulations that the USDOJ issued in January of 2004, Equal Treatment for Faith-Based Organizations, and the regulations advise SAAs not to discriminate either in favor of, or against faith-based organizations.
The regulations also instruct funded faith-based organizations not to discriminate in the delivery of services or benefits based on religion, nor are they to use federal funds for inherently religious activities.
Last May, the OCR conducted an onsite visit with the CJPA in Pago Pago, to interview management and program staff; “we also provided a training program for Agency representatives about the OCR and the federal civil rights laws that the OCR enforces, how the OCR enforces civil rights laws, a recipient’s obligations to provide services to limited English proficient individuals, civil rights laws that affect faith-based organizations, and effective ways to monitor subrecipient compliance with applicable civil rights obligations,” the letter further states.
In the limited scope of this compliance review, Alston said that OCR concluded that the CJPA “is not fully in compliance with the requirements of the federal civil rights laws that the OCR enforces.
During the OCR visit, they not only focused on CJPA compliance but also on two subrecipients: Catholic Social Services and Teen Challenge, according to the letter-report, which explains that recipients of federal financial assistance are responsible for certifying that contractors and subrecipients under USDOJ grant programs comply with applicable federal civil rights laws.
In reviewing the CJPA’s general efforts to ensure subrecipients’ compliance with their civil rights obligations, the OCR evaluates how the agency uses four tools to ensure subrecipients’ compliance with their civil rights obligations:
• standard assurances,
• onsite visits and other monitoring methods,
• training programs and technical assistance, and
• procedures for receiving, investigating, and resolving complaints alleging employment and services discrimination.
“The CJPA does not require any of its subrecipients to sign a standard assurances document that apprises them of their federal civil rights obligations,” the report said and noted that “occasionally”, CJPA requires a subrecipient to execute an Independent Contractor Service Contract as a condition of receiving federal funds.
While that agreement purports to describe several requirements of the American Samoa Administrative Code, it does not contain any provisions regarding federal civil rights laws, it says. During the OCR’s site visit, the CJPA could only identify that Catholic Social Services had signed this contract.
“When the Agency (CJPA) subawards funds to another government office, it enters into a one-page memorandum of agreement that fails to describe any applicable obligations under federal nondiscrimination law.
“Finally, in an especially troubling instance of the CJPA’s failure to inform its subrecipients of their obligations under federal law, the CJPA acknowledged during the OCR’s site visit that one subrecipient — Teen Challenge — signed no agreement whatsoever as a condition of receiving federal financial assistance from the USDOJ,” the report says.
According to the report, CJPA requires its subrecipients to submit quarterly financial and programmatic reports regarding their implementation of USDOJ-funded programs; but “these reports do not contain information related to applicable federal civil rights requirements.”
CJPA “conducts occasional site visits of its subrecipients and relies on such onsite meetings to address any reported complaints about a subgrantee’s provision of services or benefits to members of the public or to beneficiaries,” said OCR. “Despite this monitoring protocol, the CJPA does not have any procedures in place to evaluate the federal civil rights compliance of its subgrantees.
Additionally, CJPA does not provide any training to its subrecipients on the civil rights obligations that apply to the receipt of federal financial assistance from the USDOJ. According to OCR, the CJPA primarily through its program managers, provides ongoing technical assistance to subrecipients and these personnel are available by e-mail and telephone to respond to subrecipient questions about grant requirements that arise during the grant cycle.
In reviewing complaint procedures, the OCR evaluates the processes in place for individuals to pursue complaints of employment discrimination against the CJPA, as well as complaints of employment and services discrimination against its subrecipients.
As a part of the American Samoa government, the CJPA is subject to American Samoa’s personnel rules and regulations, which are administered by the Department of Human Resources and prohibits discrimination in employment based on, among other protected classes, race, color, national origin, religion, sex, and disability.
These administrative provisions further require the CJPA to designate an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) coordinator, but the OCR site visit found that CJPA has not designated an EEO coordinator.
The administrative code also explains how employees should internally report discrimination and addresses CJPA’s responsibilities to resolve any such complaint, and in certain circumstances, a CJPA employee can also file an employment discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the OCR.
OCR said ASG’s Human Resources also provides regular training to government employees on sexual harassment in the workplace and various federal equal employment opportunity laws.
“Despite the availability of these resources, the CJPA provides neither information nor training to new or existing employees on its nondiscrimination obligations or the applicable complaint process for receiving and resolving civil rights complaints,” according to the report.
In monitoring subrecipients, “the CJPA does not evaluate whether subrecipients have policies, procedures, or protocols regarding the handling of employment or services discrimination complaints they receive.”
Moreover, CJPA does not determine if subgrantees provide any notification to their employees and beneficiaries about subrecipient processes for handling discrimination complaints or available avenues for filing civil rights complaints.
More details in future editions of Samoa News dealing with specific review of Catholic Social Service and Teen Challenge as well as OCR’s recommendations.
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