States Not Enforcing Rights in J.T.P.A.,New Study Charges

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Washington--The Labor Department's failure to monitor states' compliance with antidiscrimination laws regulating the major federal job-training program has resulted in "a virtual disappearance of civil-rights enforcement," according to a University of Chicago study.

Lacking federal oversight, a majority of the states have not even met the Labor Department's own guidelines for state civil-rights enforcement, such as recordkeeping, adequate grievance procedures, and compliance monitoring, the study charges.

The Job Training Partnership Act, the government's principal employment-training program, has enrolled an estimated 1.3-million unemployed young people and adults nationwide since its inception.

A draft of the study, completed under the direction of Gary Orfield, professor of political science at the university, also charges that the department has failed to issue final regulations on states' enforcement role and, in downgrading its own role, has largely relied on "good-faith" efforts by the states to ensure compliance.

The 12-month study, conducted by a 26-person research team, involved interviews with federal and state officials, and an in-depth examination of enforcement in Illinois jtpa programs. The study was supported by a grant from the Joyce Foundation.

The research was discussed at a House subcommittee hearing held in Chicago earlier this month. A second hearing is scheduled for next month, when the full study will be issued.

William J. Harris, director of the Labor Department's office of civil rights, said last week that the department's efforts "have been and will continue to be effective in ensuring equal opportunity in all programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance."

History of Program

The jtpa, a Reagan Administration initiative enacted by the Congress in 1982 and implemented a year later, replaced the Comprehensive Training and Employment Act for disadvantaged and dislocated workers. The jtpa has been allocated $3.6 billion in each of the past two years--about 20 percent of that to serve young people between the ages of 16 and 21.

The new program differs from ceta in a number of respects. It puts more emphasis on training than job stipends, seeks greater involvement by the private sector, and emphasizes state, rather than federal, administration and control of the program. (See Education Week, Jan. 23, 1985.)

The transfer of control from the federal to the state level, "together with the policies of the Reagan Administration, has produced a virtual disappearance of civil-rights enforcement in job programs," the study contends.

Civil-Rights Section

The civil-rights clause of the jtpa is spelled out in Section 167, which states that "no individual shall be excluded from participation in, denied benefits of, subjected to discrimination under, or denied employment in the administration of or in connection with any such program because of race, color, religion, sex, national orgin, age, handicap, or political affiliation or belief."

Four other nondiscrimination laws also apply to the program: Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prevents discrimination on the basis of race; the Age Discrimination Act of 1975; the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which bars discrimination on the basis of handicap; and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which addresses sex discrimination.

But the study notes that although civil-rights regulations have been drafted for the program, the Justice Department has held off publishing them for more than a year.

The regulations are still under re-view at the Justice Department, according to Mr. Harris.

Since no final regulations exist, states are now operating under a Labor Department guide that suggests ways they can meet federal civil-rights standards.

Keys to a sound state effort, it suggests, include:

Designation of an appropriate equal-opportunity officer.

Accessibility for the handicapped and those with limited English proficiency.

Availability of a system for reviewing the plans of local job-training programs and monitoring their performance on civil-rights issues.

Adequate recordkeeping on discrimination concerns.

Development of a grievance procedure for resolving complaints filed with the state.

Selection of appropriate corrective actions and sanctions for programs not in compliance.

State Noncompliance

In early 1984, according to the Orfield study, the Labor Department sent a questionnaire to each state official designated to oversee civil-rights enforcement in jtpa programs. In the questionnaire, the officials were asked whether they had implemented the methods outlined in the guide, Mr. Harris said.

The survey found that only eight states and Guam could be certified as having adequate civil-rights enforcement.

"We did not go out looking to determine compliance or noncompliance," Mr. Harris said last week. "We found that some of the elements in the questionnaire responses were not what we thought they should be. We felt that the states needed to make changes or provide us with additional documentation, before we could certify them."

The Labor Department now says that it has certified 20 states out of the 57 states and territories it covers.

Mr. Harris said the department has conducted a number of compliance reviews in states found to have inadequate enforcement programs, but is now reworking its compliance-review methods, a process that should be completed after Oct. 1. He said the department is also conducting training programs in all its regions.

'Good-Faith Effort'

According to the study, David Morman, the former chief of the division of policy, standards, and procedures in the office of civil rights, acknowledged that although the office had monitored a few hundred local "service delivery areas"--geographical jurisdictions of 200,000 or more residents--"our experience suggested that ... each compliance review would take, on the average, three federal officials, two state officials, and a total of three weeks--and that's just to find out basically what's going on. We simply are not capable of conducting these reviews in a significant number."

Fred Drayton, another Labor Department official, was quoted in the study as saying that "this whole thing was sort of a good-faith effort. It was our belief that noncertified states would contact us and advise us of what they planned to do." However, Mr. Drayton said, states were not given a "due date" as to when they were expected to correct their deficiencies.

Staff Reductions

The study notes that the federal civil-rights office has experienced a dramatic reduction in staff over the past four years. In 1981, it claims, 67 full-time professional staff members were employed in the Washington office. By 1985, the number had dropped to 25.

The study states that "the federal government, while formerly assuming responsiblity in compliance enforcement, is now hoping that the state and local governments will somehow effectively take this role." ''Since the Labor Department has little data and a much smaller staff, this assumption is based on trust alone," it adds.

Illinois Situation

Mr. Orfield said his study found that in Illinois, women are only half as likely as men to receive on-the-job training, and are much more likely to be in vocational training. His research also found that women and blacks consistently are placed in jobs with "substantially lower rates of pay."

"We agree with some of the basic findings" of the report, said Dennis R. Whetstone, director of the Illinois jtpa at the subcommitte hearing. "There is much to be done to resolve the confusion which exists in order to ensure that there is an adequate, coordinated civil-rights enforcement system in jtpa with clearly delineated lines of responsibility and authority."

Mr. Orfield said he had a "strong suspicion" that the findings in Illinois could be applied nationwide.

"We're not saying this is necessarily due to discrimination, but we are saying that these are inequalities that indicate that discrimination could be taking place," Mr. Orfield said. "There is just not any way to monitor it."

"If [the jtpa] is going to be the basic system for economic opportunity for the poor, it can't just passively interact with a private job market that has historically discriminated," he added.

Vol. 05, Issue 03

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