On April 9, 2012, a Maryland federal court issued an opinion that recognizes Title VI (race discrimination and retaliation) claims against the Board of Education of Prince George’s County, because the school board received federal stimulus funds.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects people from discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in employment and employment practices in programs or activities receiving Federal financial assistance.
From 2009 to 2012, the Board of Education of Prince George’s County was the recipient of over $100 million in federal assistance under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund and the Education Job Fund. Ten pending lawsuits against the Board of Education of Prince George’s County allege race discrimination and retaliation by the school system.
§2000d Prohibition against exclusion from participation in, denial of benefits of, and discrimination under federally assisted programs on ground of race, color or national origin
No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
Title VI, like Title IX, also encompasses claims of retaliation. Jackson v. Birmingham Bd. Of Educ., 544 U.S. 167 (2005); Preston v. Virginia, 31 F.3d 203 (4th Cir. 1994).
For plaintiffs, Title VI has advantages over Title VII:
1) Under Title VI, the plaintiff need not file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before fiing a lawsuit in federal court. Under Title VII, the plaintiff is required to file a complaint with EEOC as a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit in federal court.
2) Under Title VI, depending on the state, the plaintiff could have three years in which to file a lawsuit in federal court. Under Title VII, the statute of limitations for filing a complaint with EEOC is generally 180 days.
3) Under Title VI, there is no stated limit on damage awards. Under Title VII, compensatory and punitive damage awards are capped at $300,000.
A word of caution: In private actions, Title VI requires that the defendant receive “actual notice” and exhibit “deliberate indifference”. These requirements severely restrict the use of Title VI in private actions.
Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire