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CIVIL RIGHTS TRAINING MIDWEST WIC. October 2008 Chicago, IL. WHY DO CIVIL RIGHTS REQUIREMENTS APPLY?. WIC is a Federally assisted program – WIC benefits and a portion of administrative costs are funded by the Federal government.

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Civil rights training midwest wic l.jpg


October 2008

Chicago, IL

Why do civil rights requirements apply l.jpg

  • WIC is a Federally assisted program – WIC benefits and a portion of administrative costs are funded by the Federal government.

  • To receive Federal financial assistance, an agency needs to sign assurances promising to comply with Federal civil rights requirements.

  • The State can impose additional requirements.

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  • Do not discriminate based on race, color, national origin, age, sex, or disability (protected classes).

  • Conduct annual training for front line workers and supervisors.

  • Conduct public notification which includes displaying the And Justice for All… poster and conducting outreach to under represented communities.

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Collect and report data on race and ethnicity.

Accommodate people with disabilities.

Provide other language services for people with limited English proficiency (LEP).

Cooperate with Federal and State reviewers and investigators by answering questions honestly and providing requested documents.

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Understand complaint procedures and know where to refer people who want to file a civil rights complaint.

Provide equal opportunity for faith based and community based organizations to participate as appropriate.

Promptly resolve noncompliance issues.

Resolve conflicts & provide good customer service.

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  • Title VI – Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Race, color, national origin

  • Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972- Sex

  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 - Disability

  • Americans with Disabilities Act –Disability

  • Age Discrimination Act of 1975 –Age

  • Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 –Race, color & national origin

  • Program statutes and regulations –race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability

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  • USDA regulations at 7 CFR 15 et seq.

  • USDA regulations at 7 CFR 16 et. seq. (faith based)

  • WIC regulations at 7 CFR 246

  • FNS Handbook 113-1 (11/8/2005) including Appendix D

  • Link to electronic Federal regulations page:

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  • FNS Instruction 113-1 is in the process of being revised. Please submit comments on anything you would like to see changed, clarified, added, or deleted to FNS WIC staff or civil rights staff as soon as possible

  • FNS Instruction 113-1 should be a primary reference for civil rights requirements, so help make sure it is a useful tool for you and your staff.

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Discrimination is the act of illegally distinguishing one person or group of persons from others either intentionally, by neglect, or by the effect of actions or lack of actions based on their perceived or actual protected bases.

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  • Disparate treatment - intentional

  • Disparate impact – intentional or unintentional – might be a policy or practice that impacts disproportionately on a group

  • Retaliation for prior civil rights activity – applies to applicant/beneficiary and his or her family, known associates, and anyone who cooperated in a civil rights investigation including agency employees.

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Segregated seating in waiting areas or in accommodations such as washrooms.

Differences in waiting times based on protected class.

Facilities that are not accessible to people with disabilities including mobility, sight, hearing, and other conditions.

Requiring a person with limited English proficiency to bring her own interpreter.

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  • Failing to advise a person with limited English proficiency that an interpreter will be provided by the Agency at no cost to the applicant or beneficiary.

  • Treating people disrespectfully based on membership in a protected class.

  • Locating an office in an area that is not accessible to people in certain minority groups due to lack of public transportation or other factors.

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Providing a different level of benefits based on membership in a protected class.

Requesting extra verification or documentation from people based on membership in a protected class.


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SITUATION 1 in a protected class.

The WIC program wants to make some changes to breast feeding promotion and sets up a community advisory panel to help make suggestions. What are the civil rights implications?

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NOT in a protected class. DISCRIMINATION

  • Limiting benefits to children under age five is not age discrimination.

  • Limiting certain benefits to pregnant and lactating women is not sex discrimination.


    Congress can decide to provide programs that further societal goals by benefitting certain groups of people.

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SITUATION 2 in a protected class.

A WIC recipient insists that she will only deal with a female doctor, breast feeding consultant, or nutritionist because of religious reasons. Must you accommodate her request and would it be discrimination not to do so?

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TRAINING in a protected class.

  • All who work with FNS funded programs must be trained.

  • First line workers (including volunteers) and supervisors must receive annual training.

  • Flexibilities in how training is provided

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TRAINING in a protected class.

  • Collection & use of data;

  • Effective public notification systems;

  • Complaint procedures;

  • Compliance review techniques;

  • Resolution of noncompliance;

  • Reasonable accommodation of people with disabilities;

  • Language assistance;

  • Conflict resolution; and

  • Customer service.

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SITUATION 3 in a protected class.

A WIC agency decides to provide computer based training on civil rights to its front line workers. Is this allowable? What are some other alternatives?

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Why do local Health Departments have to collect data on ethnicity and race?


Agencies are expected to analyze the data to determine where there might be disparities and under representation.


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DATA COLLECTION ethnicity and race?

  • What data need to be collected?

ANSWER:Everyone needs to code whether he or she is Hispanic or Latino or not Hispanic or Latino and then needs to code as many of the 5 racial categories as are applicable.

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DATA COLLECTION ethnicity and race?

What are the five racial categories?


  • American Indian or Alaskan Native

  • Asian

  • Black or African American

  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander

  • White

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DATA COLLECTION ethnicity and race?

What if someone refuses to provide this information?

ANSWER: Explain that it is a Federal requirement and that someone from the Agency will code for them based on the perceived race and ethnicity of the applicant or beneficiary.

The rationale is that since discrimination is often based on perception, the perception of the person making the determination would probably be shared with others.

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SITUATION 4 ethnicity and race?

Someone has a Puerto Rican mother and a Polish father and would like to code both “Hispanic or Latino” and “Not Hispanic or Latino.” Is this allowed and why?

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PUBLIC NOTIFICATION ethnicity and race?

The purpose of public notification is to insure that people understand program availability, program rights and responsibilities, the policy of nondiscrimination, and the procedure for filing a complaint.

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PUBLIC NOTIFICATION ethnicity and race?

What are some of the components of public notification?

  • Outreach

  • Displaying the “And Justice for All…” poster

  • Including the nondiscrimination statement on all materials that mention WIC or any other program funded by USDA.

  • Providing information in other languages and by means accessible to people with disabilities.

  • Insuring that photos and graphics reflect diversity.

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SITUATION 5 ethnicity and race?

How would you go about ordering new non-discrimination posters? Should you wait until a review to provide new ones if old ones have been taken down or have been defaced? What information do local clinics have about ordering new posters?

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SITUATION 6 ethnicity and race?

There are people living in your community who may be eligible for WIC, but they are not participating. What are some reasons why this might be happening? How could you find out for sure why they are not participating? What might be done to get at least some of these people to participate?

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PUBLIC NOTIFICATION ethnicity and race?

Nondiscrimination statement

  • Make sure you use the right one! There are several different nondiscrimination statements depending on which laws, regulations, and directives apply.

  • The protected classes in WIC are race, color, national origin, age, sex, and disability.

  • A short version of the statement “This institution is an equal opportunity provider” may be used where the long version does not fit and where there is no discussion of rights and responsibilities. Just make sure it is in the proper font size.

  • FNS-113-1 pages 13-15 should be used as a reference on public notification. WIC regulations at 246.8(b) are also a reference.

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SITUATION 7 ethnicity and race?

Where does the USDA non-discrimination statement need to be included? What are the main differences between the long and short versions and when is one preferable as opposed to the other?

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SITUATION 8 ethnicity and race?

Do newspapers need to print the nondiscrimination statement in stories that they run about the WIC program? Why or why not?

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COMPLAINT PROCEDURES ethnicity and race?

  • Despite your best efforts at customer service and at following the rules, some people may feel that they have been subjected to discrimination.

  • Everyone has the right to file a discrimination complaint.

  • Everyone at the site needs to know what to do if someone wants to file a complaint.

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COMPLAINT PROCEDURES ethnicity and race?

Be aware of the bases for which complaints may be filed: race, color, national origin, age, sex, and disability

  • Never discourage groups or individuals from filing complaints or from voicing allegations of discrimination.

  • Know where to file a complaint – USDA

  • FNS Instruction 113-1 outlines complaint investigation procedures.

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COMPLAINT PROCEDURES ethnicity and race?

To file a complaint, complainants may write to: USDA, Director, Office of Adjudication and Compliance, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 or (202) 720-6382 (TDD). 

In the Midwest Region, complaints may also be sent to:

Regional Director, Civil Rights

USDA, Food and Nutrition Service,

Midwest Region,

77 W. Jackson Blvd., FL 20

Chicago, IL 60604-3591

or call 312-353-3353

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Complaint Procedures ethnicity and race?

  • In Minnesota contact:

    Civil Rights Officer

    Minnesota Department of Health

    Supplemental Nutrition Programs

    P.O. Box 64882

    St. Paul, MN 55164-0882

    Phone: 1-800-657-3942

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COMPLAINT PROCEDURES ethnicity and race?


FNS Headquarters

FNS Regional Office

FNS Field Office

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COMPLAINT PROCEDURES ethnicity and race?

All agencies with 15 or more employees should have procedures for dealing with complaints alleging discrimination based on disability and sex. The regulations at 7 CFR 15b.6 and 7 CFR 246.8(b) cover this requirement.

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SITUATION 9 ethnicity and race?

An applicant who is denied WIC benefits alleges discrimination and wants to file a complaint. You know that discrimination was not a factor in the decision. What should you do?

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SITUATION 10 ethnicity and race?

AWIC manager is very angry that the person in the previous situation filed a discrimination complaint and took up a lot of her time and made her look bad. She tells her co-workers to watch out for this “troublemaker.” The next time the person visits, she encounters “attitude” from employees. What are the civil rights violations described here?

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SITUATION 11 ethnicity and race?

A person who is not eligible for nor has never applied for WIC wants to file a civil rights complaint about disability access at a WIC site. Since the person has no connection to the program, what should you tell that person?

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COMPLIANCE REVIEWS ethnicity and race?

  • The State and Federal governments are required to conduct reviews to determine compliance with civil rights laws, regulations and requirements.

  • There are pre-award, post-award and special compliance reviews.

  • As a condition of receiving Federal financial assistance, it is necessary to cooperate with reviewers and to provide requested documentation.

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  • Cease inappropriate actions

  • Institute appropriate procedures


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SITUATION 12 ethnicity and race?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services conducts a compliance review of the State Department of Health and finds discrimination in the child immunization programs. The State refuses to correct the problems and USDHHS initiates action to terminate funding. What implications does this have for WIC?

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  • Parking lot, entrances & exits, halls, elevators, rest rooms, sign language interpreters, Braille signage, service animals

  • Alternative arrangements for service

  • Check ADA guidelines for specifics:

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SITUATION 13 ethnicity and race?

The WIC Clinic is located in rented space that does not have a ramp leading to the front door. What should be done?

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LANGUAGE ASSISTANCE ethnicity and race?

  • People with limited English proficiency (LEP) who do not know sufficient English to gain meaningful access to services need to be served in other languages.

  • National origin discrimination violating Title VI of Civil Rights Act of 1964.

  • Generally, service must be provided – flexibility in how it is provided.

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LANGUAGE ASSISTANCE ethnicity and race?

How service is provided depends on:

  • number & proportion of LEP persons served or encountered in eligible population;

  • frequency of LEP persons’ contact with program;

  • nature & importance of program, activity, or service; and

  • resources available and costs.


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LANGUAGE ASSISTANCE ethnicity and race?

  • Volunteers may be used, but make sure they understand interpreter ethics – particularly confidentiality!

  • Children should not be used as interpreters.

  • See for resources & information.

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SITUATION 14 ethnicity and race?

Someone comes to the clinic and does not speak English. What should you do? Is there anything special that should be done if the clinic is located in an area with a large single language minority population that might be eligible for program benefits?

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SITUATION 15 ethnicity and race?

A WIC client who has limited English proficiency insists on using her 10 year old daughter as her interpreter. What should the clinic do? Would it make a difference if the child is mature beyond her age?

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CONFLICT RESOLUTION ethnicity and race?

Conflicts are inevitable, so it is best to be prepared!

  • Have a written and posted policy for dealing with unacceptable behavior and conflicts

  • Try to remain calm

  • Try to explain situation

  • Get help, especially if threats or if violence is possible

  • Use alternative dispute resolution (ADR) techniques when appropriate

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SITUATION 16 ethnicity and race?

How might a mediator be helpful in resolving a conflict involving WIC?

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CUSTOMER SERVICE ethnicity and race?

“Treat others the way they want to be treated

(or at least be aware of what that is).”

  • Be patient.

  • Be polite.

  • Avoid sarcasm.

  • Be empathetic. Understand that people may not know the rules or understand how programs work. They may feel uncomfortable coming to ask for help.

  • Smile when appropriate – make people feel welcome and valued.

  • Explain policy and let them know you will get in trouble if you do anything that violates the rules.

  • Don’t be afraid to apologize.

  • Don’t feel you need to have the last word.

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CUSTOMER SERVICE ethnicity and race?

  • Do not treat people differently based on race, color, national origin, age, sex, or disability – that is disparate treatment.

  • Do not impose policies that impact disproportionately on certain groups – that can be disparate impact.

  • Do not retaliate against anyone who complains or their family or friends or against employees who cooperate with a civil right investigation.

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CUSTOMER SERVICE ethnicity and race?

  • Treat everyone with dignity and respect and make people feel welcomed.

  • Do not do special favors for people that you are not prepared to do for everyone. (exception – accommodate people with disabilities and people who have limited English proficiency)

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SITUATION 17 ethnicity and race?

To provide good customer service by making sure there is an interpreter available, you require all people who have limited English proficiency and need an Estonian interpreter to schedule appointments on Fridays. Does this pose any civil rights problems?

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USDA Regulations at 7 CFR 16 require equal opportunity for Faith Based Organizations (FBO’s) and Community Based Organizations (CBO’s).

Conduct outreach to FBOs and CBOs to become providers!

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Regulations Protect Faith-Based Organizations

  • Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) and Community Based Organizations (CBOs) have equal footing

  • Discrimination prohibited against an organization on the basis of religion, religious belief or character in the distribution of funds

  • Clarifies that FBOs can use space in their facilities without removing religious art or symbols

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Regulations Protect Beneficiaries

  • No organization that receives direct assistance from the USDA can discriminate against a beneficiary or prospective beneficiary on the basis of religion or religious belief

  • FBOs retain their independence and carry out their mission, as long as USDA funds (or activities) do not support worship, religious instruction or proselytization

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SITUATION 18 ethnicity and race?

You receive a complaint from a well-known atheist who says he was not hired by a federally funded faith-based organization because of his religious views. He asks you to do something. What should you do?

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SITUATION 19 ethnicity and race?

An organization wants to distribute religious literature with the nutrition information and prescriptions given to WIC recipients. Is this allowable under the faith based rules that prohibit discrimination against religious institutions?

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QUESTIONS? ethnicity and race?

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CLOSING THOUGHTS ethnicity and race?

And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years. Abraham Lincoln


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CONTACT INFORMATION ethnicity and race?

Candace Wegerson

Civil Rights Officer

Minnesota Department of Health

Supplemental Nutrition Programs

Phone: 218-723-4650

E-mail: [email protected]