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Civil Rights Guidance During COVID-19

On April 2, 2021, U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General (PDAAG) for Civil Rights Pamela S. Karlan issued a statement and resource guide at https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/statement-principal-deputy-assistant-attorney-general-civil-rights-leading-coordinated-civil to assist Federal agencies, state and local governments, and recipients of Federal financial  assistance in addressing ongoing civil rights challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  As PDAAG Karlan notes, “Civil rights protections and responsibilities still apply, even during emergencies.  They cannot be waived.” 

Accordingly, the DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP), Office on Violence Against Women, and Office of Community Oriented Policing Services are sharing this statement and resource guide with DOJ grant recipients to support our shared efforts to uphold civil rights during this public health emergency.  The statement and resource guide are currently available in Spanish, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Korean, Vietnamese, and Tagalog at https://www.justice.gov/crt/Civil_Rights_and_COVID-19.  Additional translations will be added.   

We encourage grant recipients to closely review the statement and resource guide in order to ensure that they meet the ongoing obligation to comply with federal laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination in employment and the delivery of services or benefits based on race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, age, and disability.  Recipients who operate a state or local prison or jail should take particular notice of the portion of the statement relating to protecting correctional staff, incarcerated and detained people, and their families.  Additionally, state and local government entities should consider the suggestions related to the collection of data to monitor and track whether their policies and practices may have a disparate impact on their employees or beneficiaries based on membership in a protected class.  Should recipients identify a disparate impact, they should address those disparities in compliance with the law.

In addition to the resources mentioned in the statement and resource guide, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for the DOJ’s primary grant-making components is available to provide technical assistance to DOJ grant recipients regarding their civil rights obligations and related issues, including civil rights concerns raised by the current public health emergency and related data collection.  The OCR may be contacted at:

Office for Civil Rights
Office of Justice Programs
U.S. Department of Justice
810 7th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20531
Telephone: (202) 307-0690
TDD/TTY: (202) 307-2027
E-mail: askOCR@usdoj.gov
Website: www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ocr

Individuals who believe that a DOJ-funded recipient has engaged in discrimination may file a complaint directly with the OCR. See https://www.ojp.gov/program/civil-rights/filing-civil-rights-complaint for additional information and OCR complaint forms. 

For additional guidance specific to COVID-19 and the administration of juvenile detention and correctional facilities, DOJ-funded recipients should review the OJP’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s COVID-19 Guidance for Juvenile Facilities. Additionally, as part of the OCR’s ongoing technical assistance to DOJ grant recipients, the OCR encourages the review of the following federal agency’s webpages that contain additional resources on COVID-19 and on complying with civil rights obligations: 

Date Created: August 19, 2021