Department of Transportation

Civil Rights/Affirmative Action

Title VI Nondiscrimination
Frequently Asked Questions

Title VI FAQs   |    Environmental Justice (EJ) FAQs   |  Limited English Proficiency FAQs
What is Title VI?
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in programs and activities of any entity that receives federal assistance. Other related regulations prohibit discrimination based on sex, age, and disability. Discrimination is an action or inaction, intentional or not, through which any beneficiary, solely because of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability has been otherwise subjected to unequal treatment or impacts.

Entities, whether public or private, that receive federal assistance from any federal agency, including the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), otherwise known as “recipients”, must take concrete steps to ensure nondiscrimination in their programs and activities.
What are the “programs and activities” to which Title VI applies?
Title VI does not just apply to the discrete program or activity to which a recipient directs federal funds. The Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 amended Title VI to say that “programs” or “programs and activities” means “all of the operations of” any department, agency, or instrumentality of a state or local government, any part of which is extended federal assistance. Therefore, if a department of a state or local government receives federal assistance, all of the operations of that department would be covered by Title VI, but not all of the operations of the State or local government as a whole. The amended definition of “programs and activities” also makes it clear that Title VI does not only apply to activities of a recipient of federal assistance that are federally funded but applies to “all the operations of” a recipient, even those that are not federally funded. Title VI also applies to the programs and activities of entities that distribute federal funds to subrecipients as well as those actions taken by private firms under contract with the recipient.

For example, NJDOT receives federal funds from the FHWA, which means Title VI applies to all of the Department’s programs and activities (transportation planning, project development, contracting, residential and business relocations, construction, etc.), whether those specific programs and activities are federally funded or not. Title VI would also apply to every contract for highway or road construction, whether federally funded or not. In addition, for any federal assistance distributed to cities, counties, and metropolitan planning organizations, Title VI would also apply.
Where does Title VI not apply?
Title VI does not typically apply to employment matters unless the recipient received federal assistance specifically for the purpose of providing employment. Title VI also does not apply to activities of federal agencies, themselves, because the law only applies to “recipients.” Finally, except for educational institutions, Title VI applies to the programs and activities of public agencies—not entire state, city, or county governments. Multiple agencies within a state or local government may receive federal funds, but Title VI would still only apply to those agencies and any other state or local agencies through which funds are passed.
What types of discrimination are prohibited by Title VI?
  • Denying program services, financial aid, or other benefits.
  • Providing different services, financial aid, other benefits, or providing them in a manner different from that provided to others.
  • Segregating or treating individuals or groups differently in any matter related to the receipt of any service, financial aid, or other benefits.
  • Denying an individual or group the opportunity to participate as a member of a planning, advisory or similar body.
  • Any other method or criteria of administering a program that has the effect of treating or affecting individuals or groups in a discriminatory manner.
  • Intimidating, threatening, coercing, or discriminating against any individual for the purpose of interfering with any right or privilege secured by Title VI, or because the individual has made a complaint, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing.
What does “Recipient” mean?
A recipient is a non-Federal entity that receives financial assistance from a federal agency. The regulations define recipient as:

“…any State, territory, possession, the District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico, or any political subdivision thereof, or instrumentality thereof, any public or private agency, institution, or organization, or other entity, or any individual in any State, territory, possession, District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico, to whom Federal financial assistant is extended, directly or through another recipient, including any successor, assignee, or transferee thereof, but such term does not include any ultimate beneficiary.”

For FHWA, state transportation agencies such as NJDOT are the most common recipients of federal financial assistance.

A subrecipient is a non-Federal entity that administers a federally assisted program and receives financial assistance from a primary recipient; thereby subjecting them to Title VI compliance obligations. For FHWA, cities, counties and Metropolitan Planning Organizations are the most common subrecipients.
Why are contractors not considered recipients if awarded a federally funded contract?
Private entities are considered recipients/subrecipients only if they carry out an inherently governmental function. Therefore, if a firm is awarded a state DOT design or construction contract, it would not be considered a recipient. However, if a firm carries out policymaking (not merely making recommendations or requesting contract changes), it may be considered a recipient.
What is the difference between Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
What is the difference between Title VI and Environmental Justice (EJ)?
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits recipients of federal financial assistance (states, local governments, etc.) from discriminating based on race, color, or national origin in any program or activity.

Executive Order 12898, the basis for Environmental Justice, on the other hand, directs federal agencies to identify and address, as appropriate, disproportionally high adverse human health and environmental effects of their programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations.

Visit Title VI and Environmental Justice | US EPA for additional information regarding the differences between these two programs, and Title VI and Executive Order 12898 Comparison ( for a helpful comparison chart.
Who, at NJDOT, is responsible for the administration of Title VI?
The NJDOT Division of Civil Rights and Affirmative Action (DCR/AA) Title VI Coordinator is responsible for initiating and monitoring Title VI Nondiscrimination activities and completing all reporting requirements. Other units within DCR/AA, including Contractor Compliance, Disadvantaged and Small Business Programs (D&SBP), and Internal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), assist with these tasks, as necessary.
How Is Title VI Enforced?
  • Conducting internal and external compliance reviews
  • Conducting Title VI Program Implementation training
  • Developing Title VI compliance information for internal and external dissemination
  • Processing the disposition of Title VI complaints received by NJDOT
What should someone do if they feel they have been a victim of discrimination?
And person/s who believes they have been subjected to unlawful discrimination (denied the benefits of, access to, or participation in the programs and activities of NJDOT) based on race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, income or Limited English Proficiency in programs, activities, or services of NJDOT or organizations funded through NJDOT may file a complaint. The complaint may be filed by the individual or his/her representative. A complaint must be filed no later than 180 days after the date of the alleged discrimination, unless extended by NJDOT. Click here for more information on the complaint process.

Environmental Justice (EJ) Frequently Asked Questions

Title VI FAQs    |    Environmental Justice (EJ) FAQs   |   Limited English Proficiency FAQs
What are the fundamental concepts of Environmental Justice for DOT?
The three fundamental Environmental Justice (EJ) principles are:

  • To avoid, minimize, or mitigate disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects, including interrelated social and economic effects, on minority populations and low-income populations.
  • To ensure the full and fair participation by all potentially affected communities in the transportation decision-making process.
  • To prevent the denial of, reduction in, or significant delay in the receipt of benefits by minority populations and low-income populations.
Who is a minority as defined by Environmental Justice?
The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) Order 5610.2a on Environmental Justice defines minority in the Appendix under Definitions and provides clear definitions of the five (5) minority groups addressed by the Executive Order.

Minority means a person who is:

  • Black: a person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa;
  • Hispanic or Latino: a person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race;
  • Asian American: a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent;
  • American Indian and Alaskan Native: a person having origins in any of the original people of North America, South America (including Central America), and who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition; or
  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: people having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.
What is the relationship between the USDOT and the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) orders on Environmental Justice and Title VI and the New Jersey Department of Transportation?
The USDOT Order 5610.2A clarifies and reinforces Title VI responsibilities and addresses effects on low-income populations; the FHWA Order 6640.23A supports Executive Order 12898.

This proactive approach by USDOT and FHWA to the implementation of Title VI will reinforce compliance with other related requirements, such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, 23 U.S.C. 109 (h), which addresses the social and economic impacts of statewide and metropolitan planning.

To achieve the goals of these orders, NJDOT must ensure that disproportionately high and adverse effects on minority and low-income populations do not exist in programs, policies, and other activities. Therefore, NJDOT must implement both Title VI and NEPA while developing and carrying out its transportation activities.
What is the legal basis for addressing the concerns of low-income populations?
The FHWA’s planning regulations, C.F.R. 450.210 require metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) and states to "seek out and consider the needs of those traditionally underserved by existing transportation systems, including, but not limited to, low-income and minority households."

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and FHWA 23 U.S.C. 109(h) and implemented through FHWA environmental regulations in 23 CFR Part 771 require that social, economic, and environmental impacts on all communities, including low-income communities and populations, must be identified and addressed.
Why is the NEPA important?
NEPA establishes a national environmental policy and provides a framework for environmental planning by federal agencies who conduct environmental reviews to consider the potential impacts on the environment. The lead federal agency, the FHWA, works cooperatively with other federal and state agencies during the review process. Executive Order 13274, signed in 2002, emphasizes the importance of expedited transportation project delivery while being good stewards of the environment.
How should Environmental Justice be addressed in the NEPA process?
Environmental Justice should be considered and addressed in all NEPA decision-making and appropriately documented in Environmental Impact Statements, Environmental Assessments, and Categorical Exclusions. Environmental justice in NEPA typically is more localized than in the planning phase, with detailed project level Environmental Justice data, benefits, and impacts for each alternative under consideration.

The DOT environmental justice order, the FHWA environmental justice order, and the FHWA December 16, 2011, Guidance Memo on Environmental Justice and NEPA , provide information on how to address environmental justice in NEPA documents.

The following bullets highlight activities to be undertaken:

  • Analyze project-level environmental effects, including human health, economic, and social effects on minority populations and low-income populations. The extent of such analysis and the level of discussion in the environmental document is determined in accordance with NEPA requirements and environmental justice orders.
  • Ensure that the analysis and the identified mitigation measures outlined in the NEPA documentation are considered in determining whether there are disproportionately high and adverse environmental effects as a result of the proposed action. If disproportionately high and adverse effects are identified, the documentation should reflect application of the project approval standards contained in the DOT and FHWA environmental justice orders; and
  • Provide opportunities for community input at the project level, including identifying potential effects and mitigation measures in consultation with affected communities. Assure there is appropriate accessibility to public meetings, official documents and, through the use of various notifications, to affected communities.
Must Title VI and Environmental Justice be considered ONLY on projects requiring an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)?
No. Title VI and Environmental Justice applies to all planning and project development programs, policies, and activities. In project development, environmental justice should be considered in all decisions whether they are processed with an EIS, an Environmental Assessment (EA), a Categorical Exclusion (CE), or a Record of Decision (ROD).

Potential impacts on both human and the natural environments should be considered when making Environmental Justice processing decisions.
When does consideration of Title VI and Environmental Justice on a project begin and when does it end?
The scoping stage in the NEPA process provides early identification of public and agency issues and state transportation departments should consider Title VI and EJ. They should identify minority and low-income populations as early as possible, and their concerns should be examined and addressed, preferably in the planning stages of the project.

The nondiscrimination requirements of Title VI extend to all programs and activities of state transportation departments and their respective sub-recipients and contractors. Therefore, the concepts of Environmental Justice apply to all state projects, including non-federally funded projects, advance construction or design build.

Because communities are constantly changing, human impacts must be re-evaluated throughout planning, project development, implementation, operation, and maintenance. Mitigation of any sort can cause negative or positive impacts. Be aware of who is being impacted and how it is happening.
Do all impacts have to be evaluated for Title VI and Environmental Justice, or just for health and environmental impacts?
All reasonably foreseeable adverse social, economic, and environmental effects on minority and low-income populations must be identified and addressed. As defined in the Appendix of the USDOT order, adverse effects include, but are not limited to:

  • bodily impairment, infirmity, illness, or death;
  • air, noise, and water pollution and soil contamination;
  • destruction or disruption of man-made or natural resources;
  • destruction or diminution of aesthetic values;
  • destruction or disruption of community cohesion or a community’s economic vitality;
  • destruction or disruption of the availability of public and private facilities and services;
  • vibration;
  • adverse employment effects;
  • displacement of persons, businesses, farms, or nonprofit organizations;
  • increased traffic congestion, isolation, exclusion, or separation of minority or low-income individuals within a given community or from the broader community; and
  • denial, reduction, or a significant delay in the receipt of the benefits of DOT programs, policies, or activities.
What is considered low-income for purposes of Environmental Justice?
The FHWA Order 6640.23A defines low-income as "a household income at or below the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) poverty guidelines."

The HHS poverty guidelines are used as eligibility criteria for the Community Services Block Grant Program and a number of other Federal programs. However, a State or locality may adopt a higher threshold for low-income households as long as the higher threshold is not selectively put into practice and includes all persons at or below the HHS poverty guidelines.
Should discussions about populations, such as the elderly, children, or persons with disabilities be included when addressing Environmental Justice and Title VI?
Yes. Within the framework of Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice, the USDOT Order 5610.2C addresses only minority populations and low-income populations, and does not provide for separate consideration of elderly, children, persons with disabilities and other populations.

However, concentrations of the elderly, children, persons with disabilities, and other populations protected by Title VI and related nondiscrimination statutes in a specific area, or any low-income group ought to be discussed. Documentation should support group designation as low-income or minority.

For community impact assessment, concentrations of the elderly, children, persons with disabilities, or similar population groups, e.g., female head of household, possibly have experienced exposure to adverse impacts.

Segments of the community, including minority and low-income populations, or an entire community may be impacted. They should be routinely investigated, analyzed, mitigated, and considered during decision making, similar to investigations of impacts on minority populations and low-income populations.

The NEPA requires federal agencies to integrate environmental values into their decision-making processes by considering the environmental impacts of their proposed actions and offering reasonable alternatives.

All NEPA processing documentation should:

  • address all impacts to the human and natural environments; and
  • describe any mitigating protections or benefits that would be provided by Federal or State law, or as part of the action.

Additionally, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 6101, et seq. (Title 42, Chapter 76), prohibits discrimination on the basis of age in programs receiving federal financial assistance while persons with disabilities are protected by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 794 . and 49 C.F.R. Part 27.7.
Does the size of a minority or low-income population affect the application of environmental justice considerations?
No. While the minority or low-income population in an area may be small, this does not eliminate the possibility of a disproportionately high and adverse effect of a proposed action. It is not correct to suggest that if minority or low-income populations are small (such as less than 50%) that there is no need to assess whether there is an Environmental Justice issue. Environmental justice determinations are made based on effects, not population size.

The comparative effects on minority or low-income populations in relation to either non-minority or higher income populations are the main factor in the decision for Environmental Justice.
Must there be a neighborhood or community of minority, or low-income groups in order for a Title VI and Environmental Justice effect to exist?
No. The Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice and the USDOT Order 5610.2 on Environmental Justice refer exclusively to populations, while the White House distribution memo refers to both communities and populations. The SUDOT Order defines a populations as:

  • any readily identifiable group of minority or low-income persons who live in geographic proximity; or
  • geographically dispersed persons, such as migrant workers or American Indians.

Therefore, depending on the context and circumstances, a proposed action could cause a disproportionately high and adverse effect on a population even in cases that lack clearly delineated neighborhoods or communities.

Neighborhood and community boundaries and impacts, however, should be considered in planning, programming, and project development activities, whether or not there are minority or low-income populations involved. Most importantly, the public should always be involved in defining neighborhood and community through the public-involvement process, since the identification or definition of neighborhood and community boundaries can be subjective.
What role does public involvement play in the consideration of Environmental Justice?
"Public involvement" encompasses public participation, public outreach, and public engagement proactive activities. It is an integral part of transportation planning and project development decision-making. As per the EO 12898, public participation and access to information extends to limited English speaking populations and consultation with Federally recognized Indian Tribes on a government-to-government basis. Both the DOT EJ Order and FHWA Environmental Justice Order direct Federal agencies to provide minority populations and low-income populations' access to information and meaningful opportunities for public participation in matters that may impact human health or the environment.

Addressing environmental justice concerns includes effectively involving the public in the planning process and the project development process. Continuous interaction between community members and transportation professionals is critical to successfully identify and resolve potential environmental justice concerns and in addressing other environmental issues such as historic properties, wetlands, and air quality.
What role does community impact assessment play in Environmental Justice?
The USDOT Order 5610.2A on Environmental Justice asks whether a proposed action or plan causes disproportionately high and adverse effects on minority populations and low-income populations, and whether these populations are denied benefits. Community impact assessment provides a framework of analysis that can determine how a proposed action or plan could differentially impact different populations is required.

Like public involvement, community impact assessment is an integral part of planning and project development and can evaluate the effects of a transportation action on a community and its quality of life. The resulting information should be used to mold the plan and its projects and provide documentation about the current and anticipated social and economic environment of a geographic area with and without the proposed action.

The assessment of community impacts is an iterative process that rarely flows in a fixed, predictable series of steps. The assessment process includes the following components:
  • Engage the Public;
  • Develop Community Vision and Goals;
  • Define the Need and Action;
  • Identify Community Characteristics;
  • Analyze Impacts;
  • Identify Solutions;
  • Document Findings; and
  • Implement and Monitor

FHWA described these steps in their publication:Community Impact Assessment: A Quick Reference for Transportation Case Studies.
Is technical assistance or a list of resources available on Environmental Justice?
FHWA's Environmental Justice Web site provides a summary of the USDOT and the FHWA EJ Orders, as well as FAQs, case studies, training and various resources on Environmental Justice, Title VI, and equity.

Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Frequently Asked Questions

Title VI FAQs   |   Environmental Justice (EJ) FAQs   |  Limited English Proficiency FAQs
Who is a Limited English Proficient (LEP) individual?
Individuals who do not speak English as their primary language and who have a limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English can be limited English proficient, or "LEP." These individuals may be entitled language assistance with respect to a particular type or service, benefit, or encounter.
What are the relevant laws concerning language access for LEP individuals?
Federal laws particularly applicable to language access include Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Title VI regulations, prohibiting discrimination based on national origin, and Executive Order 13166 issued in 2000. Many individual federal programs, states, and localities also have provisions requiring language services for LEP individuals.
What is Executive Order 13166?
The LEP Executive Order (#13166) states that people who are LEP should have meaningful access to federally conducted and federally funded programs and activities.

Executive Order 13166 requires all agencies that provide federal financial assistance to issue guidance on how recipients of that assistance can take reasonable steps to provide meaningful access consistent with Title VI and the Title VI regulations. The Order also requires that federal agencies create plans for ensuring that their own activities also provide meaningful access for persons who are LEP.

More information on Executive Order 13166 can be found at Executive Order 13166: Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency
What is a recipient of federal financial assistance?
Federal financial assistance includes grants, training, use of equipment, donations of surplus property, and other assistance. Subrecipients are also covered, when federal funds are passed from one recipient to a subrecipient. Recipients of federal funds range from state and local agencies, to nonprofits and other organizations. A list of the types of recipients and the agencies funding them can be found Executive Order 12250 Coordination of Grant-Related Civil Rights Statutes.

Title VI covers a recipient’s entire program or activity. This means all parts of a recipient’s operations are covered. This is true even if only one part of the recipient receives the federal assistance. For example, if the US Department of Justice (DOJ) provides assistance to a state department of corrections to improve a particular prison facility, all of the operations of the entire state department of corrections are covered, not just that particular prison.
What is a federally conducted activity?
All federal agencies subject to Executive Order 13166 must design and implement a federally conducted plan to ensure access for LEP individuals to all of its federally conducted programs and activities (basically, everything that it does). For instance, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice has a plan for ensuring meaningful access to its programs and activities for LEP persons. Other agencies and parts of agencies must do the same.
Who will enforce the LEP rules?
Most federal agencies have an office that is responsible for enforcing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. To the extent that a recipient's actions are inconsistent with their obligations under Title VI, then such agencies will take the necessary corrective steps. For state DOTs the federal agency responsible for enforcing Title VI is the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

The Coordination and Review Section of the Civil Rights Division of DOJ has taken the lead in coordinating and implementing this Executive Order.

At the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the Division of Civil Rights and Affirmative Action (DCR/AA) Title VI Coordinator is responsible for initiating and monitoring all Title VI Nondiscrimination activities, including LEP.
What are recipients of federal funds and federal agencies required to do to meet LEP requirements?
Recipients and federal agencies are required to take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to their programs and activities by LEP persons. While designed to be a flexible and fact-dependent standard, the starting point is an individualized assessment that balances the following four factors:
  1. The number or proportion of LEP persons eligible to be served or likely to be encountered by the program or grantee;
  2. the frequency with which LEP individuals come in contact with the program;
  3. the nature and importance of the program, activity, or service provided by the program to people's lives; and
  4. the resources available to the grantee/recipient or agency, and costs. As indicated above, the intent of this guidance is to find a balance that ensures meaningful access by LEP persons to critical services while not imposing undue burdens on small business, or small nonprofits.
Does a person’s citizenship and immigration status determine the applicability of the Title VI LEP obligations?
United States citizenship does not determine whether a person is LEP. It is possible for a person who is a US Citizen to be LEP. It is also possible for a person who is not a US citizen to be fluent in the English language. Title VI is interpreted to apply to citizens, documented non-citizens, and undocumented non-citizens. Title VI LEP obligations apply to every beneficiary who meets program requirements, regardless of the beneficiary’s citizenship status.
What are some examples of language assistance that a recipient might provide to LEP persons?
  • Oral interpretation services;
  • Bilingual staff;
  • Telephone service lines interpreter;
  • Written translation services;
  • Notices to staff and recipients of the availability of LEP services; or
  • Referrals to community liaisons proficient in the language of the LEP persons.
Do recipients of federal funds have to submit written language access plans to the Department of Justice or to their federal funding agency each year?
No. While planning is an important part of ensuring that reasonable steps are taken to provide meaningful access to LEP individuals seeking services, benefits, information, or assertion of rights, there is no blanket requirement that the plans themselves be submitted to federal agencies providing federal financial assistance. In certain circumstances, such as in complaint investigations or compliance reviews, recipients may be required to provide to federal agencies a copy of any plan created by the recipient.

Last updated date: June 27, 2023 1:04 PM