The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

EEOC Office of Legal Counsel staff members wrote the following letter to respond to a request for public comment from a federal agency or department. This letter is an informal discussion of the noted issue and does not constitute an official opinion of the Commission.


Federal EEO Laws: Training for YouthBuild Transfer Act Participants

October 21, 2010

Thomas M. Dowd
Administrator
Office of Policy Development and Research
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Ave., NW
Room N-5641
Washington, D.C. 20210

Re: RIN 1205-AB49, Request for Comments Regarding Implementation of the YouthBuild Transfer Act of 2006

Dear Mr. Dowd:

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) submits this letter in response to the Department of Labor’s request for comments on the proposed implementation of the YouthBuild Transfer Act of 2006. See 75 Fed. Reg. 52671 (August 27, 2010). To ensure that YouthBuild participants are well-equipped to succeed in the workforce, we recommend that the occupational skills and safety training provided by grantees include comprehensive training regarding equal employment opportunity laws, rights, and responsibilities.

As you know, the EEOC enforces the federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability and genetic information. See Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.; Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; the Equal Pay Act of 1963, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d); and Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, 42 U.S.C. §  2000ff et seq. Further, the EEOC is charged with coordinating and leading the federal government’s effort to eradicate workplace discrimination.1

I. Background

On August 27, 2010, the Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to implement the YouthBuild Transfer Act of 2006 (Transfer Act). The Transfer Act shifts responsibility for the YouthBuild program from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Department of Labor and provides the Secretary of Labor with the authority to issue grants for education and employment training for at-risk youth.

The YouthBuild program provides occupational skills training and experience, a post-secondary education, and leadership development to at-risk youth. Target participants are school dropouts between the ages of 16 and 24. At least 75 percent of participants must be school dropouts who come from low-income families or the foster system, juvenile offenders, young adults who have disabilities, children of incarcerated parents, or young migrant workers.

YouthBuild grantees are responsible for creating and maintaining a workplace free of unlawful discrimination. 75 Fed. Reg. 52677. Grantees are required to disseminate an equal employment opportunity policy to participants. Id. However, while the NPRM proposes that participants receive “comprehensive safety training” to protect their health and safety, it does not appear that this training encompasses employment discrimination. 75 Fed. Reg. 52679. To ensure that YouthBuild participants receive the education and experience required for them to excel in the workforce, we recommend that the occupational skills and safety training provided by grantees include comprehensive training regarding equal employment opportunity laws, rights, and responsibilities.

II. Requiring Comprehensive Equal Employment Opportunity Training Will Have Immediate and Long-Term Benefits for YouthBuild Participants

At-risk youth, the target audience for YouthBuild, may be particularly vulnerable to workplace discrimination. As recent workforce entrants, YouthBuild participants may be unfamiliar with workplace policies, practices, and regulations—including those related to equal employment opportunity. Accordingly, they may not know that they have a right to work free of unlawful discrimination.

Moreover, participants’ youth, inexperience, and personal backgrounds may render them especially attractive candidates for abuse. As school dropouts, young adults in the foster care system, or children of incarcerated parents, YouthBuild participants may lack an informal support system of teachers, family members, or other trusted adults in whom to confide regarding potentially unlawful workplace conduct. Grantees’ formal complaint mechanisms may be of limited value to participants who are unaware of, unable, or unwilling to take advantage of them. Participants may not know who to contact internally, and may find it difficult to access external resources such as government agencies or non-profit organizations if these offices are located far away, only open during business hours, or only able to communicate with individuals fluent in English. Juvenile offenders and children of incarcerated parents may not trust the government to help them. Finally, participants may be afraid that their employer will retaliate against them for filing a complaint. As a result, workplace predators may subject these workers to discrimination with little fear of retribution.

Because at-risk youth may be particularly vulnerable to workplace discrimination and may be particularly reluctant to report workplace discrimination, it is crucial that they understand their rights and responsibilities and know how to enforce those rights, if needed.

Training YouthBuild participants about their equal employment opportunity rights and responsibilities will help create a work environment free of discrimination for all workers. YouthBuild participants who understand how to respond to workplace discrimination, if necessary, may spare not only themselves, but also their colleagues and future employees from inappropriate and unlawful conduct. Furthermore, while YouthBuild participants join the labor force as entry-level workers, many will assume positions of greater responsibility as their careers progress. Participants’ understanding of their obligations under employment discrimination laws may prevent EEO problems in the future, when participants become advisors to decision-makers, and ultimately, decision-makers, themselves.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide these comments in response to the proposed rule. If you have any questions or would like to discuss these comments, please feel free to contact Lisa Schnall, Attorney Advisor, at 202-663-4845.

Sincerely,

/s/

Kerry Leibig
Acting Assistant Legal Counsel


Footnote

1 Under Executive Order 12067, the EEOC coordinates federal equal employment opportunity regulations, practices and policies. The Executive Order is available on the EEOC web site at: http://www.eeoc.gov/abouteeoc/35th/thelaw/eo-12067.html.


This page was last modified on December 20, 2010.

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