Equal Access to Work Experience Programs
Educational agencies conducting cooperative education, work experiences, work study, internships, related instruction for apprentices, job placement programs, or other work opportunity programs for career and technical education programs, or vocational programs, are responsible for complying with the federal civil rights laws. Those laws include:
- Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based upon race, color, or national origin;
- Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination based upon sex;
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination based on handicap;
- Age Discrimination Act of 1975, which prohibits discrimination based upon age.
Educational agencies which receive federal financial assistance and offer or administer a program of vocational education, or career and technical education, are required to comply with these federal laws.
Specific Compliance Requirements
Agencies are in compliance with the federal civil rights laws when they do not discriminate against or deny services to students on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, or handicap. This applies specifically to referrals and assignments to and from employers and prospective employers. Any written agreement for referral or assignment to an employer must contain a written assurance from the employer that students will be treated equally without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or age. Age, however, is not a factor in discrimination when an existing local, state or federal statute or ordinance provides distinctions.
Students may not be referred or assigned to employers who are unwilling to provide this written assurance and schools may not enter into any work experience agreements with such employers. Furthermore, the educational agency may not honor requests from employers for certain students when the request relates to race, color, national origin, sex or handicap. The educational agency may not develop, impose, maintain, approve or implement discriminating admissions criteria that disproportionately exclude persons of a particular race, color, national origin, sex or handicap.
School officials do not need to assess or monitor the employer’s civil rights practices, or make judgments about employment discrimination. When an employer is involved in civil rights litigation, the resulting court decision should provide needed direction. Employers may have voluntary or imposed hiring practices for meeting their civil rights responsibilities and educational agencies could assist employers in meeting these employment objectives.
The school itself may be the employer of students participating in a work study program. Since one of the purposes is to provide financial assistance under particular conditions to students, discrimination is prohibited. This prohibition, when the school district is the employer, covers employment tests and selection criteria, employment inquiries, medical examinations, status, pregnancy and several other considerations. All public or private nonprofit organizations that operate vocational/career and technical education work study programs must have the same type of written assurances of nondiscrimination and equal opportunity for the protected groups in their employer’s agreement. This applies even if they do not receive federal funding themselves.
Coordinators, instructors, administrators and supervisors responsible for vocational/career and technical education programs should ensure that their educational agency is in compliance by:
- Reviewing and amending present agreements with employers to provide written assurance of employment for all protected groups. A statement such as, "Students in this program will be accepted and assigned without regard to their race, color, national origin, sex or handicap" meets compliance requirements;
- Revising all materials describing the program, ensuring non-discrimination to all groups;
Reviewing enrollment and participation patterns in work experience programs and identifying potential and/or apparent discriminatory practices that may need to be changed and/or corrected. Follow-up with guidance and counseling as required.