Civil rights in human services

  • Minnesota Department of Human Services Civil Rights Plan DHS image (PDF)

  • What you should know about fair treatment in service delivery

    Your right to fair treatment

    While it is true that the Department of Human Services, county agencies and other service providers are all committed to providing equal access to programs and services for eligible Minnesotans, it is important that all clients and applicants know and understand their civil rights. This means that clients and applicants should know they have a right to fair and equal treatment from service providers and that they can file a complaint if they feel they have not been treated fairly.

    Our role in preventing discrimination

    DHS works with county agencies and other providers. Together, we help eligible individuals and families meet basic human needs. To make services possible, DHS receives funding from federal agencies.

    DHS is committed to providing equal access to all programs for eligible Minnesotans. Also, as a recipient of federal funding, we must treat applicants and clients fairly. To prevent discrimination, DHS has a civil rights plan. The plan includes an equal opportunity policy and a procedure for handling complaints. The plan also identifies a contact person who you can call to speak to about civil rights matters.

    The role of county human services agencies and other providers

    County agencies and other providers also receive federal funds. They must follow federal civil rights requirements. Some of these requirements include an equal opportunity policy and a procedure for handling complaints. As recipients of federal funds, they must treat all applicants and clients fairly.

    Who to contact

    DHS has a civil rights contact person who makes sure that applicants and clients have equal access to services. This person is responsible for:

  • Handling discrimination complaints
  • Keeping civil rights records and files
  • Giving out information about civil rights laws to DHS workers, county and community agencies, applicants, clients and the public
  • Acting as liaison between DHS and our Office of Civil Rights and community groups concerned with fair service delivery
  • Providing training and technical assistance to this agency, county agency workers and other providers.
  • To reach the civil rights contact person, contact our office.

    How to file a complaint

    All human services agencies must treat you fairly. If you believe that someone working for a human services agency discriminated against you, you may file a complaint with us. You have one year after the unfair treatment to file a complaint. To ask for a complaint form, call or write to:

    Equal Opportunity and Access

    P.O. Box 64997
    St. Paul, MN 55164-0997
    Phone: (651) 431-3040
    TTY: (866) 786-3945

    If you need help filling out the complaint form, we can help you.

  • We can provide interpreters and translators for non-English speakers.
  • We can provide a reasonable accommodation for a disability such as a sign language interpreter, Braille or large print materials.
  • To arrange for an interpreter, a translator or a reasonable accommodation, contact the office at the above address.

    If you file a complaint against a human services agency, agency workers cannot punish you in any way for filing the complaint. This protection also applies to anyone who gives information about a complaint. If they punish you, this is retaliation. If this happens to you, report it to the Office for Equal Opportunity.

    If you want to file a complaint with your county agency, contact the agency director and ask for its complaint procedure.

    Important agencies

    The Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) carries out federal laws that protect you from discrimination in human services programs receiving funds from DHHS. You have 180 days after the unfair treatment to file a complaint with OCR. For more information call or write to:

    Office for Civil Rights
    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
    Region V

    233 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 240
    Chicago, IL 60601
    Voice: (312) 886-2359
    TTY/TDD: (312) 353-5693

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture carries out the Food Stamp Program. State and county agencies run the programs for USDA. In accordance with federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political beliefs or disability. To file a complaint of discrimination, write:

    USDA
    Director, Office of Civil Rights

    Room 326-W
    Whitten Building
    1400 Independence Ave. S.W.
    Washington, D.C. 20250-9410

    The Minnesota Department of Human Rights carries out the state human rights act. This law protects people from discrimination in employment, housing, education, public accommodations and public services. You have one year after the unfair treatment to file a complaint with MDHR. For more information, call or write to:

    Minnesota Department of Human Rights

    Freeman Building
    625 Robert Street North
    St. Paul, MN 55155
    Voice: (651) 539-1100
    TTY: (651) 296-1283
    Toll-free line: (800) 657-3704


    Civil rights laws

    Several federal civil rights laws protect you from discrimination. These laws apply to all human services agencies receiving funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    Title VI of the Civil Rights Act: This law protects people from discrimination in federally funded programs. Title VI outlaws discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin.

    Multiethnic Placement Act (or law that replaces it): This law prevents adoption and foster care agencies from delaying or refusing placement of a child on the basis of race, color or national origin.

    Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act: This law protects qualified people from discrimination because of their disabilities. It protects them while they are applying for or receiving health care, social and employment services. The law applies to employers and organizations receiving federal funds.

    Subtitle A of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act: This law protects qualified people from discrimination based on their disabilities. It protects applicants and clients. It applies to state and local governments receiving federal or state funds.

    Age Discrimination Act: This law protects people from discrimination on the basis of age in human services programs funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The law does not cover employment practices. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act covers employment practices and protects people over age 40.

    Community Service Assurance Provisions of the Hill-Burton Act: The provisions of this law apply to public and nonprofit medical facilities receiving Hill-Burton funds. Service providers must treat all applicants and clients equally regardless of the race, color, national origin, religion or any unrelated reason. Some of the facilities included would be nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, public health centers and special hospitals, i.e. acute care hospitals.

    Family Violence Prevention and Services Act: This federal law provides grant money to help states teach the public about family violence. The law also provides grants for shelter for victims of family violence and training and technical aid for human service workers. Programs receiving money under this law must treat all clients and applicants equally without regard to race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex or religion.

    Nondiscrimination Provisions of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act: The provisions of this law require agencies receiving federal block grants to treat all applicants and clients equally. The provisions protect people in the areas of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex or religion.

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