Title VI and Limited English Proficiency

TITLE VI

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin to be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be otherwise subjected to discrimination under any program or activity it administers in federally funded programs or activities.

Each Federal department and agency requires the recipient of federal funds to comply with Title VI requirements.  Each Federal department and agency also has its own requirements to comply with Title VI.  

Limited English Proficiency (LEP)

Section 601 of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides that no person “on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” The United States Supreme Court in Lau v. Nichols (1974) stated that one type of national origin discrimination is discrimination based on a person’s inability to speak, read, write, or understand English.

Executive Order 13166, “Improving Access to services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency” – was signed by President Bill Clinton to “…improve access to federally conducted and federally assisted programs and activities for persons who, as a result of national origin, are limited in their English Proficiency….” This executive order is directed at implementing the protections afforded by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and related regulations.  Accordingly, it prohibits recipients of Federal financial assistance from discriminating based on national origin by failing to provide meaningful access to services to individuals who are LEP.  This protection requires that LEP persons be provided an equal opportunity to benefit from or have access to services that are normally provided in English.

Who must comply?

Pursuant to Title VI and Executive Order 13166, the meaningful access requirement of Title VI, the Title VI regulations, and the four-factor analysis set forth by the U.S. Department of Justice, entities receiving Federal finanacial assitance must comply.  Federal financial assistance includes grants, cooperative agreements, training, and use of equipment, donations of surplus property, and other assistance.  All programs and operations of entities that receive federal funds or assistance (recipients and sub-recipients) include:

  • State agencies.
  • Local agencies.
  • Private and nonprofit entities.
  • All programs and operations of the federal government.


In determining “reasonable steps” there are four factors to be considered:

  • Demographics
  • Frequency of LEP Contact
  • Nature and Importance of the Services Provided
  • Resources


Are you in compliance?

We can help.  Padilla & Associates has the expertise to prepare the required program plans to comply with Title VI and LEP. 

Our clients include:

  • Tahoe Transportation District
  • California High Speed Rail Authority