Authority of USDA to Award Monetary Relief for Discrimination: Memorandum for James S. Gilliland, General Counsel, Department of Agriculture [April 18, 1994]   [open pdf - 81KB]

"This memorandum responds to your request for our opinion concerning the authority of the Secretary of Agriculture to award damages and other forms of monetary relief, attorneys' fees, and costs to individuals who the Department of Agriculture ('USDA') has determined have been discriminated against as applicants for, or participants in, USDA conducted programs. You have informed us that the statutes authorizing these programs do not authorize such relief and have asked our opinion concerning whether various civil rights statutes authorize the Secretary to afford such relief. The Secretary has authority to award monetary relief, attorneys' fees, and costs if a court could award such relief in an action by the aggrieved person. Accordingly, the dispositive questions regarding your inquiry are whether the anti-discrimination provisions of the individual civil rights statutes apply to federal agencies, and if so, whether the statutes waive the sovereign immunity of the United States against imposition of such relief. […] We conclude that the anti-discrimination provisions of Title VI do not apply to federal agencies. Some anti-discrimination provisions in each of the other statutes that we reviewed do apply to federal agencies, but only one of the statutes, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, waives sovereign immunity with respect to monetary relief, authorizing imposition of compensatory damages. The Fair Housing Act and the Rehabilitation Act do not waive immunity against monetary relief. Attorneys' fees and costs may be awarded pursuant to the waiver of immunity contained in the Equal Access to Justice Act."

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United States. Department of Justice: http://www.justice.gov/
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