Leading Women’s Rights Groups File Complaints against Bush Administration Sex Discrimination in Job Training Programs

WASHINGTON – Legal Momentum and the National Organization for Women (NOW) today filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) alleging sex discrimination in 34 of the first 100 programs funded by the Bush Administration under its new “Responsible Fatherhood” initiative. According to the program summaries on the HHS web site, the 34 programs are providing job training services to men but not to women.

The complaints, filed with HHS’s Office for Civil Rights, charge that the 34 programs violate Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal statute that prohibits sex discrimination in any education program that receives federal funds. The complaints also charge HHS itself with violating the Constitution and Title IX by funding programs that HHS knew planned to discriminate against women.

“The Bush Administration has awarded over $80 million to ‘men only’ job training programs, in violation of our nation’s laws against sex discrimination,” said Legal Momentum President Kathy Rodgers. “Our organizations strongly support appropriate job training programs but only those that are non-discriminatory and serve both men and women. Both in the White and in the African American communities, women earn much less than men, are much more often poor, and are much more likely to be custodial single parents. Excluding women from these training programs does families a tremendous disservice.”

The 34 programs are active in twenty-two states and provide a range of education services in addition to job training. While some will serve only fathers, some will also serve men who are not fathers. Together, the programs were awarded five-year grants totaling $83.4 million in October 2006. A list of the programs with their annual funding amount is attached.

“The most galling thing is that HHS assured us that no discriminatory programs would be funded,” said Rodgers. “Last June, Legal Momentum notified HHS that funding men-only programs was illegal. Their Office of Family Assistance agreed, saying that these services would be provided ‘to any eligible woman or man who applies,’ regardless of gender. They have clearly gone back on their word and violated the law.” HHS has stymied repeated efforts by the women’s rights groups to learn more about how these programs managed to secure federal funding. The Department has delayed releasing copies of the funding applications for the programs – which describe in detail how the funds will be used – in spite of repeated requests from Legal Momentum. The only publicly available information comes from very brief summaries on the Department’s website. One of the discriminatory grants has drawn allegations of cronyism from the women’s advocates: $5 million awarded to the National Fatherhood Initiative, an organization previously directed by Wade Horn, the federal official in charge of the program under which the grant was made. HHS has not responded to a letter of complaint about this grant. Horn has previously been criticized for arguing that single parent families, most of whom are headed by women, should receive vital social services only if funding remains after all married families have been served.

“The Bush administration has a history of enriching its friends, but Wade Horn takes the cake. His buddies at NFI — the organization he founded — already receive millions in government grants, and now Horn is sending another $5 million their way,” said NOW President Kim Gandy. “Women in need of a hand up can expect only a cold shoulder from George Bush and HHS.”

The complaints request that the Office for Civil Rights immediately instruct each of the Responsible Fatherhood grantees to make their services available to women on the same basis they are available to men, and to take appropriate actions to remedy their past sex discrimination. They also ask OCR to instruct HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt not to provide further funding for discriminatory fatherhood programs.

“Job training can play a key role in strengthening America’s families,” said Legal Momentum’s Rodgers. “But excluding women is simply wrong. It is time for HHS to realize that and prioritize equal opportunity – and the law – over political agendas.”

More information is available at the Legal Momentum website.


Contact: Caitlin Gullickson, media[at]now.org, 202-628-8669 ext 123