(a) Requirement. State agencies shall not discriminate against any applicant or participant in any aspect of program administration, including, but not limited to, the certification of households, the issuance of coupons, the conduct of fair hearings, or the conduct of any other program service for reasons of age, race, color, sex, disability, religious creed, national origin, or political beliefs. Discrimination in any aspect of program administration is prohibited by these regulations, the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 (Pub. L. 94-135), the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Pub. L. 93-112, section 504), Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12101) and title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000d). Enforcement action may be brought under any applicable Federal law. Title VI complaints shall be processed in accord with 7 CFR part 15.
(b) Right to file a complaint. Individuals who believe that they have been subject to discrimination as specified in paragraph (a) of this section may file a written complaint with the Secretary or the Administrator, FNS, Washington, DC 20250, and/or with the State agency, if the State agency has a system for processing discrimination complaints. The State agency shall explain both the FNS and, if applicable, the State agency complaint system to each individual who expresses an interest in filing a discrimination complaint and shall advise the individual of the right to file a complaint in either or both systems.
(c) FNS complaint requirements.
(1) Complaints shall contain the following information to facilitate investigations:
(i) The name, address, and telephone number or other means of contacting the person alleging discrimination.
(ii) The location and name of the organization or office which is accused of discriminatory practices.
(iii) The nature of the incident or action or the aspect of program administration that led the person to allege discrimination.
(iv) The reason for the alleged discrimination (age, race, color, sex, handicap, religious creed, national origin, or political belief).
(v) The names, titles (if appropriate), and addresses of persons who may have knowledge of the alleged discriminatory acts.
(vi) The date or dates on which the alleged discriminatory actions occurred.
(2) If a complainant makes allegations verbally and is unable or is reluctant to put the allegations in writing, the FNS employee to whom the allegations are made shall document the complaint in writing. Every effort shall be made by the individual accepting the complaint to have the complainant provide the information specified in paragraph (c)(1) of this section.
(3) Complaints will be accepted by the Secretary or the Administrator, FNS, even if the information specified in paragraph (c)(1) of this section is not complete. However, investigations will be conducted only if information concerning paragraphs (c)(1) (ii), (iii) or (iv) of this section is provided.
(4) A complaint must be filed no later than 180 days from the date of the alleged discrimination. However, the time for filing may be extended by the Secretary.
(d) State agency complaint requirements.
(1) The State agency may develop and use a State agency complaint system.
(2) The State agency shall submit to FNS a report on each discrimination complaint processed at the State level. The report shall contain as much information in paragraph (c)(1) of this section as is available to the State agency, the findings of the investigation, and, if appropriate, the corrective action planned or taken.
(e) Reviews. [Reserved]
(f) Public notification. The State agency shall:
(2) insure that all offices involved in administering the program and that also serve the public display the nondiscrimination poster provided by FNS; and
(3) insure that participants and other low-income households have access to information regarding nondiscrimination statutes and policies, complaint procedures, and the rights of participants, within 10 days of the date of a request.
(g) Data collection. The State agency must obtain racial and ethnic data on participating households in the manner specified by FNS. The application form must clearly indicate that the information is voluntary, that it will not affect the eligibility or the level of benefits, and that the reason for the information is to assure that program benefits are distributed without regard to race, color, or national origin. The State agency must develop alternative means of collecting the ethnic and racial data on households, such as by observation during the interview, when the information is not provided voluntarily by the household on the application form.
(h) Reports. As required by FNS, the State agency must report the racial and ethnic data on participating household contacts on forms or formats provided by FNS.
[Amdt. 132, 43 FR 47884, Oct. 17, 1979. Redesignated by Amdt. 211, 47 FR 53315, Nov. 26, 1982, as amended by Amdt. 356, 59 FR 29713, June 9, 1994; 71 FR 28763, May 18, 2006; 76 FR 27606, May 12, 2011]