According to the National Partnership for Women & Families and the Welfare Law Center, people in the welfare-to-work pipeline can look to a whole range of federal laws for protection against various forms of employment discrimination. These include Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act, Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972, the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) section of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). The latter includes provisions which require the states to: (1) explain in their plans how they will ensure “fair and equitable treatment” in their programs, (2) follow “nondiscrimination” laws, and (3) make sure that employers adhere to special “nondisplacement” rules that prohibit them from laying off or terminating employees to replace them with welfare recipients they may be able to pay less.

People participating in welfare-to-work or workfare programs are also covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for disabled workers; the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits employers from paying men and women unequally for equal or substantially equal work; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which prohibits employment discrimination against older people; and the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), which prohibits discrimination in hiring, firing, and paid recruitment or referrals based on an individual’s citizenship status or national origin.

Gary Delgado is executive director of the Applied Research Center, an Oakland-based think tank focusing on race and social change.