Agriculture Launching New IT System to Manage Discrimination Complaints


The new Civil Rights Management System will live in a USDA-owned and operated cloud environment.

The Agriculture Department is launching a new IT system to manage civil rights discrimination complaints lodged against its programs and partners, to be hosted on a vendor platform within an agency-owned cloud environment.

The new system, the Civil Right Management System, or CRMS, will store all discrimination complaints made against any “programs or activities conducted or assisted by USDA,” according to a notice of a new system of records to be posted Tuesday to the Federal Register. The new system will replace the Program Complaints Management System, or PCMS.

“The CRMS serves management needs of agency heads who are, by law, charged with the responsibility for agency compliance with civil rights laws and regulations,” the notice states.

The complaint management system is on an agency-owned cloud designed to integrate with every USDA component and office, including a central database to report in to and a means of reporting out to official organizations, such as the Justice Department and National Archives and Records Administration. The system also contains a set of apps to help officials manage the complaint and review process.

The entire system is hosted on an instance of USDA’s Salesforce platform, housed within servers owned and managed by the department’s Office of the Chief Information Officer.

The system will collect information on a wide segment of people working with or for USDA, including “contractors, complainants, witnesses, investigators, third parties, administrative judges, legal representatives, applicants for employment who have filed informal or formal complaints alleging discrimination, customers, members of the public who have filed a complaint, and others who have participated or otherwise been involved in proceedings relating to a program discrimination complaint,” the notice states.

The actual records consist of formal discrimination complaints, as well as surrounding documentation like statements from respondents, witnesses and the accused; names and addresses; personal, employment or program participation information; medical records; conciliation and settlement agreements; determinations; and “any other records related to the intake, investigation or adjudication of discrimination complaints.”

All of that data is being protected with a set of physical and digital safeguards, the notice states, including “physical access controls, firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and system auditing to prevent unauthorized access.”

USDA officials are not claiming any exemptions to privacy or other information security laws for this system.

Members of the public with thoughts about the new system have 30 days to submit a comment through the eRulemaking portal.