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Office for Civil Rights

Civil Rights on the Basis of Race, Color, or National Origin

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is responsible for enforcing the nondiscrimination requirements of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) it applies to covered entities under the jurisdiction of OCR. This jurisdiction includes entities that conduct programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services (see the list of examples of such entities below).

Your Rights

Title VI protects persons from discrimination based on their race, color, or national origin in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance. There are many forms of illegal discrimination based on race, color, or national origin that frequently limit the opportunities of minorities to gain equal access to services. A recipient of Federal financial assistance may not, based on race, color, or national origin:

  • Deny services, financial aid or other benefits provided as a part of health or human service programs.
  • Provide a different service, financial aid or other benefit, or provide them in a different manner from those provided to others under the program.
  • Segregate or separately treat individuals in any matter related to the receipt of any service, financial aid or other benefits.
  • Please see the regulation below for more information.
  • Also see Resources for Covered Entities and Advocates below for more guidance in this area.

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Fact Sheets

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45 CFR Part 80: Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - Nondiscrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin.

Also see Section 1808 of the Small Business Job Protection Act, which prohibits discrimination in adoptive or foster care placements on the basis of race, color or national origin.

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Examples of Civil Rights Complaint Resolutions:

  • This Resolution Agreement (“Resolution Agreement”) was entered into by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) and Hawaii’s Department of Human Services (“HDHS”), which administers a $1.7 billion annual budget to coordinate and provide specific benefits and services throughout the state, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, child and adult protective services, medical waiver services, and other home and community based services. Through four divisions with 88 local offices located on five islands, HDHS employs over 2,300 permanent staff members who are covered by this agreement. This Agreement resolves OCR transaction number 08-82040, a compliance review which resulted from the investigation of a complaint, alleging that HDHS discriminated against persons who are limited English proficient (LEP).

    Hawaii Department of Human Services (HDHS) (Resolved on August 12, 2008). An advocacy group filed a complaint with OCR alleging that an individual who speaks Cantonese and is Limited English Proficient (LEP) was denied an interpreter at an HDHS office when attempting to apply for services. After an investigation, OCR initiated a compliance review to assess HDHS’ overall compliance with Title VI with regard to the provision of services to LEP persons. To resolve the matter, HDHS signed a voluntary resolution agreement, acknowledging that LEP individuals need language assistance services to access and fully participate in programs and activities operated by HDHS.

    HDHS agrees to ensure effective communication with LEP individuals by (1) conducting an annual assessment of frequently encountered languages and numbers of LEP individuals needing language assistance; (2) determining the language needs of each LEP client at the first point of contact; (3) notifying LEP individuals of the availability of free language assistance through prominently displayed postures, signs, application forms, and public informational material; (4) providing timely, competent language interpreters upon request; (5) translating vital program documents; (6) designating HDHS’ Civil Rights Compliance Office as the entity responsible for coordinating HDHS’ language assistance services and directing compliance with this Agreement; and (7) training HDHS staff on policies and procedures for communicating with and serving LEP persons. HDHS also agrees to submit semi-annual progress reports to OCR over the three years of the agreement to demonstrate compliance with the agreement. Read the Hawaii Department of Human Services Resolution Agreement. Read the Press Release.

Examples of Covered Entities

Some of the institutions, programs and service providers that may receive funds from the DHHS are:

  • Hospitals
  • Medicaid and Medicare Providers
  • Physicians and other health care professionals in private practice with patients assisted by Medicaid
  • Family Health Centers
  • Community Mental Health Centers
  • Alcohol and Drug Treatment Centers
  • Nursing Homes
  • State agencies that are responsible for administering health care
  • Foster Care Homes
  • Public And Private Adoption And Foster Care Agencies
  • Day Care Centers
  • Senior Citizen Centers
  • Nutrition Programs
  • State and local income assistance and human service agencies

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Resources for Covered Entities and Advocates

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Additional Federal Resources

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Last revised: September 2, 2008


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