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Civil Rights

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) promotes and ensures that people have equal access to and opportunity to participate in certain health care and human services programs without facing unlawful discrimination. OCR carries out this mission by enforcing Federal laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age and, in certain circumstances, sex and religion, in programs and activities that receive financial assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services.  OCR also enforces a Federal law and regulation that prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in health care and social service programs of state and local governments.

OCR Promotes and Ensures Compliance with the Civil Rights Laws through Various Activities:

  • Investigating complaints filed by individuals alleging that they have or someone else has been discriminated against on a prohibited basis;
  • Conducting compliance reviews of  covered entities that OCR believes may not. be in compliance with the law;

Civil Rights

While the Office for Civil Rights enforces certain laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination, we generally do not enforce laws and regulations that apply to housing, police or law enforcement, the courts, prisons or employment.  To learn about civil rights enforcement in these and other areas enforced by other agencies, please see our Civil Rights Enforcement Through Other Agencies page.

  • Providing technical assistance to covered entities to help them understand how they can voluntarily comply with the law; and
  • Conducting outreach nationwide to help individuals and covered entities understand rights and obligations under the laws that OCR enforces.

OCR’s legal authorities include:  Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990; titles VI and XVI of the Public Health Service Act (Hill-Burton Community Services Provisions); the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA), as modified by Section 1808 of the Small Business Job Protection Act; and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975.  We also have limited authority under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and certain other nondiscrimination statutes and regulations, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex and religion.  To learn more about regulations enforced by OCR>> 

OCR is committed to an America where everyone – regardless of race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, or religion – has equal access under the law to health care and human services.