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Understanding Civil Rights

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The Office for Civil Rights conducts outreach activities and develops products that can be used to understand how to comply with the civil rights laws we enforce.  We have fact sheets and information about specific topics for the general public and for providers.  To review these products, please review our Resources page. 

How are our laws enforced?

  • Complaint Investigations
  • Compliance Reviews
  • Education and Outreach
  • Technical Assistance
  • Coordination with our Federal partners

Our overarching goal is to ensure compliance with the civil rights laws we enforce. 

Race, Color or National Origin

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in any program or activity that receives Federal financial assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services.  Specific discriminatory actions prohibited under Title VI include:

    • Providing services more limited in scope or lower in quality
    • Limiting participation in a program

Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (42 U.S.C. 18116) provides that an individual shall not be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination on the grounds prohibited under, among other laws, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,under any health program or activity, any part of which is receiving federal financial assistance, or under any program or activity that is administered by an Executive Agency or any entity established under Title I of the Affordable Care Act or its amendments.

Disability

  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects a qualified individual with a disability from discrimination in the provision of any benefit or service provided under any program or activity receiving funds from the Department of Health and Human Services.  

    Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (42 U.S.C. 18116)
    provides that an individual shall not be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination on the grounds prohibited under, among other laws,  Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 794, under any health program or activity, any part of which is receiving federal financial assistance, or under any program or activity that is administered by an Executive Agency or any entity established under Title I of the Affordable Care Act or its amendments.

    Discriminatory actions prohibited under this authority may include:        

    • Denying a qualified individual with a disability an aid, benefit or service that is provided to others.
    • Providing a different or separate aid, benefit or service to a qualified individual with a disability, unless such action is necessary to ensure that the aid, benefit or service is equally effective as those provided to others.
    • Denying a qualified individual with a disability the opportunity to participate as a member of a planning or advisory board.
  • Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities of all State and local governments.  Specific discriminatory actions may include:

    • Imposing eligibility criteria that screens out or tends to screen out an individual with a disability from fully or equally enjoying any program or activity, unless such criteria  is shown to be necessary.
    • Providing a qualified individual with a disability with an aid, benefit or service that is not as effective in affording equal opportunity to gain the same result or reach the same level of achievement as that provided others.
    • Administering programs, services, and activities in the most integrated setting that is not appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities.

    Learn more about discrimination on the basis of disability >>

    Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, requires Federal agencies to develop, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency.   These requirements may include:

    Providing Federal employees with disabilities with access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access and use by Federal employees who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency.

    • Providing individuals with disabilities, which are members of the public seeking information or services from a Federal agency, with access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that provided to the public who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency.

    Learn more at Section 508.gov…

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Age

The Age Discrimination Act of 1975 prohibits discrimination on the basis of age in programs or activities receiving Federal financial assistance.  It does not include employment discrimination. 

Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (42 U.S.C. 18116) provides that an individual shall not be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination on the grounds prohibited under, among other laws,  the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, 42 U.S.C. 6101 et seq. under any health program or activity, any part of which is receiving federal financial assistance, or under any program or activity that is administered by an Executive Agency or any entity established under Title I of the Affordable Care Act or its amendments.

Learn more about discrimination on the basis of age >>

Sex

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as amended, prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally assisted education programs.  

Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (42 U.S.C. 18116) provides that an individual shall not be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination on the grounds prohibited under, among other laws, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. 1681 et seq. under any health program or activity, any part of which is receiving federal financial assistance, or under any program or activity that is administered by an Executive Agency or any entity established under Title I of the Affordable Care Act or its amendments.

Learn more discrimination on the basis of sex >>

Health Care Provider Conscience Protections

Religion