HHS Office for Civil Rights Issues Bulletin on Countering Antisemitism and on Protecting Patients and Recipients of Human Services from Discrimination Based on Shared Ancestry or Ethnic Characteristics
As part of Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, HHS Joins Agencies from Across the Administration in Producing Fact Sheets on Title VI Enforcement
Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) joined seven other agencies in clarifying, for the first time in writing, that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits certain forms of antisemitic, Islamophobic, and related forms of discrimination in federally funded programs and activities.
The HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) took steps to counter antisemitism by issuing a bulletin describing how civil rights laws may protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of their actual or perceived ethnicity or ancestry. This important reminder is HHS’s latest action in furtherance of the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism.
OCR enforces federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination. Specifically, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI)1 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance from the Department, for example hospitals or clinics that receive such funding. In addition, Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Section 1557) prohibits discrimination on various bases, including race, color, and national origin, in covered health programs and activities.2 Depending upon facts and circumstances, these laws may prohibit discrimination against individuals who are or perceived to be Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, or of another religion, if the discrimination is based on their ancestry or ethnic characteristics.
“Too many people in this country are being denied access to care or support because of their gender, sexual identity, religion, race, or disability,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Discrimination in any form is unacceptable, and the Biden-Harris Administration won’t stand for it. Today’s bulletin raises awareness about federal laws prohibiting antisemitism and related forms of bias and discrimination. This is an important step on our journey towards being a nation where everyone can access the critical programs and services they need and deserve.”
“OCR is committed to protecting individuals from discrimination based on who you are or what you believe,” said HHS Office for Civil Rights Director Melanie Fontes Rainer. “We believe that Americans deserve the agency to receive the care they need regardless of what they look like or believe in, and we are proud to be joining seven other agencies in explaining obligations under Title VI.”
HHS is one of eight agencies—the Departments of Agriculture, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security, Interior, Transportation, and Treasury—producing materials explaining that Title VI prohibits discrimination based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, including certain antisemitic and related forms of discrimination and bias in federally funded programs and activities.
Today’s bulletin provides insight and examples of the kinds of incidents that could, depending upon facts and circumstances, raise concerns under or violate federal civil rights law:
- A hospital denies staff or facility privileges to a Muslim medical resident because she speaks with foreign accent and wears a hijab.
- An ER patient requests that a hospital change his attending physician because the patient associates the physician’s surname with Judaism and/or Israel, and the hospital honors the request.
- A mental health clinic regularly provides inferior services, including longer wait times, to an individual perceived to come from a foreign country because of his religious attire.
Today’s announcement builds on HHS’s other commitments to implement the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism:
- HHS’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Child Traumatic Stress Network continues to provide resources on how to talk with children and youth about hate crimes and identity-based violence. This includes guidance on talking with children about the painful consequences of antisemitism and other forms of hate, such as Anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander hate and Islamophobia, as well as strategies for coping with the associated trauma and fear.
- HHS’ Administration for Community Living continues to support Holocaust survivors by helping to ensure they receive person-centered trauma-informed care. Since 2015, ACL and the Center on Holocaust Survivor Care have served over 43,700 Holocaust survivors and trained more than 7,300 of their family caregivers.
- HHS provided trainings on HHS antidiscrimination laws to medical schools nationwide.
- HHS Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships continues to hold listening sessions with Jewish and Muslim Chaplains on religious discrimination in healthcare settings. These listening sessions will inform future departmental priorities.
- HHS launched a digital campaign led by members of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition encouraging the public to share personal stories of how activities like sports or cooking have promoted connection, inclusion, and cross-community solidarity. HHS encourages other members of the public to contribute to the campaign by sharing their own personal stories.
HHS is committed to ensuring that all people can access health care and human services, free from discrimination. If you believe that your or another person’s health information privacy or civil rights have been violated, you can file a complaint with OCR at: https://www.hhs.gov/ocr/complaints/index.html
1 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq., as implemented by 45 C.F.R. Part 80.
2 42 U.S.C. § 18116, as implemented by 45 C.F.R. Part 92.A