How does OCR investigate a civil rights complaint?

Once a complaint is received, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) must determine if it has the legal authority to review and investigate the complaint.  OCR’s primary authority is over recipients of federal financial assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Once it is clear that OCR has jurisdiction to handle your complaint, the investigator will gather information through interviewing witnesses, obtaining documentation, and perhaps making site visits. You may be interviewed again as information is gathered.

At the conclusion of an investigation, OCR issues a closure letter, which presents OCR's decision on whether there has been a violation of a federal statute or regulation. If there is a violation finding, the recipient is then allowed a specific time period to correct the violation or enter into an agreement with OCR to correct the violation. Corrective action may involve a change in policy or procedure, provision of a service, staff training, or other actions. If a recipient is unwilling to take corrective action to come into compliance, OCR may take certain enforcement actions, including steps to initiate enforcement proceedings. A final decision upholding a finding of a violation may result in the termination of federal financial assistance to the recipient.

Content created by Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
Content last reviewed on November 18, 2015