What are civil rights?

Civil rights are personal rights guaranteed and protected by the U.S. Constitution and federal laws enacted by Congress, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Civil rights include protection from unlawful discrimination.

The HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, and, in some cases, religion by certain health care and human services entities:

  • state and local social and health services agencies,
  • hospitals,
  • clinics,
  • nursing homes,
  • insurers who are participating in the Maketplaces and receiving premium tax credits, and
  • other entities receiving federal financial assistance from HHS.

Under these laws, all persons in the United States have a right to receive health care and human services in a nondiscriminatory manner.  For example, you cannot be denied services or benefits simply because of your race, color, national origin, or disability. For more information about these laws and our authority under them, see our Civil Rights home page.

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