Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) prohibits sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity) discrimination in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

What conduct is prohibited by Title IX?

The Title IX regulation states that "except for provided elsewhere in this part, no person shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any academic, extracurricular, research, occupational training, or other education program or activity operated by a recipient which receives ... Federal financial assistance ....

(b) Specific prohibitions. Except as provided in this subpart, in providing any aid, benefit, or service to a student, a recipient shall not, on the basis of sex:

(1) Treat one person differently from another in determining whether such person satisfies any requirement or condition for the provision of such aid, benefit, or service;

(2) Provide different aid, benefits, or services or provide aid, benefits, or services in a different manner;

(3) Deny any person any such aid, benefit, or service;

(4) Subject any person to separate or different rules of behavior, sanctions, or other treatment;

(5) Discriminate against any person in the application of any rules of appearance;

(6) Apply any rule concerning the domicile or residence of a student or applicant, including eligibility for in-state fees and tuition;

(7) Aid or perpetuate discrimination against any person by providing significant assistance to any agency, organization, or person which discriminates on the basis of sex in providing any aid, benefit or service to students or employees;

(8) Otherwise limit any person in the enjoyment of any right, privilege, advantage, or opportunity." 45 C.F.R. § 86.31

The full text of HHS's Title IX regulation can be found here.

What are some examples of sex discrimination?

Under Title IX, sex discrimination can take many forms, such as:

  1. Denying admission of a person into an educational or training program on the basis of sex;
  2. Disqualifying a person for a research position on the basis of sex when it is irrelevant to ability to perform the job;
  3. Providing unequal educational resources to students of one sex compared to another;
  4. Engaging in gender –based or sexual harassment such as making unwelcome sexual comments, advances, and/or name-calling on the basis of sex.

Federal courts and agencies have found that Title IX prohibits sex-based harassment, including sexual harassment, when such harassment is sufficiently serious as to limit the ability to participate in and benefit from a program or activity. Click here for more information on sex-based harassment.

Some examples of sexual harassment by entities receiving HHS funds include but are not limited to:

  1. Unwelcome and inappropriate advances to students and employees of a research lab funded by HHS made by professors, employees, researchers, teachers, and/or students;
  2. Sexual assault of a student or employee by a doctor or other medical staff in a student sports medicine program or other clinical setting that receives HHS funding.

Who is covered by Title IX?

Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in the education programs and activities of entities that receive federal financial assistance. These programs and activities include "all of the operations of ... a college, university, or other postsecondary institution, or a public system of higher education." 20 U.S.C. § 1687(2)(A); see also 45 C.F.R. § 86.2(h). Therefore, Title IX's nondiscrimination protections apply to student recruitment, admissions, educational programs (including individual courses), research, housing, counseling, financial and employment assistance, health and insurance benefits and health services. The federal agency that provides the federal financial assistance has jurisdiction over Title IX complaints.

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has jurisdiction over Title IX claims of discrimination against entities that receive federal financial assistance through HHS. Such entities include:

  1. Colleges and universities, including all of the programs they operate, regardless of which program receives federal financial assistance from HHS. For example, a university would be covered by Title IX if:
    1. The university's medical center receives Medicare reimbursements from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services;
    2. The university's biology department receives grants from the National Institutes of Health;
    3. The university's medical, dental, or nursing programs receive funds from the Health Resources and Services Administration.
  2. Education programs and activities of entities that are not colleges or universities but receive federal financial assistance from HHS for their educational program or activity. For example:
    1. Head Start educational programs for young children funded by the Administration for Children & Families
    2. Hospital professional training clinical programs that receive HHS funding;
    3. Fatherhood programs providing job training, financial education and other educational programs that receive grants through the Administration for Children & Families.

HHS OCR also has jurisdiction under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (Section 1557) to investigate complaints of sex discrimination in health programs and activities of recipients of federal financial assistance and other covered entities.  Click here for more information about Section 1557.

What should I do if I believe I have been discriminated against under Title IX?

You can file a complaint with OCR if you have been subjected to sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, in an education program or activity that may have received HHS funds.

We will promptly inform you as to whether we have jurisdiction to investigate your complaint. If we determine that the entity named in your complaint does not receive HHS funds, but receives funds from a different federal agency, we will forward the complaint to the appropriate agency.

Certain types of complaints may be forwarded to another agency. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) regulations generally require referral of individual employment complaints of sex discrimination to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  If there is a pattern and practice of employment discrimination or if the complaint alleges discrimination in employment and in other practices of a recipient, then OCR can investigate the complaint.

If you are not sure about whether OCR has jurisdiction to investigate your complaint, file a complaint with our office and we will help answer your questions through the complaint intake process and our initial evaluation of the complaint. For more information on how to file a complaint, click here.

Please note that Title IX specifically prohibits retaliation for filing a discrimination complaint. When investigating a complaint, OCR informs all recipients of the prohibition on retaliation. In addition, during the complaint process, OCR will seek the complainant's consent to reveal his/her identity or identifying information, if necessary, to investigate the complaint. Consent is voluntary, and it is not always needed to investigate a complaint. Failure to provide consent, however, may make it difficult to investigate some aspects of the complaint.

How does OCR resolve my complaint?

If OCR determines that it has jurisdiction, OCR will investigate the complaint or, in some cases, refer the complaint to an agency with joint jurisdiction. When OCR identifies a violation or compliance concern, it will work with the recipient to achieve compliance with the law. Depending on the scope of the changes required, complaints can be resolved through voluntary compliance letters or agreements requiring the recipient to develop policies, monitoring, notification, and training, which also resolve the specific incidents alleged in the complaint. If voluntary compliance cannot be achieved, OCR can issue a formal findings letter and refer the case to DOJ or begin administrative proceedings to revoke federal funds.

What are some examples of OCR enforcement actions under Title IX:

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Where can I get more information?

Resources for those receiving or affected by NIH-funded STEM and research:

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