13 minutes

The Basics of the U.S. Department of Education OCR Complaint Process

The Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education enforces Title IX. Title IX bans sex discrimination in schools that get federal funds. This includes discrimination based on pregnancy and related conditions. OCR also enforces civil rights laws that ban discrimination based on race, color, national origin, disability, and age. OCR handles complaints on behalf of people or groups. They investigate colleges that get federal financial aid to make sure the school complies with civil rights laws. OCR also provides training and guidance to schools to help them understand their legal duty to stop and fix discrimination in their programs and activities.

Anyone who thinks a school has discriminated against someone on the basis of sex can file an OCR complaint. You don’t have to be a victim of the discrimination. Your parents may file on your behalf. You may file on behalf of a friend. Or a professor may file on behalf of a student. You must file a complaint within 180 days of the date of the discrimination at issue. In other words, you have less than six months to file an OCR complaint. If you are filing your complaint outside of this time frame, you can ask to waive the 180-day limit. If you ask for a waiver, you must explain why you did not file the complaint within the deadline. Waivers are not often granted, so it’s important to file your complaint as soon as you can. However, if your complaint deadline has passed, it is still worth trying to get a waiver.

  • If the discrimination is ongoing, you only need to file within 180 days of the most recent offensive act. The complaint can include earlier incidents, too. An example of ongoing discrimination is if the school has an official policy that violates Title IX.
  • If you used your school’s internal grievance procedure and it took longer than 180 days, you will have a strong case for a waiver from OCR.

If your college has discriminated against you or someone you know based on sex or pregnancy status, you can file a Title IX complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Just enter your complaint at https://ocrcas.ed.gov.