The Office for Civil Rights (OJP) ensures that recipients of federal financial assistance from parts of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) comply with federal laws that prohibit discrimination in employment and the delivery of services or benefits. Applicable laws may prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, or disability, and in specific instances, age, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), or religion. Any complaint filed with the OCR is evaluated to determine whether the office has jurisdiction (or authority) over the complaint and whether the complaint provides enough information to establish an initial claim of discrimination or retaliation. The OCR does not have jurisdiction over complaints about general conditions or misconduct that is not discrimination.
In completing the civil rights complaint form, be as specific as possible. If possible, gather all of the following:
- Date(s) and time(s) of the discrimination;
- Name(s) and contact information of the alleged discriminatory actor(s);
- Name(s) and contact information of witness(es) to the discrimination;
- Name(s) and contact information of similarly situated individuals of a different race, sex, or other protected class who received preferential treatment;
- Records or other documentary evidence; and
- A detailed accounting of the discrimination in the order in which it took place.
The OCR is a neutral, fact-finding office and separate from the litigating components of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. The OCR will only investigate complaints when authorized to do so by law and will close any complaints it does not have jurisdiction to investigate (except for when referral to another federal agency is appropriate). Complaints of discrimination must ordinarily be filed within 180 days or one year (depending on the type of complaint) of the last act of discrimination. An OCR attorney may contact you about your complaint, but please note that they are not your lawyer and communications with them are not subject to attorney-client privilege. OCR attorneys cannot represent individuals, give legal advice, or file lawsuits or appeals on any individual’s behalf. If the allegations in a complaint are already the subject of a lawsuit, the OCR will close the complaint or defer any action on it pending the resolution of the lawsuit.