Filing a Complaint with the Office for Civil Rights

Is there a time limit for filing a Title IX complaint?


A Title IX complaint generally must be filed within 180 days from the latest date of the Title IX violation(s) you are complaining about. If the violation occurred more than 180 days ago, you can request a waiver for this requirement if you can demonstrate “good cause” (for instance, you were hospitalized or did not know that your rights had been violated). If you file a complaint with both your university and OCR, you must file your OCR complaint within 60 days of completing your college’s grievance process.




What should my complaint include?


To file a complaint with OCR, you must complete this form. Your complaint should include at least the following information:

  • Your name, address, and phone number
  • A description of the sexual assault, including dates and locations, if you know them
  • A description of the Title IX violation
Your complaint should include as much detail as possible. This may include excerpts from emails or text messages, academic transcripts, or the names of school officials who are involved.




Do I need a lawyer to file my complaint?


You do not need to have a lawyer to file your complaint with OCR, but you are able to have a lawyer represent you. Having a lawyer advocate for you and navigate the process can be very helpful.




What happens once I file my complaint?


  1. Once you file your complaint, OCR will consider whether to investigate it. This process can take several months.
  2. If OCR decides to investigate your case, they will notify you or your lawyer in writing as well as your school.
  3. OCR will set up an interview or multiple interviews with you to discuss the complaint. This can happen months after they decide to investigate your complaint. Interviews can take several hours and can happen multiple times over the course of the investigation. If you have an attorney, they can be present in the room during your interview.
  4. An OCR investigation may focus not just on your case, but also on how your school addresses sexual assault generally.
  5. Throughout the investigation, you can inform OCR of any retaliation or other violations from your school. You can also ask them for accommodations (e.g., for your school to provide academic resources or support).
  6. OCR will come to a determination about their findings.




What can come of my complaint with OCR?


Once OCR has finished investigating your case, schools may enter into a “resolution agreement,” which outlines certain steps and requirements schools must take to comply with Title IX. It can also require your school to take steps to protect you from further violence and allow you to complete your education. For example, OCR has recently required some schools to reimburse survivors for tuition costs, as well as for medical expenses related to the sexual assault (for instance, counseling or hospital bills). OCR can also require schools to provide more in-depth trainings to faculty, staff, and students, and revise their sexual violence complaint procedures. The Trump Administration has expressed its intent to change the way that OCR complaints are handled, but has not yet taken action. When the Administration does make any changes to the law, we will update this Guide. Until that time, we recommend that you consult with a lawyer or a sexual assault advocate to learn more about how OCR may investigate and resolve your complaint so you can decide whether filing a Title IX complaint is right for you.




Will my complaint with the OCR be confidential?


You can tell OCR that you do not want them to release your identity to your school, but that request may cause them to limit their investigation and/or close your case. Please be aware that the general public may request documents from your complaint through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Although all documents will be redacted to protect your identity if they are released, OCR may release details of your case to anyone who requests it. In addition, OCR publishes its resolution letters and agreements, which will include information about your case.




How do I reach the Office for Civil Rights (OCR)?


If you believe that your school has violated your rights or mishandled your complaint, you can file a complaint directly with the Office for Civil Rights for the Department of Education. However, it is generally best practice to file your complaint with your university first. OCR receives a large volume of complaints and these complaints usually take at least a year to complete. The Seattle Office is the regional office serving Washington State. You can contact OCR at: Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, Seattle Office U.S. Department of Education 915 Second Avenue, Room 3310 Seattle, WA 98174-1099 Phone: (206) 607-1600 Fax: (206) 607-1601 Email: OCR.Seattle@ed.gov