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How to Prevent Discrimination & Avoid Violations under Title VI during the COVID-19 Pandemic

As part of the national response to the COVID‐19 public health emergency, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provided substantial Federal financial assistance to state and local agencies, hospitals, and other healthcare providers on the front lines of the COVID‐19 response. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a bulletin on July 20, 2020 that focuses on recipients’ compliance with the prohibitions against race, color, and national origin discrimination contained in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI).

Guidance received from OCR’s bulletin provides that, in order to help ensure Title VI compliance during the COVID‐19 public health emergency, recipients of Federal financial assistance, including state and local agencies, hospitals, and other health care providers, should do the following:

  • Adopt policies to prevent and address harassment or other unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin.

  • Ensure (when site selection is determined by a recipient of HHS funds) that Community‐Based Testing Sites and Alternate Care Sites, are accessible to racial and ethnic minority populations.

    • For example, consider making walk‐in testing sites available in urban areas where racial and ethnic minority populations may not have access to vehicle transportation; or

    • Provide home visitation testing in rural areas where transportation is a challenge for racial and ethnic minorities. 

  • Confirm that existing policies and procedures with respect to COVID‐19 related services (including testing) do not exclude or otherwise deny persons on the basis of race, color, or national origin.

  • Ensure that individuals from racial and ethnic minority groups are not subjected to excessive wait times, rejected for hospital admissions, or denied access to intensive care units compared to similarly situated non‐minority individuals.

  • Provide ambulance service, non‐emergency medical transportation, and home health services (if part of the program or services offered by the recipient) to all neighborhoods within the recipient’s service area, without regard to race, color, or national origin.

  • Appoint or select individuals to participate as members of a planning or advisory body, which is an integral part of the recipient’s program, without exclusions on the basis of race, color, or national origin.

  • Assign staff, including physicians, nurses, and volunteer caregivers, without regard to race, color, or national origin. 

    • Recipients should not honor a patient’s request for a same‐race physician, nurse, or volunteer caregiver.

  • Assign beds and rooms, without regard to race, color, or national origin. 

    • For multi‐bedrooms, recipients should not grant a patient’s request to exclude a roommate of a particular race; and for single‐bed rooms, recipients should assign patients in a non‐ discriminatory manner.

  • Make available to patients, beneficiaries, and customers information on how the recipient does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.

Our Firm has extensive experience counseling employers and businesses on employee and labor law issues, and preparing applicable employee policies, particularly relating to the evolving regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have any questions related to this Legal Briefing or questions related to COVID-19 reopening rules and procedures, please contact any member of our Firm at 585-730-4773. Please note that any embedded links to other documents may expire in the future.


This Legal Briefing is intended for general informational and educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice or counsel. The substance of this Legal Briefing is not intended to cover all legal issues or developments regarding the matter. Please consult with an attorney to ascertain how these new developments may relate to you or your business. © 2020 Law Offices of Pullano & Farrow PLLC

For more COVID-19 Legal Updates, please visit our resource page.


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