Regardless of what option you choose, here are some best practices:
Your college’s Title IX officer is the primary point of contact for concerns regarding sex discrimination (including discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and related conditions). The office can provide education and may be able to assist you in securing your rights under Title IX. You may also find assistance with understanding your rights from diversity offices, student parent centers or women’s centers.
You can also file a Title IX complaint about the violation of your rights—all schools are required to have a grievance process, and must publish the guidelines on how it works. Follow the directions of your school’s process, which usually involves contacting the Title IX office. When contacting the Title IX office, be clear that it is your intent to file a complaint under Title IX. You may want to work with an attorney or on-campus advocate to help with the process, but this is not required.
Anyone who encounters sex-based discrimination (including pregnancy discrimination) in their college or university can file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education (OCR). OCR’s mission is to enforce anti-discrimination laws, including Title IX, in educational institutions.
When to file a complaint:
Submit complaints to the Dept. of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) as soon as you can, but no more than 180 days after you experienced discrimination. If you file a complaint after 180 days has passed, an official at the OCR will have to decide whether there is good cause to warrant an extension of time. You don’t have to pursue a complaint/grievance process at your school before seeking assistance from the OCR, but if you do, your deadline to file with OCR is 60 days after the last act of the grievance process.
How to file a complaint:
You do not need to be represented by a lawyer to file a complaint, although a lawyer may help. Your complaint can be in the form of a letter. Be sure to include who discriminated against you, what happened, when and where it happened, and any other details to fully explain the situation. Include as much information as possible about what you experienced. Your complaint does not need to be in legal language, but it should be formal and as detailed as possible. If you are comfortable doing so, consider sharing your letter with someone close to you to see if they can identify any missing pieces to the story, or if they have any questions that you may want to answer in your complaint letter.
The Pregnant Scholar team can provide assistance with filing your complaint.
What happens after I file a complaint?
The Office of Civil Rights may contact you to request additional information. If they do, you must respond within 20 days. OCR will then review and investigate your case. If the agency finds that there has been a violation of Title IX, it will attempt to negotiate a solution. Typically, OCR is able to gain compliance through this negotiation. When OCR can’t get compliance voluntarily, it has the option to initiate “enforcement action,” seeking court action to terminate federal funding to the program where the discrimination occurred.
If you would like to learn more about your legal options, you can contact a lawyer. They can provide assistance with campus processes or explain your options to file a complaint in court. Note that there are time limits for bringing Title IX lawsuits that vary from state to state.