E&C Republicans Expand Investigation into Sexual Harassment at NIH to now Include Review of HHS Office of Civil Rights Compliance Role

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA), on behalf of the Health and Oversight Subcommittee Republicans, wrote to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra. 

The letter outlines concerns with the role HHS Office of Civil Rights (OCR) plays—or fails to play—in investigating instances of sexual harassment that occurs at research institutions which receive grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 


“There have been several public reports of sexual harassment occurring on NIH-funded research or NIH-supported activities over the last decade, and it raises concerns about what, if any, actions the NIH has taken to resolve these issues. The NIH’s own statistics show a significant problem with more than 300 cases related to sexual or gender harassment since 2018—with about a third of those allegations being substantiated. This also represents hundreds of men and women who may be forced to operate in a hostile or unsafe research environment.” 


“According to the HHS website, OCR does investigate and resolve complaints of sexual harassment in the education and health programs of recipients of grants or other federal financial assistance from HHS—including the NIH. Moreover, HHS OCR is required to conduct periodic compliance reviews of institutional Title IX programs to ensure compliance with the law—including examining the way in which complaints are handled by the institution.” 

The Chairs have requested answers to questions about HHS OCR’s role by April 30, 2024. 


  • Based on a recommendation from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), HHS OCR and the NIH adopted a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to facilitate communication between the two components of HHS as it relates to sexual harassment.  
  • This MOU was intended to clarify procedures on how the enforcement arm of HHS and the grant-making arm share valuable information with one another in an effort to respond appropriately to complaints of sexual harassment and prevent federal grant money from going to those with a history of sexual misconduct.  


  • August 10, 2021: E&C Republican Leaders Question NIH’s Handling of Sexual Harassment Complaints 
  • August 11, 2022: E&C Republican Leaders follow up with NIH on Insufficient Response to its Letter on the NIH’s handling of Sexual Harassment 
  • November 30, 2022: E&C Republicans to NIH: Turn Over Previously Requested Information Ahead of New Congress 
  • March 14, 2023: E&C Republicans Press NIH for Information on Handling of Sexual Harassment Complaints 
  • October 6, 2023: E&C Republicans Signal Intent to Issue Subpoenas to Obtain Information on NIH’s Handling of Sexual Harassment if Questions Go Unanswered 
  • January 26, 2024: Chair Rogers notifies NIH of Imminent Subpoena 
  • February 5, 2024: Chair Rodgers Subpoenas NIH for Documents Related to Investigation into Sexual Harassment at NIH and NIH Grantee Institutions
  • February 20, 2024: HHS Responds on behalf of NIH to offer a rolling in camera document review to the Committee. Documents produced in the review have been highly redacted, including the redaction of the names of individuals convicted of criminal offenses, public news articles about individuals who have been found guilty of harassment, and redaction of the names of the institutions where the abuse occurred—effectively preventing the Committee from understanding if NIH continues to fund work performed by substantiated abusers at other institutions—a practice known as “pass the harasser.”