The United States prides itself on the many freedoms and opportunities it provides to its people. But, people of every race, gender, color, national origin and age can illegally have their civil rights violated or taken away.
What Are Civil Rights?
Civil rights refer to all individuals’ rights to receive equal treatment in their education, employment, housing, and many other places. Individuals can sometimes be illegally denied of their civil rights because of their race, age, religion, sex, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation or national origin. When your civil rights are violated because you identify with one of these protected classes, this is a form of discrimination.
Who Violates Civil Rights?
Many individuals, agencies and companies can illegally violate your rights. The parties that most commonly violate civil rights include:
- Managers or supervisors at work
- Landlords or leasing offices
- Local, state or federal agencies
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act states employers are required to treat all employees fairly regardless of their race, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or national origin. When an employer chooses to make a job-related decision based on whether or not an individual belongs to one of these protected classes, it is considered a violation of civil rights.
Just as employers are required to treat workers fairly, landlords, leasing offices and sellers are required to treat tenants and buyers fairly under the Fair Housing Act. A person’s inclusion in one of the protected classes (race, age, ethnicity, etc.) should not factor into a landlord or seller’s decision on whether to do business with him or her.
Local, state and federal agencies are required to respect individuals’ civil rights. Perhaps the most common example of an agency committing a civil rights violation is police misconduct or brutality. Police officers cannot discriminate against you because of you belong to a protected class, and if they do, you have legal options.
Examples of Civil Rights Violations
Because we live in a free country, we are fortunate enough to enjoy many civil rights. Some examples of civil right violations include:
- An African American couple being denied a mortgage because of their race.
- A Middle Eastern man being fired from his job solely because of his national origin.
- A disabled individual being passed over for a promotion at work because of his physical condition.
- A woman being denied the right to buy a piece of property because the seller does not want to do business with women.
- A homosexual man being denied service at a restaurant because of his sexual orientation.
- An African American man being searched by a police officer despite lack of probable cause.
When your civil rights have been violated, you have the option to seek justice by filing a civil lawsuit against the person or establishment who has wronged you.
Do You Need to File A Claim With the Government?
There are many different kinds of civil rights violations, and for some, you will need to file a claim with a government agency before pursuing a civil lawsuit against the accused. For example, if your civil rights have been violated in the workplace, you will need to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before taking any other action. You cannot file a civil lawsuit against your employer for violating your civil rights until the EEOC has completed its investigation and issued you a notice of right-to-sue. If your violation is one that needs to go through a government agency first, make sure you take note of any deadlines the agency has put in place. The EEOC, for example, requires you to file an employment discrimination claim within 180 days of the incident.
A civil rights attorney will be able to tell you whether you need to file a claim with the government first. But if this is not needed, you are legally permitted to move forward with the lawsuit and file a complaint with the court detailing the civil rights violation. Remember, it is up to you to work with an attorney and initiate a civil lawsuit.
When Your Rights Have Been Violated…
If you suspect your rights have been violated, it’s important to understand you have rights. Contact Shegerian & Associates for legal assistance with the complex issues that may arise as you try to obtain the justice and compensation you deserve.