Find a Civil Rights Lawyer

Civil rights refers to a group of freedoms that Americans possess. Our civil rights include the freedom of speech, the freedom of press, freedom of assembly, the right to vote, and equality for all in public places. When our civil rights are violated it is considered discrimination.

Civil Rights are protected through a number of Acts that were passed by legislation, which prevent people from being discriminated against because of their race, skin color, age, religion, physical limitations, country of origin, and most recently added, their sexual orientation. These rights also allow anyone who may be facing discrimination to sue the establishment where the discrimination took place, for damages incurred.

The most well known amendments to the constitution are the 13th and 14th amendments. These amendments freed all slaves and nullified any state laws that were created in an effort to keep African Americans from being treated like any other American citizen. These state laws or ‘black codes' as they were called, consisted of anything that didn't allow black people to have the same public rights and access to the same public services--restaurants, bars, retail stores, parks, transportation, etc.--as other citizens. The amendments overruled any proposed state law.

The state laws were seen to be in violation of the constitution. Laws regarding civil rights and discrimination have made substantial strides in the last few decades. Many states have now enacted civil rights laws of their own in an effort to further protect the people of the state. Our civil rights not only make it illegal for organizations and institutions to discriminate in public places, but they have broadened to included places of employment as well.

Employment discrimination is another area in which African Americans and others have traditionally been discriminated against. Businesses and organizations are required by law to give each and every applicant an equal opportunity at a job position. It is unlawful, according to civil rights, to refuse to hire or employ an individual based upon their race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, physical abilities and/or color.

Our civil rights and freedoms do not extend into private settings such as someone's home. For example, you could be at a social function at someone's home and he may ask you to leave or even harass you. Although this may be extremely rude, he is are not violating any law. Any individual has the right to decided who comes and goes in their home, even if that decision is based on race or ethnicity. It is this right of the homeowner that is also protected by civil rights.

If a person were to assault you or cause you harm in any way, then you may have a case that would allow for legal action. However, this would not be a case of your civil rights being violated but of assault and battery, property damage, or something similar. While these actions may stem from certain views held by one party, those views are not illegal when expressed in a private residence or setting. However, if the same views are expressed by the owner of a restaurant or store owner or employee (while they are working at the store), you may have a civil rights claim on your hands because they are not allowed to deny you service based on certain opinions they may have.

By Jeanne Rongitsch           

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