Find a Discrimination Lawyer

Discrimination is an illegal action that falls under civil rights law, which includes Americans' rights to free speech; freedom of assembly; freedom of religion; and the right to vote. Both the 13th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution are the original sources of civil rights law in the United States. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery; the 14th Amendment provides for due process and equal protection under the law. When due process and equal protection is violated, it's an act of discrimination.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 evolved out of the 13th and 14th constitutional amendments. It incorporates a series of far-reaching laws that extend civil rights protection into government-run and public establishments that are connected to interstate commerce or federally funded programs. For patrons or consumers, such establishments include, for example, such ordinary locations as restaurants; lodging establishments; public schools and housing.

For employees, the Civil Rights Act is applicable in almost any establishment, but there are a few exceptions. Employment discrimination laws do not apply, for example, to independent contractors because they are self-employed and not classified as “employees” according to labor laws. Another exception is discrimination directed toward people 40 years or older. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is not applicable to employees of state or federal government agencies, employment agencies, or to labor unions.

What Actions Are Protected by Discrimination Law?

As amended in 1972 and 1991, the Civil Rights Act now protects individuals against discrimination in many cases. These include, for example, ethnicity/national origin (including a person's birthplace, ancestry, culture), limited English proficiency (LEP), sexual orientation, pregnancy status, veteran status, marital status, physical disabilities, mental illness and weight conditions. The law also protects the rights of people in jail, people in places of religious worship, people voting, and people entering reproductive health clinics.

Examples of Discrimination

Sometimes discriminatory acts are not only lodged against an individual for his or her own characteristics but also for just associating with or being part of a group of non-preferred people. Either way, civil rights are violated.

These actions come in the form of unfair insurance practices (figuring premium rates, or denial of coverage, based on physical or mental problems; genetic information; sex; age and race); denial of organizational memberships; denial of financial assistance; “redlining” in real estate insurance transactions, and unfair housing practices.

Discriminatory employment actions are reflected as preferences in the areas of shifting job assignments and denial of promotions, as well as hiring and termination decisions. Discrimination also takes place in the sports arena and even in selecting students for school athletic teams.
Attorneys are often retained to advise business entities and ensure compliance with discrimination laws.
Where an incident occurs, the remedy at law is to file a complaint, which often leads to filing a lawsuit. You may be the plaintiff or defendant in such a matter; in either case, you'll need to retain with an attorney.

By Kathleen Goolsby           

Related Links: