Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts
People often discuss civil rights as some concrete set of values and core principles that everyone must follow. While there may be many human rights that we all share, whether a violation of those rights is illegal or not depends on the laws in place. Each state and the U.S. as a whole have laws protecting people from certain types of violations of these rights, and violations of those rights usually allow victims to claim compensation or file complaints to get change to happen or to get compensation for the violation.
The term “civil rights” is very broad, and civil rights violations can include a wide range of things. People often experience civil rights violations because of discrimination, such as discrimination in employment, housing, banking, or education. Civil rights violations also come when government actors interfere with your rights, such as freedom of speech, the right to free exercise of religion, or the right to protest and assemble. One other major example of civil rights violations is in policing, with victims facing unreasonable searches and seizures or police brutality.
The civil rights violation lawyers at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin explain what some of these civil rights are and what violations of these rights look like.
Examples of Civil Rights in the U.S.
As mentioned, many rights are considered human rights – such as the right to life, liberty, and property. When the government steps in and writes laws to protect these rights, we call them civil rights. In many cases, civil rights are more expansive, creating additional protections and freedoms that we should all be able to count on living in a country like the United States. For instance, while we might all have a human right to seek housing and shelter, the U.S. government has rules in place to help protect those rights by preventing discrimination in housing. Other civil rights protect from other abuses or harms the government could cause, and most of the laws preventing these types of discrimination are enshrined in the Constitution.
Most anti-discrimination laws in the U.S. protect against discrimination in 5 main categories:
- National origin
Some laws have traditionally expanded these categories to related categories of discrimination. For instance, discrimination based on religion could include discrimination based on dress or expression related to that religion, and sex discrimination could include discrimination based on pregnancy, gender, gender presentation, sexual orientation, or other attributes. Other laws prevent discrimination based on other attributes, such as age or disability.
These anti-discrimination laws generally protect people in the areas of education, housing, employment, and public accommodations. The phrase “public accommodations” includes various facilities open to the public, such as stores, hotels, and restaurants. If you are discriminated against, you may be able to file a complaint with a state or federal agency, but the laws on point might also allow you to sue a business or individual for discrimination and the damages it causes.
Other Civil and Constitutional Rights
Some of the other most common civil rights are contained in the U.S. Constitution. State constitutions also have their own lists of rights and protections which might parallel the U.S. Constitution or create broader protections. Some of the most common constitutionally protected civil rights include the following:
- Freedom of religion
- Freedom of speech
- Freedom of the press
- Freedom of assembly
- Freedom of protest
- Right against unreasonable search and seizure
- Right to due process
- Right to an attorney
- Right to equal protection under the law
There are other rights enshrined in state and federal law, but these are the ones most commonly used in civil rights complaints. Some civil rights complaints are often tied to criminal law issues, such as problems with your right to remain free of unreasonable search and seizure, the right against double jeopardy, or rights dealing with Miranda rights issues like the right to an attorney or the right to remain silent. Other civil rights violations could be caused by police abuse or mistreatment.
Rights concerning free speech and expression are some of the most hotly contested issues. These cases are often important in issues related to expression in schools, as students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,” according to the Supreme Court.
Civil Rights Violations for Sex and Gender Discrimination
At The Law Office of Andrew Shubin, one of the focuses of our practice is protecting victims of sex and gender discrimination at work and in education. Many people do not understand that issues of sex and gender discrimination certainly occur with regard to hiring and firing or mistreatment of students based on their sex, but these civil rights violations can also include issues related to sexual assault and sexual abuse by institutions.
Sex and Gender Discrimination at Work
If you face a negative employment outcome because of your sex or gender, you could be entitled to compensation for the violation of your civil rights. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects against sex discrimination in employment, which means that you cannot face negative outcomes at work because of your sex.
Most people think of these negative outcomes as either firing or failure to hire, but negative employment outcomes can also include the following:
- Being passed over for a promotion
- Being passed over for a raise
- Being paid less than other coworkers
- Not being given responsibilities
- Being assigned extra work or tasks
- Transfers or changes in job duties
If any of these negative employment outcomes can be linked to your sex or gender, they could constitute a violation of your civil rights. Two U.S. Supreme Court cases – Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins (1989) and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. EEOC (2020) – have established that “sex discrimination” in employment includes more than just discrimination based on status as male or female. According to the Court, discrimination based on sex-based stereotypes (e.g., a female employee wearing masculine clothing), discrimination based on gender or transgender status, and discrimination based on sexual orientation are all included under the umbrella of “sex discrimination.”
Sex and Gender Discrimination in Education
Title IX of the Civil Rights Act deals with sex discrimination in education and prevents any institution that receives federal funding from discriminating against students based on their sex. In most cases, this includes both colleges and high schools, both private and public. Even parochial schools are included under these requirements in most cases.
Title IX protects students both in education itself – i.e., in access to certain courses, admissions, scholarships, and more – as well as in school sports – i.e., in the opportunity to play, in funding for sports programs, and in sports-based scholarship opportunities. There are specific requirements that deal with when schools must provide opportunities and what kinds of proportions need to be met – and some of these are modified by student interest.
Currently, one big area of contention with regard to sex and gender discrimination in schools is how these laws affect transgender and non-binary students. While the Harris Funeral Homes case suggests that the Supreme Court views trans discrimination as sex discrimination, and the Biden and Obama administrations both included gender and transgender discrimination as violations of Title IX, many states have created laws barring trans students from using certain bathrooms or playing on certain sports teams. Our attorneys are prepared to handle cases dealing with these issues as civil rights violations.
Sexual Assault as Civil Rights Violations
In education and at work, Title VII and Title IX block sex discrimination. Sexual assault, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment are inherently based on the victim’s gender or sex, and these issues can actually be full-blown civil rights violations. Our attorneys work to hold schools and employers responsible for sexual assault and sexual harassment at the institutional level. This means that, even if a single individual or group of individuals was responsible, our attorneys will fight to seek compensation from the institution that allowed the abuse to happen in the first place.
Suing for Police Brutality and Civil Rights Violations
One area of “civil rights violations” that people tend to think of deals with issues of police brutality. This is another area of contention in this country, but our attorneys nonetheless seek to protect the rights of individuals and help them get compensation and justice when police overstep their authority and when government actors violate their civil rights.
Police are permitted to use force to subdue or contain people in situations where everyday people might not be allowed to. With this comes strict “use of force” doctrines and required training. However, many police officers are accused of going beyond use of force authorizations and using too much force to affect an arrest or calm down an aggressive individual. When police-involved shootings or use of tasers and pepper spray lead to injury and harm, you may be able to hire a civil rights attorney to look into whether excessive force was used and potentially file a lawsuit for compensation against the officer and police department if your rights were violated.
Illegal Search and Seizure
Police are restricted in their ability to perform searches and their ability to arrest people or take property as evidence. These restrictions come under the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which says that police need a warrant and probable cause to perform a search, make an arrest, or take property. There are some exceptions to these rules, such as the ability for police to skip the warrant requirement under certain circumstances (e.g., in the interest of safety, when the property being searched/seized is mobile, or when evidence is at risk of being destroyed). Police also do not need probable cause to perform a stop, such as a vehicle stop – that needs only “reasonable suspicion.”
When police violate these rights, the typical solution is to block them from being able to use any evidence they seized through these rights violations. This is known as “suppression,” and it allows illegal evidence to be blocked in court, potentially helping a defendant to beat the charges.
In some cases, courts have upheld additional damages for the rights violations, but this is not very common. Talk to a lawyer about seeking independent damages through a civil rights violation if your right to privacy and your 4th Amendment rights were violated.
Violation of Miranda Rights and Right to an Attorney
Similar to how police are restricted in searches and seizures by the 4th Amendment, they are restricted by what they can ask and when they can talk to you while you are in custody by the rules in the 5th and 6th Amendments.
The 5th Amendment guarantees that you have the right to remain silent instead of incriminating yourself. The 6th Amendment guarantees you the right to an attorney – including the right to have an attorney present during a custodial interrogation. Police have to actually tell you about these rights and read you your rights, as decided in Miranda v. Arizona (1966) – but only if you are in custody and being asked questions.
Like illegal search and seizure, the remedy for a violation of these rights is usually suppression. However, if police tried to threaten your safety or physically beat a confession out of you, that is an extreme violation of your rights and might lead to independent compensation.
What Qualifies as a Civil Rights Violation?
Civil rights are protected by the government. In many cases, the laws contained in the Constitution and other laws protect the people from abuse by the government as well. These rights, like the right to freedom of speech, are only enforceable against the government. That means that it is not a violation of your civil rights for another private individual to silence your speech in the workplace, at church, or in a private club. Instead, there needs to be state action that harms your rights for these civil rights to be violated.
Other protections are enforced against other private individuals. Especially with regard to anti-discrimination laws, the statutes work broadly to protect people from violations by other people, such as their bosses, their landlords, store owners, and other individuals. These issues reach the level of a violation if the conduct treats people differently and denies them benefits – or causes additional detriments – because of one of the protected attributes or features listed in the law.
Examples of Civil Rights Violations
Sometimes the best way to understand a violation is to see it in action. The following are all examples of civil rights violations:
- Sex and gender discrimination in education
- Housing discrimination based on race or national origin
- Workplace sexual harassment
- Denial of notice or an opportunity to be heard before having property taken away
These are just a few of the types of civil rights violation cases we handle. Call our law offices if you think you’ve been discriminated against or had your civil or constitutional rights violated.
Call Our Civil and Constitutional Rights Attorneys
If you or a loved one was subject to discrimination, harassment, or institutional sexual abuse, or if you had your right to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, or due process rights violated, contact The Law Office of Andrew Shubin today. Our civil rights violation attorney is available to set up a free legal consultation today. Call (814) 826-3586 to learn more.