How Do I Report a Civil Rights Violation?

Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts

The general public usually knows that they have civil rights, but they don’t always know exactly what those rights are or how they are enforced.  In most cases, the civil rights protections that we all have protect us from discrimination and other unjust actions by the government or by other people.  In most cases, these rights are enforced by the same government they are used to restrict, with the courts and executive agencies in the U.S. and state governments handling civil rights complaints, investigations, trials, and punishments.  Civil rights violation attorney Andrew Shubin explains how to report various civil rights violations and how an attorney can help you file your complaint or lawsuit.

Types of Civil Rights Complaints in the U.S.

Before you know where to file a civil rights complaint, it is important to understand what kinds of civil rights violations and complaints there are:

State vs. Federal Civil Rights Complaints

First, some civil rights are guaranteed by the U.S. government, and some are guaranteed by state governments.  Sometimes, these overlap, such as in cases of housing discrimination, but many times the state fills in more specific protections that the U.S. government does not have.  For example, protections against housing discrimination based on sexual orientation are not guaranteed by the federal government in all 50 states, but some states do guarantee these protections.

You will typically file the claim with whichever government protects the rights in question.  If both governments overlap in their protections, you might get to choose which government to file the complaint with.

Discrimination Complaints

Civil rights can also be broken down based on whether they deal with discrimination or other rights.  The right to be free from discrimination based on factors like race, sex, or religion can typically be enforced against the government itself (such as when you apply for publicly-funded benefits or jobs in the government) or against private entities and other people (such as private employers, landlords, and universities).  Some cases dealing with physical or mental harm can still be handled in a discrimination context, such as claims against schools for institutional sexual abuse, which could be filed as a Title IX sex discrimination claim.

Complaints for discrimination are typically handled by state and federal agencies that work to enforce these civil rights, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Department of Education.  These complaints may also be handled in the courts as lawsuits.

Other Civil Rights Violations

Other civil rights – such as the right to freedom of speech, freedom from police brutality, freedom of religion, and the right to due process – are only enforced against the government. These rights might be monitored and protected by agencies as well, but claims are typically handled through the courts by filing lawsuits for damages for the harm you suffered or for “injunctions” to stop the laws from being unfairly enforced against you and others.

In some instances, these cases might go all the way to the Supreme Court if they deal with questions of whether a law is constitutional under the U.S. Constitution.  States also have their own supreme courts to deal with questions of constitutionality under state constitutions.

Filing Complaints about Discrimination

As mentioned, complaints for discrimination can be filed against government entities themselves or against private entities that violate discrimination laws.  Typically, discrimination protections are enforced by the U.S. government and state governments, which gives victims of discrimination options for how to pursue their claim.  For instance, The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission handles claims of workplace sexual harassment and other workplace discrimination, but most states have equivalent agencies to handle complaints that come under state law instead of federal law.  Some departments have a specific Office for Civil Rights (OCR) that handles these kinds of complaints, such as the Department of Education’s OCR, which handles Title IX violations and other education discrimination claims.

When you file a claim, you typically need to file details about the discrimination, how it occurred, what happened leading up to it, and what happened afterward.  These details can be difficult to fully process, and working with an attorney can help you make sure that you cover everything you need to cover.  The process of filing a complaint with a specific department can usually be found on their website, but our attorneys can work to handle this process for you.

Filing Lawsuits for Discrimination

Although there are government agencies that handle many of these discrimination claims, the courts might also be able to handle your claim.  In many cases, a claim with the right agency or OCR can help get the government to enforce issues of discrimination and protect other people going forward, but it might not help victims get what they need.  A lawsuit can instead help victims receive damages directly from the offending companies or government bodies.

In some cases, you can file both a claim with an agency and a lawsuit.  The agency complaint might also help pressure a company or government entity to settle a lawsuit, getting you the damages you need more swiftly.

When you file a lawsuit, you will file a claim with the court instead of a government agency.  This complaint will lay out the details of the complaint and what relief you seek.  Your attorney can help you file the complaint with the right court with the proper details to help progress a strong claim.

Filing Other Civil Rights Violation Claims

Other claims against the government for civil rights violations can be brought to address police brutality, violations of the First Amendment, illegal search and seizure, and due process violations.  Many of these issues are complex legal issues that often need to be addressed in court.  In some cases, the sole goal of the lawsuit is to seek damages for the harm the government caused you.  In other cases, the goal is to get a law struck down or limited by the courts to prevent unjust laws or violations of constitutional rights.  Your attorney can help you get the relief you seek by filing your claim with the right agency or court to get your violation addressed.

Call Our Civil Rights Lawyer for a Free Case Consultation

If you were the victim of police brutality, constitutional violations, or other harm by the government, you might be able to sue the government for damages.  If the government or a private entity illegally discriminated against you, you might be able to file a claim with various OCRs and government agencies to get changes made, and you might be able to file a separate claim in the courts to get you the compensation you need.  The Law Office of Andrew Shubin’s civil rights attorney can help you figure out what type of claim is right for your case, whom to file the claim with, and how to move forward with your case.  For a free legal consultation on your potential claim, call us today at (814) 826-3586.


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