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  • What Are Civil Rights?

    civil rights

    Civil rights are the basic rights that every citizen in the United States has to be protected from unfair or discriminatory treatment based on protected classes, including gender, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, and race. When a citizen is discriminated against because of their gender, it is a violation of their civil right, which is protected by the U.S. Constitution.

    If you believe that your civil rights have been violated, you are urged to contact an experienced lawyer who can thoroughly review your case. A lawyer can recommend the best legal course of action.

    What Are Civil Liberties?

    The terms civil rights and civil liberties are often used interchangeably, but they refer to different types of guaranteed protections.

    Civil rights refer to your basic rights to be protected from discrimination or unequal treatment based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and other protected classes in the workplace, education, housing, and access to public facilities. When an individual is discriminated against because of their gender, it is a violation of their civil right. Most laws are established by the federal government via federal legislation or case law. Civil rights are also protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, which protects people from violation of civil rights and liberties by the state government.

    Civil liberties are the basic freedoms and rights that are guaranteed by the Bill of Rights or by the legislature or courts’ interpretation of those rights. Civil liberties protected in the Bill of Rights are generally divided into two categories, including freedoms and rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, and liberties and rights associated with crime and due process. They are protections against government actions. For example, the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights states that all citizens have the right to practice whatever religion they please.

    The following are examples of civil liberties in the U.S.:

    • Free speech.
    • Privacy.
    • Right to remain silent.
    • Right to vote.
    • Right to marry.
    • Right to a fair trial.
    • Right to the free from unreasonable searches.

    While the terms civil rights and civil liberties are often used synonymously, there are key distinctions between the two. For example, civil liberties are basic freedoms, whereas civil rights are your basic rights to be free from discrimination. With civil liberties, the government grants broad-based rights to individuals. Civil rights are also granted by the government. To better understand the difference between the two, consider what right is affected and whose right is affected.

    For example, the right to marry is a civil liberty, whereas gay marriage is a civil rights issue. If a couple applies for a marriage license, but their application is denied because the clerk refuses to issue any marriage licenses, this is a violation of the couple’s civil liberties. However, if the clerk issues marriage licenses to straight couples but denies marriage licenses to all gay couples, this is a civil rights violation.

    Another example involves employee rights. Getting a promotion at work is not a civil liberty. It is based on a number of factors, such as seniority, the employee’s job performance, and their overall qualifications. However, if an employee is being considered for a promotion and the employer denies the promotion based on the employee’s gender, sexual orientation, religion, or another protected class, this is a violation of the employee’s civil right.

    What Are Examples of Federal Legislations That Protect Civil Rights?

    The following are examples of civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in a range of settings, including employment, education, housing, voting, and lending.

    Civil Rights Act of 1964

    This is one of the most prominent civil rights legislation. It ended segregation in public places and prohibited employment discrimination based on race, religion, gender, or national origin. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also established legislative policy against discrimination in public schools and colleges in an effort to end segregation.

    Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in federally funded programs. Title VII prohibits employment discrimination where the employer is engaged in interstate commerce.

    Voting Rights Act of 1965

    This states that all U.S citizens who are qualified to vote in an election are entitled to vote without being discriminated against due to race, gender, religion, or any other protected class. This was enacted to address the barriers that minorities faced, including Jim Crow laws, which attempted to prevent them from participating in elections.

    Americans With Disabilities Act

    The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee on the basis of a disability. Under the ADA, a person is considered disabled they have a physical or mental impairment that limits their ability to walk, talk, see, learn, or carry out any other major life activity. Some of the common examples of disabilities that are covered by the ADA include blindness, deafness, learning disabilities, certain types of mental illnesses, and being confined to a wheelchair.

    Thirteenth Amendment

    The Thirteenth Amendment states that slavery or involuntary servitude is prohibited in the United States.

    Fourteenth Amendment

    Any person who is born in the U.S. is considered a citizen of this country, including former enslaved people. No state can deny these citizens of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.

    Fifteenth Amendment

    This states that citizens of the U.S. cannot be denied the right to vote based on race, color, or a previous condition of servitude.

    Age Discrimination Act of 1975

    While age discrimination is more often associated with older people, the Age Discrimination Act (ADA) protects people of all ages against age-related discrimination. This includes activities like educational programs, health care services, housing, welfare, food stamps, rehabilitation programs, and other activities that receive federal assistance.

    Fair Housing Act (FHA)

    This was enacted in 1968 after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. It extended the general protections outlined in Civil Right Act of 1964 by specifically prohibiting housing discrimination based on race, sex, religion, and disability.

    Equal Credit Opportunity Act

    This ensures that all consumers are given an equal opportunity to obtain credit. This does not mean that any consumer who applies for credit will be approved, but it does protect consumers who are applying for credit or a loan. It ensures that they are not discriminated against or denied credit based on their gender, race, religion, or another protected class.

    Equal Pay Act of 1963

    This states that employers must provide equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender. All forms of compensation are included, from salary and bonuses to vacation, holiday pay, and other benefits.

    Under the Equal Pay Act, employees may file for pay discrimination claims under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and employers may not retaliate against employees who take action against discriminatory behavior in the workplace. However, certain criteria does allow for pay differentials, including seniority, production levels, and merit.

    How Can a Civil Rights Lawyer Help Me?

    There are many different types of civil rights violations. These cases can be difficult to prove. If you decide to take legal action without the help of a civil rights lawyer, you may not reach a successful settlement outcome. A skilled and experienced civil rights lawyer will work closely with you to develop a strategy that protects your legal rights and ensures that you obtain the justice you deserve.

    Virginia Beach Civil Rights Lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC Advocate for Clients Whose Civil Rights Have Been Violated

    Civil rights laws are in place to protect citizens from being mistreated in a range of settings. Our Virginia Beach civil rights lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC will work tirelessly to protect your civil rights. To schedule an initial consultation, call us today at 757-LAW-0000 or contact us online. Located in Virginia Beach, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Eastern Shore, Virginia. We also serve our clients throughout the United States through our network of associated attorneys.