“Civil rights” are more than just a catchphrase bandied around by politicians. A civil right is any legal right given to individuals, which can be enforced by a civil court action seeking to redress the injury. All Constitutional amendments and many federal and state laws define our civil rights. Examples include:
“The right to vote”, “The right to assemble peacefully”, “The right to be free of discrimination based on race, religion or membership in other protected groups”, “The right to be paid overtime, minimum wage and other employment rights”, “The right to be free of sexual harassment or hostility at work”, “The right of disabled people to access public places”, “The right to public education”, “The right to due process of law if accused of a crime.”
Cases of Discrimination
The most high-profile civil rights cases are often discrimination cases, in which the victim is treated more poorly than others because of membership in a protected group. The victim may be denied housing, passed over for promotion or kicked out of a restaurant for no reason other than this group membership. Federal laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, gender, religion, national origin, age or disability. The State of Maryland has also prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Any of these types of discrimination are civil rights violations. Victims can and should stand up for themselves, their legal rights and others in the same situation.
Other Violations of Civil Rights
Less well-publicized but unfortunately more common are civil rights cases involving people accused of crimes. The Constitution and other laws give us the right to be free of false or unlawful imprisonment, excessive force by law enforcement, unlawful searches, false confessions, planted evidence and other unlawful police tactics. Law enforcement officers must read arrestees their rights. Unfortunately, law enforcement officers can sometimes be corrupt or lazy, just like anyone else, and people accused of crimes — fairly or not — can be all too easy to dismiss or ignore. But the result is serious: a violation of victims’ civil rights, and possibly the loss of their freedom. Nobody should have to live with that, no matter what the accusation.
Another civil right is the right to petition the courts for a redress of grievances. That is, you have the right to sue a person or organization that violates your rights. In a civil rights lawsuit, you can win the job, freedom, money or other thing that was unlawfully denied to you, as well as financial compensation for costs relating to the violation. In many cases, you may also be able to win “punitive” damages — money seeking to punish the civil rights violator for willfully or egregiously violating the law.
A Dedicated Lawyer By Your Side
The law offices of Steven H. Heisler can help. Heisler’s practice focuses only on representing the rights of injured people. His background includes several years working with organized labor to protect workers’ rights, as well as many more years helping injured people seek justice. If you or someone you care about is a victim of civil rights abuses, you don’t have to put up with it — call a Baltimore civil rights lawyer at the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler today. An initial case consultation is always free, confidential and without further obligation, so please contact us today.