The term “civil rights” refers to the right of each individual to receive equal treatment regardless of race, sex, age, disability, nationality, religion, or other characteristics.
Civil rights protect individuals from unfair treatment in many different settings including places of work, educational institutions, housing sectors and many more.
These legally-protected civil rights ensure that individuals are not discriminated against for circumstances into which they were born.
In the past, civil rights took the spotlight in America in famous court cases revolving around the Civil Rights Movement. Famous court cases during the Civil Rights Movement included Plessy v. Ferguson. Brown v. Board of Education, Dred Scott v. Sanford, Roe v. Wade, and many others. These cases helped to establish the precedence of importance for civil rights cases.
Most laws that protect against discriminatory acts originated at the federal government level through federal legislation or federal court decisions.
Federal legislation, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1992, was established to protect basic rights for all citizens. Federal court decisions help to shape the definition of civil rights violations. Today, most states also have civil rights laws that are similar to federal legislation. Additionally, municipalities within states can create their own civil laws or ordinances. For example, a city may pass laws pertaining to equal housing that differ from the state laws.
There is an important difference between “civil liberties” and “civil rights.”
While civil rights protect an individual from being discriminated against for protected characteristics, civil liberties guarantee basic rights and freedoms.
The Bill of Rights lays out certain civil liberties, such as freedom of speech and the right to vote.
If you believe your civil rights have been violated, there are certain actions that you can take. You can file a claim with the government or file a private lawsuit in civil court.
Many attorneys specialize in civil rights cases and have experience with this type of law, so talking to a civil rights attorney that can best understand and handle your case is often a good course of action.