Can I Sue For A Violation of My Civil Rights?

John E. Lawes

John E. Lawes, Esq

There are several ways in which a person may proceed with a lawsuit if they feel that their civil rights have been violated.  Federal law creates private causes of action for various infringements on civil rights.  Some apply to private entities while others prohibit actions by government officials.  The following is a quick review of some of these causes of action.

Suits against governmental actions normally fall under the prevue of section 1983 of the United States Code.  Section 1983 provides a private cause of action against persons who deprive a party of rights secured under the United States Constitution or the laws of the United States if that person was acting “under color of law”.  Section 1983 lawsuit are most commonly seen in prison or police brutality settings.  Defendants may able to avail themselves of various types of immunity depending on the circumstances.

Employment discrimination is generally governed by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in an employment setting.  In order to bring this type of lawsuit, a person must make a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, allow an investigation of the complaint, and obtain a right to sue letter.  A lawsuit must then be filed within ninety days of the issuing of the right to sue letter.

Other types of civil rights causes of action include actions under the American with Disabilities Act, the Equal Pay Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.  Each of these laws carries with it different procedural obstacles and burdens.  If you feel your civil rights have been violated, it is best to contact an attorney that help you navigate the process. A failure to do so may mean that that the violations to your rights are not properly compensated.

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