Have your civil rights been violated in New York? Many people may not even recognize or know when a violation occurs. It could have happened at work or even while under arrest. Civil rights form the cornerstone of American democracy, ensuring that all individuals are treated fairly and equally under the law, but that is not always what happens in practice. If your civil rights have been violated, you might be able to take legal action against the wrongdoer.
At Evan Miles Goldberg PLLC, our civil rights lawyer in New York is here to guide you through the complexities of civil rights law and ensure that your rights are protected. We believe that everyone deserves equal treatment under the law, and we are committed to fighting for justice on your behalf. Contact us today at (212) 888-6497 to schedule a consultation.
Understanding Civil Rights in New York
Civil rights refer to a person's right to be an active member of society without fear of discrimination or oppression. Many of these rights are guaranteed at the federal level through the U.S. Constitution and federal legislation. Some important pieces of federal legislation include:
- The Civil Rights Act of 1964
- The Civil Rights Act of 1991
- 42 USC Ch. 21: Civil Rights
- Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act
- The Equal Credit Opportunity Act
- The Fair Housing Act
- Equal Pay Act of 1963
- Age Discrimination Act of 1975
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1974
Some states have implemented additional civil rights protections that extend beyond those offered nationally. It is important to understand what these rights are so that you can fight back if the situation arises and your rights are unlawfully violated.
Examples of Federal Civil Rights
With some limits and restrictions, each of us is guaranteed certain civil and overlapping constitutional rights regardless of which state we reside or visit.
- The Right to Equal Protection Under the Law. The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees equal protection of the law to all citizens, prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
- The Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression. The First Amendment protects our right to free speech, allowing us to express our opinions and beliefs without fear of government censorship.
- The Right to Religious Freedom. The First Amendment also safeguards our freedom of religion, allowing us to practice our faith freely and protecting us from government-established religions.
- The Right to Freedom of the Press. The First Amendment ensures the freedom of the press, allowing journalists to report on government activities and hold those in power accountable.
- The Right to Freedom of Assembly and Petition. The First Amendment grants the right to peacefully assemble and petition the government for grievances, empowering citizens to voice their concerns.
- The Right to Bear Arms. The Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms, allowing individuals to own firearms, subject to reasonable regulation.
- The Right to Protection Against Unreasonable Searches and Seizures. The Fourth Amendment safeguards us from unwarranted searches and seizures, requiring law enforcement to obtain warrants based on probable cause.
- The Right to a Fair Trial. The Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments ensure the right to a fair trial, including the right to remain silent, the right to legal counsel, and protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
- The Right to Vote. Various amendments, including the Fifteenth, Nineteenth, and Twenty-Sixth, protect voting rights and prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, or age.
Examples of Additional State-Specific Civil Rights
While federal civil rights protections provide a strong foundation, many states have taken steps to expand on these rights, offering additional safeguards to their residents.
- LGBTQ+ Protections. Several states have enacted laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in areas such as employment, housing, and public accommodations.
- Privacy Rights. Some states have implemented stricter privacy protections, ensuring that individuals have more control over their personal data and how it is collected and used.
- Education Rights. Some states have established constitutional provisions guaranteeing the right to a quality education, which can be invoked in legal battles over educational funding and quality.
- Healthcare Access. A few states have enshrined the right to healthcare or health insurance in their constitutions, emphasizing the importance of access to medical care.
- Anti-Discrimination Laws. Many states have passed anti-discrimination laws that cover additional protected categories beyond those protected at the federal level, such as marital status, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
- Workers' Rights. States may have their own labor laws that provide additional protections to workers, including minimum wage, workplace safety, and collective bargaining rights.
- Environmental Rights. Certain states have recognized the right to a clean environment, allowing residents to take legal action against those who harm the environment.
Understanding your federal and state-specific rights is important. It allows you to take full advantage of the protections available and to hold individuals, organizations, or the government accountable when they violate your rights. If you think your civil rights have been violated in New York, contact Evan Miles Goldberg PLLC today to speak to our civil rights attorney.
Types of Civil Rights Cases in New York
Civil rights law covers a wide range of rights, activities, and violations. Some of the more common types of civil rights cases typically include one of the following issues:
- Discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, or other protected characteristics
- Discrimination in housing and lending
- Employment discrimination, including, for example, wrongful termination, harassment, and denial of reasonable accommodations
- Police misconduct, including, for example, excessive force, false arrest, racial profiling, and violations of the Fourth Amendment
- Suppression of voter rights
- Violations of First Amendment rights, including violations of freedom of speech, religion, press, and assembly
Cases, especially those that have gone to the U.S. Supreme Court, have played an important part in shaping civil rights law. The following sample of cases have gone before the U.S. Supreme Court, are part of our extensive case law on civil rights, and as such are good examples of civil rights cases.
Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)
As one of the first cases to deal with civil rights, the issue here focused on whether enslaved individuals or their descendants could be considered U.S. citizens with rights. The Court ruled that African Americans, whether enslaved or free, were not U.S. citizens and therefore had no standing to sue in federal courts. This decision further entrenched slavery and was a catalyst for the Civil War.
Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)
In another historic case, the Court had to decide whether state laws requiring racial segregation on trains violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court upheld the "separate but equal" doctrine, which allowed for racial segregation as long as facilities were equal. This decision legitimized racial segregation for decades.
Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
This case put to test the “separate but equal” doctrine. The Court had to determine whether racial segregation in public schools violated the Equal Protection Clause. The Court unanimously ruled that separate educational facilities were inherently unequal and ordered the desegregation of public schools, overturning Plessy v. Ferguson. This decision marked a major milestone in the civil rights movement.
Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)
In this case, the Court had to decide whether indigent defendants had the right to counsel in criminal trials under the Sixth Amendment. It held that states were required to provide legal counsel to defendants who couldn't afford an attorney. This decision significantly strengthened the right to legal representation for all.
Loving v. Virginia (1967)
The State of Virginia had a ban on interracial marriage, and in this case, the Court had to decide whether the ban violated the Equal Protection Clause. The Court unanimously ruled that laws prohibiting interracial marriage were unconstitutional, effectively legalizing interracial marriage across the United States.
Roe v. Wade (1973)
In this famous case, the Court determined whether a woman had the right to choose to have an abortion under the right to privacy. The Court recognized a woman's right to choose to have an abortion, but also established that this right was not absolute and could be regulated by the states in certain ways. This case, however, was recently overturned in 2022 by Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization (2022), with the Court claiming abortion is not a right.
Obergefell v. Hodges (2015)
In another marriage-related case, the Court had to decide whether state bans on same-sex marriage violated the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses. Like in Loving v. Virginia, the Court ruled that same-sex marriage bans were unconstitutional, legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. This decision marked a significant victory for LGBTQ+ rights.
Who to Sue for Civil Rights Violations in New York
When your civil rights are violated, you might be able to sue for a remedy. Limits exist, but generally speaking and depending on the facts and circumstances, you might be able to sue:
- Government officials or agencies
- Educational institutions
- Private persons or entities
- Public accommodations
- Medical professionals and healthcare facilities
Government Officials and Agencies
Government officials and agencies can be sued for violating a person's civil rights. These violations can occur at various levels of government: local, state, and federal. Two examples often reported in the media involve:
- Law enforcement agents or agencies who are often protected by immunity, but have been held to be liable for civil rights violations like excessive force, false arrest, and racial profiling; and
- Government agencies, which are responsible for enforcing and implementing laws like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), can be held accountable for discrimination or other civil rights violations.
Employers can be sued for civil rights violations in cases of workplace discrimination or harassment. Discrimination occurs when an employer discriminates against an employee based on their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or another protected class. Harassment occurs when a hostile work environment is created via harassment, including but not limited to sexual harassment.
Educational institutions, both public and private, can be sued for civil rights violations, particularly in cases of discrimination or unequal treatment. Of particular importance are Title IX violations. Under Title IX, educational institutions can be held accountable for failing to address gender-based discrimination or sexual harassment effectively. Disability discrimination is another particularly important violation. Educational institutions can be sued if they do not provide reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other related federal and state laws.
Private Individuals or Entities
In some situations, private individuals or entities can be sued for civil rights violations and can also face criminal action. Two of the most common civil rights violations committed by private individuals or entities include:
- Housing discrimination, where landlords or property owners discriminate against tenants based on their protected characteristics (e.g., race, marital status, gender, or religion); and
- Hate crimes, where individuals commit crimes based on prejudice against a person's protected characteristics (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender, or religion).
Businesses that offer public accommodations (e.g., restaurants, hotels, and retail stores) are subject to laws that prohibit discrimination. If these establishments discriminate against customers based on their protected characteristics, they can be sued for civil rights violations.
Medical Professionals and Healthcare Facilities
In healthcare settings, civil rights violations can occur when patients are subjected to discrimination, neglect, or mistreatment. Healthcare professionals and facilities may be sued for such violations.
The Civil Rights Complaint Process in New York
If you suspect your civil rights have been violated, you should follow a few specific steps to make sure you protect your rights moving forward. Though this process may vary depending on the facts and circumstances, you will want to:
- Document the incident. Collect evidence, including photographs, videos, witness statements, and any relevant documents.
- File a complaint. Contact the appropriate government agency or entity responsible for handling civil rights complaints. This may include the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), your state's equivalent of the same two departments, and/or the local police department.
- Consult an attorney. Seek legal counsel to protect your rights throughout the process and ensure your complaint is properly handled.
At Evan Miles Goldberg PLLC, we know that civil rights violations can occur in various settings and involve a range of individuals, entities, and institutions. Holding responsible parties accountable is the most critical step in seeking justice and ensuring that the principles of equality and justice are upheld in our society.
Consequences of Not Seeking Help for Civil Rights Violations
Failure to address civil rights violations can have serious consequences that impact both the victim and society. These consequences can include:
- Sustained discrimination or harassment
- Missed employment or housing opportunities
- Emotional and physical distress
- Erosion of your rights and freedoms
If you are a victim of a civil rights violation, contact our civil rights lawyer in New York to discuss your situation. If you have a viable case, we can advise you on your best course of action to obtain a remedy.
Remedies for Civil Rights Violations
When your civil rights have been violated, potential remedies may include:
- Financial compensation for damages
- Injunctions to halt ongoing violations
- Reinstatement to your job or housing
- Changes in policies or practices to prevent future violations
In some egregious circumstances and depending on the jurisdiction, you might also be able to demand punitive damages. These are damages designed to punish the at-fault party and prevent the same unlawful conduct from happening in the future.
How to Know If Your Civil Rights Have Been Violated in New York
It can be hard for people to recognize a civil rights violation. It can be even harder for people to determine whether the civil rights violation is actionable. If you find yourself in any of the below situations, then you likely have a civil rights case. These are only examples, though, because many other situations can result in civil rights violations.
Unequal Treatment or Discrimination Based on a Protected Characteristic
- Terminated due to a request for leave to observe a religious holiday or care for a family member suffering from an illness
- Denied a rental application because you are married to a person of the same sex
- Unable to access an educational institution because disabled and elevators or ramps are not provided
Experiencing Police Misconduct
- Attacked by police dogs even though not resisting an arrest
- Evidence was planted on your person or property
- Arrested without probable cause to do so
Facing Retaliation for Exercising Your Civil Rights
- Demoted after complaining to human resources of racial or sexual harassment
- Subjected to threats of calling the police or reporting immigration status
- Prevented from participating in school activities for filing a discrimination complaint
Being Denied Access or Services
- Refused service at a restaurant for wearing religious headgear
- Unable to access a retail store because the store failed to provide handicapped-accessible parking
- Denied entrance to a library because the public library barred service animals
Encountering Violations of Your First Amendment Rights
- Falsely arrested on trumped-up charges after complaining about the local police department on social media
- Arrested for peacefully protesting on public property
- Raided for publishing a news article about corruption in the mayor's office
If you experience any of the above or something similar, you should contact a civil rights attorney in New York immediately. Even if none of them apply but you think you might have a civil rights case, contact Evan Miles Goldberg PLLC to discuss your specific situation.
Why Choose Our Civil Rights Attorney in New York
Working with our skilled civil rights attorney from Evan Miles Goldberg PLLC offers numerous advantages, including:
- In-depth knowledge of civil rights law
- Strong advocacy and representation in court
- Assistance with the complaint filing process
- Access to resources and a network of experts
- Maximizing compensation and remedies
Civil rights lawsuits can be complex and require a thorough understanding of the law. If you believe your civil rights have been violated, consult with our civil rights attorney. We will assess your case, guide you through the legal process, and help you determine who should be held accountable for the violations you have experienced.
Contact a Civil Rights Lawyer in New York Today
At Evan Miles Goldberg PLLC, our civil rights attorney in New York is dedicated to defending your civil rights and ensuring justice prevails. Contact us today by filling out the online form or calling us at (212) 888-6497. We will schedule a consultation and, together, we will take the first step toward safeguarding your rights and promoting a fair and equitable outcome.