The struggle for equal rights in America has been a long battle. Long before President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, discrimination lawyers were fighting against racial discrimination in the South. These early discrimination cases became the foundation of discrimination law today.
Additional legislation, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), created other protected classes. Federal laws now prevent illegal discrimination in a range of areas.
What Is Discrimination Law?
Discrimination is any unequal or unfair treatment based on factors including:
- National origin
- Race or ethnicity
- Sexual orientation
- Sexual preference
State laws mirror Federal laws and may be stricter. Discrimination attorneys assist individuals who have been victims of unfair or disparate treatment. Employment law attorneys can help with workplace discrimination, but not all discrimination legal issues involve the workplace.
Types of Discrimination Claims
The most common discrimination claim is employment discrimination or harassment. Employment discrimination is overseen by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC has offices in each state. Employees who want to file a lawsuit against their employer for workplace discrimination must file an EEOC complaint first. An employment discrimination lawyer can help a worker through the steps of filing a complaint and beginning legal action against an employer.
Unfortunately, discrimination is not uncommon in our society. Discrimination attorneys can assist in areas of civil rights violations, including:
- Housing Discrimination: Landlords may deny housing for legal reasons, such as poor credit or a history of eviction. That is not considered discrimination. Landlords can refuse housing to someone with a history of domestic violence or sexual abuse. The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits denying rentals based on membership in a protected class.
- Disability Discrimination: The ADA requires “reasonable accommodation" in employment, education, housing, transportation, and access. Pregnancy discrimination, such as failing to allow time for breast milk pumping, falls under disability discrimination. Employers and workers must cooperate to reach reasonable accommodations for the worker's medical condition.
- Religious Discrimination: The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right to free exercise of religion. Both parties must work on reasonable accommodation before filing a lawsuit.
- Financial Discrimination: The Equal Opportunity Credit Act (EOCA) prevents credit agencies from asking about your protected-class status during financial transactions. Banks cannot deny loans or mortgages because of your race, religion, national origin, or gender.
- Sexual harassment: Sexual harassment is most often seen in employment discrimination cases, but it happens in all settings and among all genders. Any unwanted sexual behavior can be harassment. Sexual harassment includes gender identity and gender discrimination.
Anti-discrimination laws do not cover all adverse employment actions. For instance, layoffs are not usually grounds for a wrongful termination suit. You would have to show the layoffs only affected certain races or genders.
Finding a Discrimination Attorney
Professional legal advice is important when dealing with discrimination law. If you believe you have grounds for a discrimination lawsuit, consult a discrimination attorney immediately. The requirements for filing a discrimination case are much different than for an ordinary civil suit.
During your initial consultation, your attorney can explain any restrictions under the various federal and state laws. For instance, you must file an EEOC complaint to file an employment law case. The employer must know of discriminatory practices or hostile work environments. Your attorney can help you with these steps if you need to complete them.
Your attorney should be knowledgeable in the subspecialties of disability law. If you need assistance with medical leave, you need a disability attorney, rather than a housing attorney. Most attorney referral services can give you options based on your particular needs.
Related Practice Areas
Equal rights are intended to be for everyone. If you feel as if you've suffered race discrimination, or any other kind of discrimination for that matter, you have been violated and deserve remedy. Know your rights and call an attorney if you believe you have suffered discrimination. You deserve protection from unfair and unequal treatment in your life, and a legal professional with legal expertise is the ally you need in your corner.