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Hawaii Civil Rights Laws

We may not think of the Hawaiian Islands as the forefront of the civil rights movement, but “civil rights” doesn’t just refer to Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s. The same legal principles that were used against segregation then are being used to support fair housing laws and gay marriage today.

So what do Aloha State civil rights statutes cover, and whom do they protect? And how do federal civil rights laws come into play? This is a quick introduction to civil rights laws in Hawaii.

Civil Rights Laws in Hawaii

State civil rights laws protect our collective rights to receive fair and equal treatment under the law. The majority of our civil rights protections come from the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, but state civil rights laws can provide additional protections from discrimination. Hawaii’s civil rights statutes are listed below.

Code Section

Hawaii Revised Statutes 378-1, et seq. (Employment);

Hawaii Revised Statutes 515-1, et seq. (Housing);

Hawaii Revised Statutes 489-1, et seq. (Public Accommodations)


Employment, Housing, Public Accommodations: Civil Rights Commission

Administrative Preemption


Private Action Permitted?

Employment: No;

Housing: Yes, with exceptions;

Public Accommodations: Yes

Attorney Fees Recoverable by Plaintiff?

Employment: Yes;

Housing: Yes;

Public Accommodations: Yes

Statute of Limitations

Employment: 90 days;

Housing: 1 yr.;

Public Accommodations: Not specified

Filing Civil Rights Claims

The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission works to eliminate cases of discrimination and enforces the state’s civil rights laws, generally by filing civil lawsuits on behalf of citizens. A state civil rights office can handle cases of discrimination in housing, employment, and places of public accommodation, among others, and advise you of the options and requirements of filing a civil rights claim.

Because of the overlap between state and federal civil rights statutes and the restrictions on which courts can hear a civil rights lawsuit, civil rights claims can be complicated processes. The state civil rights office is a valuable resource if you believe your civil rights have been violated.

Related Resources for Civil Rights Laws in Hawaii

Understanding state and federal civil rights laws and determining if you are protected can be difficult. You can consult with an experienced Hawaii civil rights attorney in your area if you would like legal assistance with a civil rights matter. And FindLaw’s section on Civil Rights can provide you with further reading and resources on this topic.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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