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Rhode Island Civil Rights Laws

What we refer to as civil rights are the rights of individuals to be treated and protected equally under the laws of a given jurisdiction (typically federal or state). In other words, civil rights are meant to protect individuals from discrimination or other types of unfair treatment due to skin color or some other arbitrary category. Federal civil rights protections are extended to the states, such as the ban on gender discrimination in the workplace, but some states offer additional protections. Laws that protect civil rights focus on various categories and characteristics that have been marginalized, such as women, the disabled, and minorities. These categories are referred to as protected classes.

For instance, a Mexican-American job applicant is the most qualified candidate but is told he may not "fit in" and is not even given a second interview. It appears that this job applicant has been discriminated against (although this particular example, and similar cases, are difficult to prove). State and federal civil rights protections apply to the areas of housing, public accommodation, and employment.

Civil Rights Laws in Rhode Island at a Glance

Rhode Island has the same protections provided by federal law (as is required), but also prohibits discrimination against LGBT individuals. This holds true even in cases where an individual is merely "perceived" to fit the LGBT profile and discriminated against because of this false perception. Contact the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights to report a violation of state law.

Additional details about Rhode Island's civil rights laws are listed in the following table. See FindLaw's Discrimination section for more articles and resources.

Code Section 34-37-1, et seq. (Housing); 28-5-1, et seq. (Employment); 42-87-1, et seq. (Handicapped)
Agency Handicapped, Housing: Commission for Human Rights; Employment: Commission Against Discrimination
Administrative Preemption Handicapped, Housing: No; Employment: Yes
Private Action Permitted? Yes
Attorney Fees Recoverable by Plaintiff? Yes
Statute of Limitations Housing: 1 yr./agency, 2 yrs./private action; Employment: 1 yr.; Handicapped: Not specified


Note: State laws may change at any time through the actions of higher courts, the enactment of newly signed legislation, and other means. While we strive to ensure the accuracy of these pages, you may also want to contact a Rhode Island employment law attorney or civil rights attorney, or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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