The Civil Rights Act of 1964
Southern States, however, took advantage of loopholes in the wording of the Reconstruction Era Amendments to establish Jim Crow Laws, which segregated black people from white people. These laws were also created to limit voting rights through the use of poll taxes and literacy tests.
These issues were taken up and resolved, on the federal level, during the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th Century, resulting in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Soon after, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed, which sought to enforce the full intent of the 15th Amendment by abolishing literacy tests, poll taxes, and other voter suppression measures.
In the interim, during the period between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Suffrage Movement — which had formally begun in 1848 at Seneca Falls, New York — succeeded with the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, providing women with the right to vote.
Laws Following the Civil Rights Act
Protections granted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act have been vigorously expanded since its 1964 passage. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination in employment, transportation, government, public accommodations, and telecommunications based on disability. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects workers who are 40 years of age or older from discrimination based on their age.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) grants 12 weeks of unpaid leave to qualified employees so that they can care for themselves or their loved ones during an illness or the birth/adoption of a child. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) protects female employees who are, or intend to become, pregnant from discrimination at work. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) prohibits employers from using one’s genetic history in employment decisions.
Common Civil Rights Violations
Some of the more common civil rights violations that warrant immediate attention and action include:
- Excessive Use of Force - This obviously applies to extreme cases like those mentioned above, but even on a less violent basis, inappropriate and excessive force is often applied during policing actions. (See Section 1983 below as well.)
- Unreasonable Search and Seizure - Critics have cited the search into Breonna Taylor’s apartment as one such egregious example of conduct prohibited by the Bill of Rights’ 4th Amendment.
- Wrongful Arrest - The police arrest the wrong suspect and put you through a legal nightmare. What are your options for recourse?
- Due Process Violation - Did the arresting officer read you your Miranda Rights to remain silent? Did they have cause for pulling you over for a breathalyzer test? Were you charged properly and offered legal counsel?
- Equal Protection Violation - This goes all the way back to 1870 and the 15th Amendment. Are you being afforded your rights under the Bill of Rights?
- First Amendment Violation - Freedom of speech, but remember free speech is protected only in public spheres. You can’t, for instance, yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater when there is no fire. At work, free speech is limited to conditions of employment and other work-related issues under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
- Employment Discrimination - Many, many laws govern how employees are to be treated at work, starting with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Kentucky State Civil Rights Laws
Kentucky Revised Statutes 344.010 provides broad civil rights protections to residents of the state with the establishment of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. The commission fields complaints of civil rights violations but places a 180-day statute of limitations for filing such complaints.
With the broad intersection of state and federal laws governing civil rights, it is always best to seek the counsel and guidance of a knowledgeable and experienced attorney when seeking to lodge a complaint.
Section 1983 Actions
What is called a Section 1983 Lawsuit can involve the use of excessive force by police, as mentioned above. More broadly, Section 1983 of the U.S. Code protects citizens against civil rights violations by anyone who is acting “under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia.” The phrase itself comes from the Civil Rights Act of 1871.
If you feel your rights have been violated by anyone acting in an official capacity, consult with a civil rights attorney immediately. Other statutes and protections may be involved as well.