Los Angeles Civil Rights Lawyer
California and federal law protect your civil rights from employers or government agencies. Mathew & George have defended employee rights for over two decades. Civil rights protections are a key part of the law, but they only work if enforced. If an employer has violated your rights, the California employee lawyers at Mathew & George can help. We can evaluate your case and offer our legal representation during a lawsuit.
What Does A Civil Rights Lawyer Do?
A civil rights attorney focuses on cases or claims that relate to human equality and our rights as citizens. Their job is to protect the rights of all citizens who have been unlawfully discriminated based off their race, cultural background, identity and beliefs. An experienced civil rights lawyer brings forth lawsuits and argues cases that relate to everything covered by the Bill of Rights, the 13th and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and all laws forbidding general discrimination.
Upholding the Civil Rights Act Throughout California
President Lyndon Johnson enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in an effort to end segregation and provide every American citizen with an equal measure of political and social freedom. This act eliminated unequal voting rights and outlawed racial segregation in schools and businesses. Your civil rights protect your personal liberties and prevent discrimination. When they are violated, you should make every effort to retain the services of a reliable Los Angeles civil rights attorney who can help you build and navigate a case.
California Civil Rights Legislation
- The Unruh Civil Rights Act. This law applies to all business in the state of California. Enacted in 1959, it outlaws discrimination based on race, sex, color, religion, age, disability, and other protected factors.
- The Bane Act. The Bane Act provides protection against threats or intimidation in relation to interfering with civil rights. This law is often applied when looking at hate crimes. It provides civil and criminal penalties for perpetrators.
- The Ralph Civil Rights Act. Similar to the Bane Act, this legislation protects Californians from hate violence or threats. It offers damages for victims and penalties for offenders.
Types of Civil Rights Violations in California
In the United States, it is illegal to take any official or business-related action on the basis of another person’s race, sex, disability, or other factor of his or her personal identity. Racial profiling is a common complaint against law enforcement and is a form of discrimination. Law enforcement must witness some sort of crime to stop or detain an individual. It is illegal to base these decisions on a person’s physical appearance. If you believe you’ve been discriminated against, contact a Los Angeles discrimination lawyer as soon as possible.
Invasion of Privacy
Law enforcement must abide by the United States Constitution and the Civil Rights Act. A commonly cited violation is invasion of privacy, or unlawful search and seizure. Invasion of privacy can take many forms:
- In order for law enforcement to enter a residence, search a person for contraband, or detain a suspect, they must have probable cause. This means a reasonable suspicion of crime taking place or having taken place. Additionally, in almost every situation involving search and seizure, the official entity must have a legal warrant. There are some cases in which a warrant may not be necessary. If the law enforcement official can readily see illegal activity happening in plain view, no warrant is required.
- “Intrusion of solitude,” or interrupting a person’s private affairs when they would reasonably expect solitude is another invasion of privacy. This includes things like spying through another person’s window or making repeated phone calls after the recipient has asked for the calls to stop.
- Public disclosure of personal information. The First Amendment grants us the right to free speech, but that does not mean legal action cannot be taken for the release of an individual’s personal information of no public concern. “False light” is a term often used in these cases, and refers to any time personal information is released to the public with the intent of distorting the public’s view of the individual. Unlike defamation cases, the truthfulness of the facts in question is not a legitimate defense – the information must be reasonably suitable for public dissemination.
- Identity theft, or appropriate of name or likeness, is another invasion of privacy. This occurs when one party uses another’s identity for personal gain without the latter’s consent.
Freedom of Speech
We have the right to express ourselves without governmental constraint under the First Amendment. Government entities may also not attempt to regulate the content of our speech. There are some exceptions, such as threats of violence, obscenity, advocating for illegal activity, and certain forms of commercial speech. American businesses must accurately market their services and products and may not make exaggerated or false claims about their wares.
Right to Work
Right-to-work laws allow non-union workers to find and keep secure employment. They also prohibit employers and unions from denying a job applicant a position based on union status. As of today, California does not have right-to-work laws. The closest law California might have had to “right to work” was the Paycheck Protection Initiative, but this law never passed. Lack of right-to-work laws, however, do not mean an employer can threaten an employee who tries to join or form a union, nor can an employer punish those who do.
Employer Privacy Rights in California
As an employee, you might not know where your rights end and those of your employer begin. The company you work for has certain rights to know what its employees are doing – to an extent. Understanding the extent and limitations of your privacy while at work can help you identify when an employer or other party has overstepped their boundaries. Here’s a basic overview of employer privacy rights in the state of California:
- Background checks. When applying for a job, an employer has the right to conduct a background check. These checks can be as extensive as the employer wishes, looking into criminal history, previous employment, educational records, job references, driving records, and even medical records. It is not an infringement upon privacy rights to require a background check prior to employment.
- Privacy at work. Employers in California can legally monitor workplace communications. This includes phone calls, emails, and computer usage related to business. It is within an employer’s right to monitor employees through video, phone call, and electronic surveillance. If an employer takes monitoring too far, however, it can be intrusive and against the law. Employees have the right to privacy in bathrooms, for example.
- Workplace policies. What an employer can and cannot do depends in large part to the manuals and handbooks in the workplace. If an employee handbook lists all the ways the company will monitor employees, and an employee agrees to these terms and takes the job, the employee might give up the right to bring a civil rights claim against the employer in many situations.
It is up to an employer to consistently maintain policies to give employees accurate expectations of privacy. If an employer is inconsistent with how it monitors employees, employees’ reasonable expectation of privacy might change – exposing the employer to potential lawsuits.
Failure to Identify and Correct Civil Rights Violations
Before you can take your employer to court for civil rights violations, you must give your employer the opportunity to remedy the situation. California’s workplace laws tell employees to first report violations, discrimination, or harassment to the employer. It is only after the employee ignores the complaint and fails to correct the infraction that an employee can take the next step: filing an official complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Find out whether you have the right to pursue damages after a civil rights infringement with help from Mathew & George.
Employer Responsibilities After a Civil Rights Violation Complaint
Civil rights violations in the workplace will eventually invoke the jurisdiction of the federal government. Before wronged employees can file civil lawsuits against employers in a California court of law, they must first file government claims with a state or federal agency. The EEOC is the most common agency to hear these complaints.
However, the EEOC should not necessarily be the first step in reporting a civil rights violation. Upon filing with the EEOC, the agency will ask if the employee first reported the wrongdoing to the right party at the place of employment, such as a human resources department representative. The EEOC will generally request that the employee give the employer the opportunity to correct the violation before filing an official complaint. When an employer fails to identify and refuses to correct violations, an employee may have the right to go a step further in the legal system.
All employers in California are under legal obligation to prevent, stop, and address discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Employers must have processes in place to give employees an outlet if they are suffering civil rights violations. Employers who receive internal complaints must take the matter seriously, investigating the issue and acting to remedy the problem as necessary. If your employer ignored your claim and did not provide you with a safe and healthy work environment, you have the right to file with the EEOC, and, potentially, a lawsuit.
Contact Our Civil Rights Lawyers
Civil rights violations are serious and require immediate legal action. These cases often draw heavily upon the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, so if you believe your rights have been violated in the workplace, reach out to an experienced Los Angeles employment attorney. If you have suffered discrimination, sexual harassment, or wrongful termination, contact the team of civil rights lawyers at Mathew & George for a free consultation about your case.