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Civil Rights and Human Rights

Civil Rights protect individuals from unwarranted government action, without discrimination or repression. If that right is interfered with by another person or agency (including the government), it gives rise to an action for injury. Civil rights include freedom of speech, press, and assembly; the right to vote; freedom from involuntary servitude; and the right to equality in public places. Human rights are international norms that help to protect everyone from severe political, legal, and social abuses. Examples of human rights are the right to freedom of religion, the right to a fair trial when charged with a crime, the right not to be tortured, and the right to engage in political activity.

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Civil Rights

Civil Rights Civil rights protect citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures and from cruel and unusual punishments. Statutes have been enacted to prevent discrimination based on a person's race, sex, religion, age, previous condition of servitude, physical limitation, national origin, and in some instances sexual preference. Civil Rights are also referred to as Legal Rights or statutory rights. They are interpreted by some form of legislature and are contingent upon local laws, customs, or beliefs.

Civil Rights may include:
  • Protection from private (non-government) discrimination (based on gender, religion, race, sexual orientation, etc.)
  • Ensuring peoples' physical integrity and safety and to make sure people were not forced into labor.
  • Equal access to health care, education, culture, etc.

Human Rights

Equal OpportunityHuman rights are rights and freedoms basic to life and liberty. Human rights laws entitle people to equal opportunity employment and the right to work free of discrimination and harassment. Human rights include freedom of expression, equality under the law, the right to food, the right to work and the right to education. Human rights uphold the dignity and worth of the human person, and equal rights between men and women.

How to File a Civil Rights Claim

For certain types of alleged civil rights violations, you must file a claim or complaint with a federal or state agency before you file any private lawsuit in court, and these agencies typically set time limits to file a claim. For instance, if your claim involves any type of employment discrimination, you must file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days of the alleged offense and before filing a private lawsuit. An experienced civil rights attorney can advise you on whether filing a government claim is necessary, depending upon your case.

The United States Commission on Civil Rights offers an online publication that details information on how, when, and where to file a complaint. It includes additional information for special circumstances where a person might lack citizenship, be a Native American, be a member of the military, or be institutionalized. It also lists contact information for federal agency regional, district, and local civil rights offices and selected private organizations.

Civil rights lawyers can help you with cases such as fair housing, equal credit, police misconduct, disability rights, harassment, religious freedom, hate crimes and immigration. Human rights lawyers will evaluate cases such as those involving torture and abuse, and refugee claims.

Civil Lawsuits

In Civil Lawsuits, victims of civil rights violations bring a case against the offender or a third party for causing physical or emotional injuries. Broadly speaking, a civil lawsuit is a claim brought when a plaintiff seeks compensation for a wrongdoing committed by another party—the defendant. If defendants are found guilty in civil lawsuits, they are typically required to pay restitution to the aggrieved plaintiff for damages they have suffered. Civil lawsuits, including personal injury lawsuits, differ from criminal lawsuits in that they usually involve private disputes between persons or organizations, and the plaintiff is responsible for the cost of litigation. (Criminal cases deal with acts considered to be harmful to society as a whole.) As well, the plaintiff must prove their version of the facts is "more than likely" to be true in civil lawsuits.

Most civil law attorneys handle victim cases on a contingency basis, meaning that their fees are deducted from the final award. In civil lawsuits, the attorney directly represents the victim's interests, which means that the victim has greater control in case decision-making than in a criminal prosecution.

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If you or a loved one has a civil rights or human rights legal issue, please click the link below to send your complaint to a lawyer who will evaluate your claim at no cost or obligation.

Updated on Nov-24-10

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