Know when your civil rights have been violated
What are Civil Rights?
Under U.S. and New Mexico law, you have the right to be treated the same as anyone else. This means no one has the right to discriminate against you based on your race, gender, religion, disability or sexual partner preference. Civil Rights are different from Civil Liberties. Civil Liberties are also protected at a federal level, but they cover fundamental rights such as your right to free speech and privacy, etc. rather than assure that you are treated equally.
A Short History
To understand your civil rights in the United States, it helps to take a short tour through the history of federal laws that were enacted to protect those rights. Please keep in mind that the law is complicated and the following is a very simplified overview of several important Acts (many are not listed).
The Equal Pay Act became a federal law. Employers are required to pay all employees equally for equal work, regardless of whether the employees are male or female.
In 1964, the U.S. passed the Civil Rights Act which basically gives all U.S. citizens the right to be treated equally under the law regardless of race, color, religion, sex and national origin. All citizens are protected and able to be employed, enforce contracts, sue, give evidence, be punished, pay taxes, and more. Read more about Title VII of this act which specifically prohibits employment discrimination.
Recently, Title VII of this act has been in the news. In October of 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a memo stating that Title VII does not cover discrimination against transgender persons. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has taken the position that Title VII covers both sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
This act makes it illegal for an employer, union or a combination to discriminate against a potential employee or an existing employee when hiring or discharging that individual solely based on their age. It also makes it illegal for an employer to affect a person’s pension or benefits solely based on age.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, familial status, or disability.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects individuals from, solely for the reason of a disability, being discriminated against when participating in or benefitting from any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
The Age Discrimination Act protects individuals of all ages who wish to participate in or benefit from federally funded programs such as educational programs, health care services, housing programs, food stamps, welfare and rehabilitation programs. Certain exemptions were included in the act.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects persons with disabilities from discrimination in employment, education, and access to public accommodations.
Landmark Court Cases
In addition, the United States Supreme Court decided many important cases over the last 75 years that have determined how laws would be established across our entire country. A few of these cases decided that racial segregation was unlawful, prohibiting interracial marriages is unlawful and that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states.
Your Civil Rights in New Mexico
New Mexico civil rights law reinforces federal law. The New Mexico Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, age, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, spousal affiliation, physical or mental disability, or serious medical condition (NM Stat. Sec. 28-1-1 et seq.).
The Color of Law
When it comes to your rights, it is also important to understand the Color of Law. Sometimes a person in authority appears to follow the law, but really they are using the law to cover an act that extends beyond their authority. Such acts include unwarranted aggression, abuse and the use of deadly force. This is known as acting under the “color of law.”
Persons who might act under the color of law include police officers, prison guards, law enforcement officials and care providers at public health facilities. According to the Department of Justice, It is a crime for any of these persons in authority “to willfully deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” Read more about deprivation of rights under the color of law.
Have Your Civil Rights Been Violated?
You have the right to be treated equally. If you feel you have been discriminated against, speaking with a competent, knowledgeable attorney can help you determine if your legal civil rights have been violated.
Erlinda Ocampo Johnson is an experienced criminal defense attorney with deep knowledge of state and federal law gained over a decade of serving in the State and Federal Prosecutor’s Offices. Her experience gives her insight into building your case. Contact the law firm of Erlinda Ocampo Johnson, LLC. Ms. Johnson will dedicate herself to your case, fight for you and build an aggressive, effective case on your behalf.