Civil Rights Laws
Civil rights are freedoms and privileges provided by our government. Since the signing of the Constitution, America’s founders recognized a person’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Subsequently, these rights have been expanded to ensure that people are not discriminated against because of attributes like age, religion, race, and gender. Civil rights laws also protect against unduly intrusive conduct by the government and from arbitrary state actions which would deprive people of their lives, property or liberty without affording them due process of law.
Despite laws enacted to protect peoples rights, civil rights violations still occur every day. If your civil rights were violated it is important to have a civil rights lawyer on your side.
Philadelphia Civil Rights Lawyer
The Wieand Law Firm is a strong civil rights advocate and proudly represents victims in a variety of areas such as employment discrimination and police brutality. Whether your claim is against the government or a large corporation, you need an attorney to fight aggressively on your behalf. Hire a seasoned Philadelphia trial lawyer at the Wieand Law Firm to get justice if your civil rights have been violated.
The Wieand Law Firm, based in Philadelphia, serves clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Some common types of civil rights claims we handle are discussed in detail below.
Police officers are granted a wide range of powers to enforce the law. However, police officers are required to use their authority responsibly and within the limits of the law. Most police officers carry out their duties with great professionalism and care. Unfortunately, there are times when police officers abuse their law enforcement powers and violate a person’s rights.
The United States has enacted civil rights laws to protect its citizens from abuse by the government. If you were seriously hurt, or a family member was killed, as a result of police misconduct or use of excessive force, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. Attorney Wieand is a Philadelphia civil rights attorney who is not afraid to stand up to abusive police officers and hold them accountable for their actions in court.
Section 1983 Civil Rights Claims
A §1983 claim is a primary way a person can file a claim against a state actor for violation of their civil rights. §1983 provides:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.
Under section 1983, government officials and employees may be sued if they violate your civil rights while acting under color of law. The US Supreme Court has defined action taken “under color of law” as the misuse of power, possessed by virtue of state law and made possible only because the wrongdoer is clothed with the authority of state law. Therefore, police officers acting in the line of duty can be sued for excessive force or other violations of a citizen’s constitutional rights.
For a plaintiff to prevail in a §1983 claim he/she must prove that: a person subjected the plaintiff to conduct that occurred under color of state law, and this conduct deprived the plaintiff of rights, privileges, or immunities guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution or federal law. In general, under the color of state law means a state action of agents “clothed with the authority of state law.”
A plaintiff that prevails in a §1983 claim can be awarded nominal damages (in cases involving purely a violation of rights), actual damages caused the civil rights violation and sometimes punitive damages if the conduct is intentional or reckless. Section 1983 litigation has a fee-shifting provision which entitles the prevailing party to reasonable attorneys’ fees. This advantage allows plaintiff’s attorneys to pursue cases which otherwise would be cost-prohibitive under the typical contingent basis fee arrangement.
A §1983 action can be brought in either state or federal court. And unlike many claims for employment discrimination, a claimant does not need to file a charge with the EEOC before filing a lawsuit.
It is illegal for an employer in the United States to discriminate based on qualities such as:
- National origin,
- Sex, or
Despite laws prohibiting this conduct employment discrimination is prevalent in the United States. This includes both discriminations by an employer against current employees and job applicants. Fortunately, if you are the victim of employment discrimination you have the right to bring a claim against your employer for damages incurred.
Usually, before filing an employment discrimination lawsuit you must file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a state agency like the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). Following this, the agency will issue a “Notice of Right to Sue” upon completion of the investigation. However, you can request a Notice of Right to Sue after 180 days and it will sometimes be issued before if the EEOC investigation cannot be completed in that time. Upon receiving a Notice of Right to Sue you can file a lawsuit for claims permitted under the law. In addition, it should be noted that some discrimination claims, such as lawsuits under the Equal Pay Act and age discrimination lawsuits do not require notice to the EEOC.
In employment discrimination lawsuits an employee may recover compensation for compensatory and punitive damages. However, there are limits to the compensation that a person can recover which vary on the size of the employer. In cases involving age or sex discrimination, a prevailing claimant can recover “liquidated damages” equal to the amount of back pay awarded to the victims.
In addition to the above-described remedies, the victim can recover attorney’s fees, expert witness fees, and court costs. If you believe you were the victim of employment discrimination you should always consult an experienced attorney as soon as possible who can help protect your legal rights.
What You Can Do if You are a Victim of Civil Rights Violations
Were your civil rights were violated? Don’t be a victim twice. Contact the Wieand Law Firm for a free legal consultation at (215) 666-7777.
Disclaimer: This page does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice. It is for informational purposes only. This information may not be the current law or may contain errors. You should always consult with an attorney if you have specific legal questions or concerns.
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