GETTING UNCLE SAM TO ENFORCE YOUR CIVIL RIGHTS
There are many federal laws against discrimination. They were passed to protect people who, because of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability, are denied their rights.
Discrimination might occur when an individual attempts to vote; rent or buy a home; use a public facility; obtain a job, an education, or a bank loan; or do many other things.
Discrimination is illegal when an individual is denied an opportunity or a service based on:
race, which is generally understood to be membership in a racial group. Depending on which law is involved, membership in an ethnic group can also constitute race;
color, which refers to a personís actual skin shade, and may constitute a separate discrimination factor regardless of the personís race;
sex, which refers to gender;
religion, which refers to a personís religious beliefs and practices, or lack thereof, or a personís membership in a religious group;
national origin, which refers to an individualís country of origin, the origin of an individualís ancestors, or the physical, cultural, or linguistic characteristics of a particular nationality. This includes characteristics such as last name, accent, and cultural heritage;
age, which refers to persons aged 40 or over; or
disability, which refers to physical or mental impairments that substantially limit one or more major life activities of an individual.
If you believe that you have been discriminated against and want to file a complaint with the federal government, this publication is intended to help you.
This publication will help you review your rights and guide you through the initial steps of filing a discrimination complaint; it will not inform you of all the steps involved in successfully pursuing the complaint after you have filed it. If you desire a detailed description of the overall process beyond the initial steps, further information can be obtained by contacting the federal, state, and local officials or one or more of the organizations listed in this publication.
How do you prepare a complaint? Where do you send it?
Before you file a discrimination complaint, you should seek more information from:
trained legal counsel;
federal, state, and local officials; and/or
public service organizations referenced in this publication.
States, counties, and municipalities also have laws against discrimination, which sometimes provide different protection or relief. If they have laws that apply to your complaint, you may file with them instead of, or in addition to, filing with the federal government. The federal government has arrangements with some state and local governments to refer certain kinds of complaints to these localities for processing.
Among the federal laws that require people to be treated equally are the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1991, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Executive Order 11,246 (1965), as amended by Executive Order 11,375 (1967), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Fair Housing Act of 1968, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, the Equal Educational Opportunity Act of 1974, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act of 1975,the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Voting Rights Language Assistance Act of 1992, and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.
Many federal agencies are responsible for enforcing these laws and the regulations to implement them. Some agencies require individuals to complete a complaint form before they act against an individual or organization that violates peopleís rights. Because laws and regulations frequently require that complaints be filed within certain time limits, it is important to file immediately after the discriminatory act occurs. While this publication provides telephone numbers, complainants are strongly encouraged to submit a written complaint, attaching copies of all pertinent information. At some point in the process, the agency most probably will require written documentation.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) has no power to enforce laws and, hence, cannot resolve individual complaints of discrimination. However, after reading this publication, if you are still uncertain what agency you should contact to file a complaint of discrimination, you may contact the Commission at the following address and we can assist you by referring your matter to the appropriate civil rights enforcement agency:
U.S. Commission on
Office of Civil Rights Evaluation
624 Ninth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20425
TTY: (202) 376-8116
Fax: (202) 376-7754
You may also contact the appropriate USCCR regional office.