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Civil rights have been a cornerstone of life in the United States since the nation's founders wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Over the years civil rights laws have been written to insure the priciples outlined by our founding fathers. These civil rights acts are designed to protect particular groups against discrimination and to ensure that they have the same rights as all other citizens. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made racial segregation illegal and established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to guaranty fair employment practices. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also ensures that no one will be discriminated against based on their color, sex, age, nation of origin or religion.

Here is a brief summary of the history and evolution of civil rights legislation in the United States:

  • Declaration of Independence – 1776, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
  • Civil Rights Act of 1866 – "all persons shall have the same make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws..."
  • 14th Amendment of 1868 – "All persons born or naturalized in the US...are citizens...nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person...the equal protection of the laws."
  • 19th Amendment in 1920 – "The rights of vote shall not be denied or abridged...on account of sex."
  • Equal Pay Act of 1963 – prohibits sex-based pay differentials on jobs.
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964 –
    • Title VI prohibits public access discrimination, leading to school desegregation.
    • Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, or religion.
    • Title VIII is the original "federal fair housing law,"  (amended in 1988). 
  • Executive Order 11246 – 1965 Specifies affirmative action requirements of government contractors and subcontractors. 
  • ADEA – 1967 forbids age discrimination for 40-65 year olds, (amendement in 1986 – removed the 65 year old age limit).
  • Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 – orders accessibility for disabled in buildings and facilities financed with federal funds.
  • Section 504 of the Rehab Act of 1973 – prohibits federal contractors or subcontractors from employment discrimination on the basis of disability.
  • Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 – requires disabled access for multi-family housing (required for first occupancy after March 13, 1991).
  • Air Carriers Access Act of 1989 – requires access for disabled individuals in construction of terminal facilities owned or operated by an air carrier.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – 1990
  • Title I prohibits disability discrimination by employers. 
  • Titles II and III require disability access in all public spaces and businesses (first occupancy after January 26, 1993 or for occupancy for alterations, and all state and local government buildings, after January 26, 1992).
  • Civil Rights Act of 1991 – adds provisions to Title VII protections – including right to jury trial.

When activities take place to limit the rights of any person on the basis of gender, religion, age, race, color, or disability, a civil rights violation has occurred. It is critical to have a competent civil rights attorney advocating for you if you have been the victim of a civil rights violation. 

If you believe that you have had your civil rights violated, contact the Law Offices of Steven L. Skahn.