Civil Rights

A person's inalienable civil rights include their freedom of speech and religion, protection from discrimination for any reason, and their entitlement to fairness within the legal system. Both at a federal and state level, civil rights protections have evolved into a framework through which every person can pursue their dreams. Yet all too often individual freedoms and protections are overridden; whether by a law enforcement agency, employer, or an institutional representative.

The Civil Rights Act of 1871 which includes 42 U.S.C. § § 1981, 1983, and 1985 was passed to enforce the rights guaranteed by the Civil Rights Amendments, the 13th, 14th, and 15th. These laws provide civil remedies to protect a host of civil rights including:

• Freedom of Speech
• Freedom of Religion
• Freedom from Unreasonable Search and Seizure
• Freedom of the Press
• Equal Protection of the Laws
• Protection against Race Discrimination in the Formation and Performance of Contracts

It is illegal to discriminate in hiring, promotions, termination, or other aspects of employment on the basis of a person’s race, gender, national origin, religion, disability, or age, or to retaliate against an individual for opposing such practices, or consulting an attorney or any agency that fights discrimination such as the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In addition, various states, counties, and cities, also outlaw employment discrimination and wrongful termination on the basis of other classifications such as: marital status, military service, parental status, etc.

There are many laws that address employment discrimination and wrongful termination including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the American Disabilities Act (ADA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and others, as well as many state and local laws including for example the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. Some of these laws require that the employer have at least a certain number of employees; and the total number of employees can effect the amount of money that can be recovered for discrimination or wrongful termination. Moreover, these laws have different statutes of limitation.

In addition to defending against workplace discrimination, sex discrimination, sexual harassment, age and race discrimination and protecting LGBT civil rights, the Giampolo Law Group has experience fighting against civil rights violations at the hands of law enforcement. Civil rights violations perpetrated by law enforcement tend to include excessive force, denial of due process, denial of medical attention, improper search and seizure and false imprisonment.

Excessive Force
A police officer may only use that force reasonably necessary to accomplish that which s/he is authorized to do. Therefore, while a police officer may handcuff a suspect under arrest, he might still violate the person's constitutional rights if he were, for example, to point a weapon at an unarmed and handcuffed individual. Typically, excessive force claims which find their way into the newspapers involve the use of weapons or the unnecessary beating of individuals. However, most claims are not that clear cut and will turn on the circumstances of the use of the force, taking into account the goals of the officer and whether he was authorized to carry out those goals.

False Arrest
While an excessive force claim arises out of the question of what force is necessary for the officer to accomplish that which s/he is authorized to do, a false arrest claim goes to the question of what authority an officer has. An officer is authorized to detain individuals in two ways: 1) A reasonable suspicion or “Terry Stop”; and 2) A probable cause arrest. A Terry Stop - so called for the U.S. Supreme Court Case of Terry v. Ohio which approved the practice - is a brief stop made by an officer of an individual to ask questions. A Terry Stop may be made by the officer if s/he has a reasonable suspicion about an individual or reasonably suspects that individual might have information needed in the administration of justice. The officer may do a “pat down” search of the individual to assure himself that the individual is unarmed. In order to make an arrest and take an individual into custody, the officer must meet a greater standard, s/he must have probable cause to believe that this individual has committed a crime.

If you feel as though you’ve been wrongfully terminated or if your civil rights have been violated at the hands of your employer or law enforcement, consult GLG immediately.

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