What are Civil Rights?

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The Constitution guarantees Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to everyone

Civil rights are guarantees of equal social opportunities and protection under the law, regardless of race, gender, religion, or other characteristics. Examples are the rights to be free from excessive force by the police, to a fair trial, to government services, and to a public education.

Civil rights are an expansive and significant set of rights that are designed to protect individuals from unfair treatment; they are the rights of individuals to receive equal treatment (and to be free from unfair treatment or discrimination) in a number of settings -- including education, employment, housing, public accommodations, and more -- and based on certain legally-protected characteristics.

Examples of Civil Rights Violations

Discrimination in the Workplace

Harassment or mistreatment by managers, co-workers, or others in your workplace, because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, disability, age (age 40 or older), or genetic information.

Police brutality & Excessive Force

Police brutality is the excessive and unwarranted use of force by law enforcement. It is an extreme form of police misconduct or violence and is a civil rights violation. It also refers to a situation where officers exercise undue or excessive force against a person.

Excessive force refers to force in excess of what a police officer reasonably believes is necessary. A police officer may be held liable for using excessive force in an arrest, an investigatory stop, or other seizures. California recently enacted a law which requires police officers to intervene if they witness excessive force by fellow officers.

Wage violations

“Theft of wages” means “the intentional deprivation of wages, as defined in Section 200 of the Labor Code, gratuities, as defined in Section 350 of the Labor Code, benefits, or other compensation, by unlawful means, with the knowledge that the wages, gratuities, benefits, or other compensation is due to the employee under the law.” On September 27, 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom made intentional wage theft a jailable offense. 

Sexual assault

Sexual assault is a legal term used to describe a range of sexual offense, from showing indecent images to another person, to kissing or touching them, as well as penetration of the person's body with a body part or object.

If someone does something sexual that makes you feel uncomfortable; or touches your body when you do not want them to, it may be a sexual assault. ‘Sexual assault' is often called other names like: sexual abuse, rape, indecent behavior, sexual molestation, incest, child sexual abuse, child sexual assault, touching, ‘feeling up', and sexual harassment.

Hate crimes


The term "hate" can be misleading. When used in a hate crime law, the word "hate" does not mean rage, anger, or general dislike. In this context “hate” means bias against people or groups with specific characteristics that are defined by the law.

At the federal level, hate crime laws include crimes committed on the basis of the victim's perceived or actual race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.

Most state hate crime laws include crimes committed on the basis of race, color, and religion; many also include crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and disability.


The "crime" in hate crime is often a violent crime, such as assault, murder, arson, vandalism, or threats to commit such crimes. It may also cover conspiring or asking another person to commit such crimes, even if the crime was never carried out.

Violations of Labor Rights

Employee rights are put into place by the federal government to protect employees. States also have labor regulations that employers must follow. Common rights violations are discrimination, wage miscalculations, sexual harassment, whistleblowing, and employee/independent contractor misclassification. 

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the infliction of "cruel and unusual punishments." Nearly every state constitution also has its own prohibition against such penalties.

The cruel and unusual punishment clause measures a particular punishment against society's prohibition against inhumane treatment. It prevents the government from imposing a penalty that is either barbaric or far too severe for the crime committed. 

The U.S. Supreme Court has also held that the Eighth Amendment provides that pre-trial and sentenced inmates are guaranteed the right to adequate medical and mental health treatment while in U.S. custody. 

Violations in Searches and Seizures

The Constitution, through the Fourth Amendment, protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. The Fourth Amendment, however, is not a guarantee against all searches and seizures, but only those that are deemed unreasonable under the law.

Human trafficking

Human Trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit. It can happen in any community and victims can be any age, race, gender, or nationality. Traffickers might use violence, manipulation, or false promises of well-paying jobs or romantic relationships to lure victims into trafficking situations.

Whistleblower cases

The Whistleblower Protection Act forbids every state official and employee from retaliating or attempting to retaliate against any employee or applicant for employment who reports an improper activity. Retaliation includes intimidation, the denial of appointment or promotion, a threat of adverse action, a poor performance evaluation, involuntary transfer, or any form of disciplinary action.

Reach Out To Our Firm Today If You Need Help Taking Legal Action

If you're not sure what your next step should be, then speak with an employment law attorney at Szeto-Wong Law. In some instances an attorney does not need to be involved, but, if you are unsure, have your questions answered by an experienced, licensed legal professional.

At Szeto-Wong Law, we have more a decade of experience fighting for the rights of individuals who have been mistreated, wronged, or exploited. Our legal professionals are dedicated to providing our clients the closure and compensation they deserve.

Related Practice Areas

  • Civil Rights News
  • Wrongful Death Claims
  • Workers' Rights Information

1. What are examples of civil rights violations?

Civil rights violations include discrimination in the workplace, police brutality, wage theft, sexual assault, hate crimes, violations of labor rights, cruel and unusual punishment, illegal searches and seizures, human trafficking, and retaliation against whistleblowers.

2. What are Civil Rights and why are they important?

Civil Rights encompass the guarantees of equal social opportunities and protection under the law, regardless of race, gender, religion, or other characteristics. These rights ensure individuals are treated fairly and equally in various settings such as education, employment, housing, and public accommodations. Protecting civil rights is essential for promoting justice, equality, and freedom for all members of society.

3. How does Szeto-Wong Law assist individuals with Civil Rights issues?

At Szeto-Wong Law, we specialize in advocating for individuals who have experienced Civil Rights violations. Our experienced attorneys provide guidance and representation to clients facing discrimination, harassment, abuse, or exploitation. We work tirelessly to protect our clients' rights and seek justice on their behalf. Contact us today to discuss your case and explore your legal options.

4. What types of cases fall under Civil Rights law?

Civil Rights law covers a broad range of cases, including but not limited to discrimination, harassment, police misconduct, wrongful death claims, violations of labor rights, whistleblower cases, and more. These cases aim to address injustices and ensure that individuals are treated fairly and equitably under the law.

5. Why is it important to seek legal assistance for Civil Rights issues?

Seeking legal assistance for Civil Rights issues is crucial for several reasons. An experienced attorney can provide guidance on navigating complex legal processes, advocate for your rights, and help you seek justice and compensation for any harm or injustice you have experienced. Additionally, legal representation can empower individuals to hold perpetrators accountable and create positive change in their communities. If you believe your Civil Rights have been violated, don't hesitate to reach out to a qualified attorney for assistance.

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