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Civil Rights Laws and Resources

Fundamental protections against unequal treatment on the basis of skin color, gender, religion, and other legally recognized attributes are known collectively as civil rights. These are considered essential protections in a free society. Various federal and state laws address different kinds of discrimination and related civil rights violations within different realms of daily life, such as education or employment. The Civil Rights Laws and Resources section contains the full text of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; a list of the different federal laws addressing civil rights; a directory of civil rights enforcement offices, both state and federal; and links to related resources.

Federal Civil Rights and Discrimination Laws at a Glance

There are a number of federal laws addressing civil rights and prohibiting various types of discrimination. The most prominent of these is the Civil Rights Act of 1964, different sections of which are summarized below (as well as other federal laws). This is by no means a complete list of civil rights and discrimination laws.

  • Age Discrimination Act of 1975: Bans age discrimination in all programs or activities that receive public funds.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act: Requires employers, educational institutions, public accommodations, and certain private entities (such as restaurants) to provide access to disabled people.
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII: Prohibits discrimination in the area of employment based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.
  • Civil Rights Act of 1991: Strengthens the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by providing for damages in intentional employment discrimination cases, among other provisions.
  • Equal Credit Opportunity Act: Prohibits lenders from discriminating against creditors on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, or public assistance status.
  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act: Makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against female workers on the basis of a pregnancy or potential pregnancy (i.e. of child-bearing age).

State Civil Rights Protections

Many states offer additional civil rights and anti-discrimination protections, above and beyond what is offered at the federal level. For example, employees are federally protected from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, and other characteristics. States must adopt the protections established at the federal level, but the state of Oregon also prohibits discrimination on the basis of one's sexual orientation, marital status, family relationship, and association with a member of a protected class.

New York State law also protects people on the basis of their gender identity (transgendered individuals), military status, and source of income.

Please select a link below to learn more about the civil rights laws and protections in your state and across the nation, or to file a claim.

Learn About Civil Rights Laws and Resources