What are my rights under the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 appeared during the height of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Legislatures created it in response to public outcry over the injustices experienced by people of color in what -- at the time -- was a largely white-dominated society in the United States.

You would think that, after all these years, racial discrimination would be a thing of the past, but if you're a person of color, or another kind of minority in society, you know that society has not caught up to the provisions contained in the Civil Rights Act -- especially when it comes to employment-related discrimination.

What protections does the Civil Rights Act provide?

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects all individuals from being unfairly discriminated against in a number of contexts. It also protects people from employment-related discrimination. For example, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers cannot discriminate against employees and job applicants on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin and English proficiency when they are hiring, firing, giving promotions, giving raises and offering other benefits of employment.

This means that if an employer can choose between a Cuban-born job applicant and an American-born job applicant -- or between a dark-skinned job applicant and a white-skinned job applicant -- the employer must choose on the basis of merit alone.

What if my employer violated my rights?

If your employer, or would-be employer, violated your civil rights by discriminating against you, the law is on your side. The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) is a federal organization that exists to safeguard the civil rights of all employees in the United States. If you suspect, for example, that you were fired because of your skin color, you can file a complaint with the EEOC, which will begin the process of investigating the facts surrounding your situation and -- if warranted -- pursue a discrimination lawsuit to seek compensation and other forms of restitution to make you whole.

Now that it's the 21st Century, there's no place for racial discrimination in our society. If you've been victimized by this awful form of abuse, learn about your legal rights and options and take action to protect your rights in court.

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