Civil Rights Attorney

Compensation for civil rights violations can be substantial, and rightfully so. No one should have to experience discriminatory treatment in a country that promises freedom and justice for all. Civil rights are human rights. The Orlando civil rights attorneys at the O’Mara Law Group are committed to protecting your civil rights and obtaining justice for you when your rights have been violated.

Civil rights form the basis of the founding of our nation and are at the core of American values. Sadly, our nation has fallen short of living up to our ideals, and American citizens and non-citizens living within our borders experience egregious violations of basic human rights every day. 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports that the most common civil rights violations are racially-motivated violence and color-of-law violations. Color-of-law violations occur when public employees, such as police officers, use their positions to deprive others of their civil rights.

According to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, anyone operating in an official capacity who violates the constitutional rights of another is civilly liable to the wronged party. While this law specifically addresses discriminatory treatment by public officials, a myriad of anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws also protect individuals from discriminatory treatment in the private sector.

The O’Mara Law Group’s civil rights attorneys in Orlando are passionate about defending the civil rights of our clients and skilled at getting justice for victims of discriminatory treatment.

COMMON TYPES OF CIVIL RIGHTS CASES

Discrimination Cases

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin for the purposes of hiring, promoting and firing. It also ended Jim Crow laws and includes prohibitions against discrimination in public accommodations and federally-funded programs. It strengthens voting rights and the right to equal access to educational opportunities.

The state of Florida has also enacted its own civil rights law, the Florida Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on the following:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Pregnancy
  • National origin
  • Age
  • Handicap
  • Marital status 

Anyone who has experienced discrimination on the basis of these protected classes has the right to file a civil lawsuit. Perpetrators of discriminatory conduct may also be subject to administrative penalties. In addition, the Florida Attorney General may file suit for injunctive relief and civil penalties of up to $10,000.

Age Discrimination

Discrimination based on age is also known as ageism. Ageism is most commonly perpetrated against older adults, but younger adults can be victims as well. It is often the result of stereotypes.

Ageism in the Workplace

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) specifically forbids discrimination against individuals aged 40 or older. Florida § 760.10 prohibits discrimination against all age groups.

Examples of ageism in the workplace include the following, according to Medical News Today

  • Refusal to hire people based on age
  • Asking for age during the job interview when it is irrelevant
  • Age policies that unfairly favor one age group over another
  • Assumptions that older people are out of touch with newer technologies
  • Assumptions that younger people are irresponsible
  • Bullying
  • Harassment

Health Care

Ageism in health care impacts children and older adults, according to Medical News Today. This treatment decreases the quality of medical care and includes such treatment as the following:

  • Treating elderly patients like infants (such as speaking with baby talk)
  • Offering less care or attention to elderly individuals
  • Coercive or violent treatment of children or the elderly, such as unjustified use of restraints

There is no excuse for employers, health care providers, or any business or public entity to treat individuals poorly because of their age. If this has happened to you, you can count on the O’Mara Law Group to champion your cause and hold these entities accountable.

Gender Discrimination

Gender discrimination is most prevalent in the workplace, and women are most often the victims. According to 2017 Pew Research data, 42 percent of women and 22 percent of men report having experienced at least one of the following forms of gender-based discrimination at work: 

  • Lower pay than a member of the opposite sex performing the same work
  • Treated as though they were incompetent
  • Repeated, small slights
  • Reduced support from senior leadership compared to members of the opposite gender
  • Passed over for important assignments
  • Isolation
  • Denial of promotions
  • Inability to get hired

The Society of Human Resource Management also found the following discriminatory gender-based treatment:

  • Being held to different standards
  • Exclusion from important meetings
  • Firings or demotions due to pregnancy
  • Sexual harassment

The O’Mara Law Group strongly supports equal treatment and pay for equal work, and we stand against sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace in all forms. We understand the fear many victims experience in coming forward. You can rest assured that we will fight vigorously to protect your rights and obtain justice for you.

Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Workplace Discrimination

The EEOC acknowledged that gender discrimination in the workplace also encompasses discrimination against the LGBTQ community after this was affirmed in a 2020 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. However, discrimination in the workplace against the LGBTQ community is still rampant:

A May 2021 study by the UCLA School of Law Williams Institute found the following:

  • 45.5 percent of LGBTQ workers experienced unfair treatment, including being fired, not hired or harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity
  • 67.5 percent have heard negative comments, slurs and jokes about LGBTQ people
  • 50.4 conceal their sexual orientation from their supervisors, and 25.8 percent from all co-workers
  • 36.4 percent of transgender employees engaged in covering behaviors, and 27.5 percent changed their bathroom use at work
  • 34.2 percent of LGBTQ workers left their jobs because of the maltreatment they received as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Unfair treatment of LGBTQ workers includes the following behaviors, according to observations by Stanford University:

  • Purposefully referring to transgender individuals using the wrong pronouns or gender terminology
  • Limiting access to all-gender restrooms
  • Giving preferential treatment to one gender over another
  • Crude or harmful language based on gender expression
  • Intimidation based on gender

Unfortunately, gender discrimination against individuals in the LGBTQ community is not limited to the workplace. It is also rampant in health care and in housing. 

Health Care Discrimination

Members of the LGBTQ community have reported the following forms of discrimination in health care, according to the Center for American Progress (CAP):

  • Refusal to treat them or initiate a patient-doctor relationship due to their sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Refusal to recognize family members, such as a same-sex spouse or partner
  • Harsh or abusive language during treatment
  • Sexual harassment or assault
  • Refusal to provide health care related to a gender transition
  • Intentional misgendering or use of incorrect pronouns

On May 5, 2021, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged the Supreme Court decision affirming that the definition of sex discrimination in the workplace includes discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender status, stating that the same principles would be applied to health care. 

Housing Discrimination 

Although neither the United States nor the state of Florida has added sexual orientation or gender identity to the protected classes in their respective fair housing laws, the Florida Commission on Human Relations has affirmed that discrimination on the basis of sex includes discrimination based on LGBTQ status.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in all federally funded housing. 

This means that in most situations, landlords are prohibited from engaging in discriminatory behaviors against members of the LGBTQ community. This includes such treatment as the following:

  • Falsely claiming there are no available housing units available
  • Denying housing based on their LGBTQ status
  • Terminating a lease or refusing to renew the lease because of gender identity or sexual orientation
  • Misgendering or intentionally using the wrong pronouns
  • Harassment

No one should ever be denied basic human rights such as equal treatment at work, health care or housing on the basis of their gender, sexual orientation or gender identity. Our compassionate civil rights attorneys in Orlando are ready to vehemently defend your rights when you find yourself in this situation.

Discrimination Based on Disability

Individuals with disabilities have the right to participate in the same opportunities that are offered to the general public without being excluded on account of their disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against individuals in employment, government, public accommodations, commercial businesses, transportation and telecommunications.

This means local businesses must provide accessible facilities and reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities. Failure to comply with these guidelines is discrimination. For example, features on public buildings like narrow entrances and stairs that prevent entry by individuals in wheelchairs are discriminatory.

Other forms of discrimination against disabled individuals include the following:

  • Refusal to hire or promote disabled individuals
  • Reduced compensation or benefits for disabled individuals
  • Harassing individuals because of their disabilities
  • Refusal to allow a disabled individual to be accompanied by an assistance animal

Housing Discrimination

The Fair Housing Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 also prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities in housing. Housing providers must make available to disabled individuals the same features and amenities that are available to other tenants. 

Discrimination against disabled individuals in housing most commonly occurs in the form of refusing to allow or provide reasonable accommodations, including allowing assistance animals. Refusing to accommodate disabilities is akin to telling disabled individuals they cannot live there.

Discrimination Based on Race, Color or National Origin

The discrimination that people of color continue to face across the nation is shocking. There is simply no justification for treating someone differently on the basis of race, color or national origin. Yet minorities continue to face the following forms of discrimination:

  • Employment discrimination
  • Educational discrimination
  • Housing discrimination
  • Discrimination in health care
  • Police brutality

Discrimination against non-whites, and most notably against black individuals, includes such treatment as the following:

  • Inability to get hired
  • Unfair firing
  • Being passed over for promotions
  • Hostile work environments
  • Double standards at work and school
  • Difficulty getting into the school of their choice
  • Unfair treatment by law enforcement
  • Harassment
  • Violence
  • Difficulty finding housing
  • Disparities in health care

The O’Mara Law Group has a long history of defending the civil rights of minorities. If you have experienced unfair treatment because of your race, you are not alone. Our Orlando civil rights attorneys are on your side, and we will leverage our skills and resources to protect your rights and get justice for you.

Religious Discrimination

Religious discrimination occurs when individuals receive unfavorable treatment because of their religious beliefs or when they are denied the right to observe religious practices. Pew Research from 2019 shows that Muslims, Jews and Evangelicals experience religious discrimination, with the highest prevalence against Muslims. 

Examples of religious discrimination include the following:

  • Refusal to allow a head covering to be worn
  • Disparaging remarks about an individual’s religion
  • Firing or refusing to hire based on religious beliefs
  • Failing to provide reasonable accommodations

Freedom of religion is an important component of the Bill of Rights, and the O’Mara Law Group is committed to upholding the Constitution for all residents of Orlando and the surrounding areas.

Police Brutality Cases

According to our founder Mark O’Mara, “Law enforcement believes that on the street, they are the ultimate authority. They’re not. Quite honestly, the court system still is, and we’re there to make sure that the court system has an opportunity to determine whether or not the way the cops did what they did is right.”

In Orlando, we see a significant amount of police misconduct, as is reflected in the Orlando Police Department’s score of 39 percent from PoliceScorecard.org. This score was based on the following findings:

  • Twenty-one police killings in Orlando between 2013 and 2021 revealed that black individuals were 3.1 times more likely than white people to be killed by police, and Latinx individuals were 1.2 times as likely to be killed.
  • The city of Orlando received 32 complaints about police misconduct from 2016 to 2020, 42 percent of which were ruled in favor of the civilians.
  • During the period from 2013 to 2021, there were 77,095 arrests, 53 percent of which were for low-level, nonviolent offenses. Only six percent of arrests were for violent crimes.
  • The Orlando Police Department participated in more police shootings than 89 percent of other police departments in Florida.
  • Orlando police officers used more force per arrest than 98 percent of police departments in Florida.
  • Of the 249 homicides from 2013 to 2021 in Orlando, 99 remain unsolved

Orlando’s score is the eighth worst in the state.

Bias

These statistics indicate systemic bias by the Orlando Police Department against the black community. On a national level, black men are more likely to experience the following, according to a Washington Times analysis, with statistics varying slightly from state to state:

  • More likely to be stopped
  • More likely to be searched, even though whites are more likely to have contraband
  • Longer prison terms for the same crime
  • More likely to receive the death penalty

Additionally, individuals convicted of killing a white person are more likely to receive the death penalty than those convicted of killing a black person.

Excessive Force

Excessive force occurs when officers use more force than necessary to contain a suspect or diffuse a situation. 

Examples of force include the following:

  • Chokeholds
  • Use of tasers
  • Shootings
  • Display of weapons
  • Punching
  • Kicking
  • Beating with a club
  • Pistol whipping
  • Bodyweight pins
  • Rubber bullets
  • Flash grenades
  • Stun guns
  • Teargas
  • Pepper spray
  • Whips
  • Batons

Every suspect has the right to be treated fairly and reasonably by police officers. As our founder Mark O’Mara observes, 

“You should never be thrown down to the ground with your face on the ground unnecessarily. You should never be tased without a really good reason. You or your loved ones certainly should not be shot, as we have seen in dozens of videos now over the past decade, without really good reason.

“The use of a firearm by an officer should never occur unless it is the last clear chance. I understand that cops are being put in dangerous situations, but it is, after all, a voluntary job. If they’re going to do it, they still have to do it in a way that protects the people they work for, which is us. 

“And if you’ve been injured by an officer, if you have that type of concern over whether or not you were treated properly, that is what we’re here for at O’Mara Law Group.”

Sexual Misconduct

The Justice Department criminally prosecutes law enforcement officers who abuse their positions by sexually assaulting individuals in their custody. This includes police officers, probation officers, corrections officers, judges, prosecutors and other government officials while acting in an official capacity.

Being in the custody and control of a sexual perpetrator is a horrendous and intimidating experience. Victims may not know how to report such activities and may be afraid to do so. However, they may report the abuse to close friends and family members. If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual misconduct by law enforcement, we can help.

In addition to criminal prosecution, these officers and the government entities that employ them are civilly liable for the trauma and harm they cause under these circumstances. If you are a survivor of sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape by anyone in law enforcement, you have a team of advocates in the O’Mara Law Group who are ready to win you the compensation and justice you need and deserve.

False Imprisonment

False imprisonment occurs when an individual is unlawfully detained against their will, such as when police officers detain individuals without probable cause. Wrongful imprisonment includes any of the following:

  • Stopped without probable cause and not allowed to leave
  • Brought into the police station and interrogated without probable cause
  • Wrongfully incarcerated for a crime you did not commit or without due process

In the event that you are wrongfully convicted of a crime, Florida § 961.06 entitles you to receive the following compensation:

  • Monetary compensation in an amount equal to the sum of $50,000 in 2008 and adjusted for inflation, for each year you were incarcerated, not to exceed $2 million dollars
  • A tuition and fees waiver for up to 120 hours at any Florida state college, university or career training center
  • Reimbursement for fines, attorney fees, penalties and court costs you paid in conjunction with the charges
  • An immediate expungement of your criminal charges from your record

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. According to the U.S. Courts for the Ninth Circuit, this means the Department of Corrections is prohibited from depriving inmates of their basic human rights. This means no incarcerated person should experience the following:

  • Substantial risk of harm
  • Serious medical need
  • Deliberate indifference by corrections to the inmate’s risk of harm or medical need
  • Harm as a result of an unremedied danger or medical need

Every person who is incarcerated is entitled to humane conditions without deprivation of food, clothing, shelter, medical care or safety. If you are concerned about the way your loved one is being treated during incarceration, or if you have experienced harm during incarceration, the O’Mara Law Group can help you get justice and recover substantial compensation.

Wrongful Termination Cases

Wrongful termination occurs when an employer fires an employee for reasons that are not permitted by law. When these reasons are based on discrimination, it becomes a civil rights issue. Indeed.com provides the following examples of illegal firings:

  • Breach of contract
  • Harassment
  • Discrimination 
  • Constructive dismissal (when an employer intentionally creates a negative work environment to entice the employee to quit)
  • Retaliation for exercising legal rights
    • Workers’ compensation
    • Reporting sexual harassment
    • Whistleblowers
  • Violations of the Family Medical Leave Act 
    • Terminating employment while on leave
    • Refusing to allow an employee to take medical or family leave to which the employee is legally entitled

Florida law also prohibits two or more individuals from conspiring or working together to cause someone to be fired or one or more individuals from using threats of injury against an individual to force the individual to terminate employment.

Sexual Harassment Cases

The state of Florida defines sexual harassment as a form of discrimination that consists of “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature from any person.” The two primary forms of sexual harassment are quid pro quo and hostile environment.

  • Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when access to equal treatment is conditional on the harassed party’s response to the harassment.
  • Hostile environment sexual harassment occurs when the harassment creates an environment that is offensive, intimidating or uncomfortable for the harassed individual or bystanders.

In addition to being a civil offense, sexual harassment is also, in many instances, a crime. Sexual harassment is illegal in the following circumstances (this is not an exhaustive list):

In some situations, all sexual conduct is considered harassment and is illegal, even if the conduct is welcome. In these types of relationships, there is a level of trust or an authoritative relationship that creates an unequal power dynamic that makes sexual conduct inappropriate. These types of relationships include the following:

Sexual harassment is difficult to report because of a fear of retaliation or other consequences such as the following:

  • Loss of employment or educational opportunities
  • Increased maltreatment
  • Not being believed or taken seriously
  • Loss of valued relationships

Sexual harassment often starts slowly with flirtation or joking that seems harmless in the beginning but progresses to the point of becoming uncomfortable or threatening. This causes victims to feel that they will not be believed. Victims may also fear that reporting the abuse will create an uproar at work and cause other employees to frown upon them.

In matters pertaining to sexual conduct, you have the right to withdraw consent at any time. In addition, retaliation by employers, educational institutions or any business or public agency is illegal and can bring about financial consequences. 

Businesses and public entities are required to educate employees about sexual harassment and provide an environment where sexual harassment can be reported freely and confidentially without fear of retaliation. 

Despite these protections, coming forward is an act of courage. If you have experienced sexual harassment in any setting, an Orlando civil rights attorney at the O’Mara Law Group will stand with you so you do not have to face it alone. We will also help you hold any business or public agency accountable that facilitated the harassment or retaliation by failing to implement the law.

Hate Crime Cases

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 8,052 single-bias hate crimes occurred throughout the country in 2020 against 11,126 victims. In 211 of the incidents, 346 victims were targeted based on more than one bias. These cases were motivated by the following biases:

  • Race/ethnicity/ancestry: 61.8 percent
  • Sexual orientation: 20 percent
  • Religion: 13.3 percent
  • Gender identity: 2.7 percent
  • Disability: 1.4 percent
  • Gender: 0.7 percent

The state of Florida defines a hate crime as a crime that was motivated by prejudice based on “race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, homeless status, or advanced age of the victim.” Crimes that are classified as hate crimes in Florida are reclassified to the next level of crime. 

For example, a second-degree misdemeanor motivated by hate is upgraded to a first-degree misdemeanor. A first-degree misdemeanor is upgraded to a third-degree felony. 

Victims of hate crimes have the right to claim injunctive relief, treble damages and “any other appropriate relief in law or equity.” Cornell Law School defines treble damages as damages equal to three times the actual damages suffered.

You Have Rights

The power dynamics in situations where an individual’s civil rights are violated deter many victims from reporting the violations, even as they continue to adversely impact their daily lives. Workplaces, housing agencies, educational institutions and municipalities are required to provide a means for violations to be reported. 

However, navigating these avenues on your own without advocacy is intimidating for many victims of discrimination. You have the right not to be discriminated against, and you have the right to stand tall when reporting these incidents. The O’Mara Law Group is prepared to stand with you so you never have to stand alone.

You May Be Entitled to Substantial Compensation

Every single civil rights violation is a serious matter that threatens to erode the rights of all individuals. Throughout the past 30-plus years, the O’Mara Law Group has seen firsthand how biased the criminal justice system is against young black men as we have worked vigorously to defend them against this systemic bias.

The U.S. government and the state of Florida have both recognized the serious nature of civil rights violations and provided substantial monetary remedies for victims of civil rights violations. 

If you have experienced unfair treatment because of your race, color, ancestry, gender, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion, you may be entitled to receive significant financial compensation as an acknowledgment of the injustice and as a message to those who wish to discriminate.

If you need a civil rights attorney in Orlando, you can rest assured that the O’Mara Law Group is on your side. Our attorneys operate with compassion and concern. 

Have your rights been violated? Contact an Orlando civil rights attorney today.

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