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Archive for the ‘Civil Rights’ Category

About Identity Theft

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Every year, thousands of people discover out of the blue that they have been the victims of identity theft. With everything being computerized and information much more obtainable than ever before, it’s no wonder more and more people are having problems and having to fight against identity theft. What, however, is identity theft, how do you keep yourself safe from it, and what do you do if you have been involved in it?

What Is Identity Theft

Identity theft is the term used to describe a type of fraud. It occurs when someone gets your private information and, in essence, pretends to be you. They may not dress up and look like you, but they may use the information that they have on you in order to do something illegal. Financial identity theft is when the criminal takes over your identification in order to take money out of your bank accounts or to open up new credit accounts, making the bills due to you. You may also be a victim of criminal identity theft, where your identification becomes a new identification for a criminal who uses it to commit a crime so that they can stay hidden and beneath the radar of the police. This can cause a huge problem if you have a background check run on you and the person running it believes you are responsible for crimes that you know nothing about.

If You Are a Victim

If you are a victim of identity theft, the first thing you need to know is that you are not alone. There are thousands of people who fall pretty to identity thieves all the time. Once you have begun to breathe again, act fast. The faster you act, the less of a chance the thief will have to make more use of your identity. The first thing to do is to contact the credit agency where you first noticed the discrepancy. Most of these lending agencies have steps in place that they can take for someone who has had their identity stolen, preventing the thief from using a credit card in your name again and making sure that you are not responsible for paying the amounts already due on the card. Even banks have procedures set in place to limit the amount of damage. You will then want to speak with the authorities and to open a case so that the police and discover who stole your identity.

If you want to keep your identity safe, make sure you safeguard your social security number and keep track of your credit report, as it is there you will be able to find any discrepancies quickly. Also, shred everything that comes in the mail for you that could be used against you, such as any credit card offers and credit statements. Also, make sure you never give your credit card number of any personal information over the phone or online unless you are sure that it is a secure company you are dealing with.


How to Handle a Civil Lawsuit

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

It doesn’t matter if you are involved in a civil lawsuit because you are the defendant or because you are the plaintiff: either side can be a scary side to be on. There are over 40 million civil lawsuits that are filed in the nation every year, which means that there is a very good chance that you may be involved in one. Knowing what to do beforehand can help you to handle a civil lawsuit with much more ease.

The Plaintiff
If you are the plaintiff, it is your responsibility to prove that the person who wronged you is guilty and needs to provide compensation. There are a number of reasons that you would want to sue somebody or a company. If, for instance, you sent one of your belongings, such as a car, in for repair and it came back even more broken than it was before, you may have a lawsuit. Before you decide to take matters into a court of law, however, you may want to speak with the people whom you are considering suing first. If you do not, the judge or jury may feel that you did not try everything you could before bringing the matter to court.

Make sure that you speak with them and try to resolve the matter, but also keep track of what you do. If you speak with them, mark it on a calendar and write a detailed account of what was discussed. If they call, write down that they did and what was discussed. Having all of the information handy can be the difference between winning and losing a lawsuit.

You may also want to hire a lawyer, especially if the monetary amount due to you is rather large. If you are only suing for a small amount, you can likely avoid this step, unless you want to ensure victory.

The Defendant
People tend to panic when they get sued, but you should not. The key to successfully proving your defense is to stay calm and to get organized. To begin with, find out what you are getting sued over. If you are unsure, do not hesitate to try to contact the person who is suing you to ask for clarification. If they refuse to give it to you, make sure you make note of that fact. As with the plaintiff, it is vital that you keep a record of everything so that you can prove your innocence. You may want to hire a lawyer, especially if you are confused or if the amount you are being sued over is a great deal, as they can help you to know what to do and what not to do in specific situations over the course of the suit.

A lawsuit can be a bit intimidating, but as long as you remain cool and collected and have the information that you need handy, you can make your case and win your side.

Understanding a Civil Lawsuit

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

You know what a criminal court case is, but what is a civil lawsuit? Each year hundreds of thousands of people in the nation are involved in a civil lawsuit in one fashion or another, and many of them have no idea before their involvement what a civil lawsuit is or how it works. They may even be confused as to why they are involved in one! If you’re involved in a civil lawsuit or are about to be, here is some basic information to help you understand why you may be involved.

You are the Sue-r
In the legal world, the person who is bringing a lawsuit on to someone or something else is called the plaintiff. The plaintiff is the person who feels that they were wronged and who is asking for compensation from the court. The compensation usually comes in the form of money but may include the defendant having to do something as well, such as cleaning up an area or something of the like. It is your responsibility to prove that the person you are suing wronged you.

The Sue-ee
If you are being sued, you are the defendant. It is your responsibility to prove that you didn’t do what the plaintiff said that you did, or that you should not be responsible for providing the compensation they are looking for. Depending on what you are getting sued for, you may, or may not, want to get a lawyer to represent you and your interests. If you choose to not hire a lawyer, make sure you do your research in order to give you the best chance of winning.

The Witness
If you were a witness to something that occurred, you may be required to speak about what you know. If, for instance, you were witness to a co-worker getting harmed on the job, and that co-worker later decides to sue the company you both work for, you may be asked by the defense or by the plaintiff to testify on what you saw. If you are concerned that you will get in trouble based on what you know, you can hire a lawyer to help represent your interests.

The Jury
The final way you can be involved in a civil lawsuit (unless you are part of the legal team) is to be a juror. Many civil lawsuits never need a jury, but some larger ones require that twelve people make the decision for the entire case. If you are a juror it will be your responsibility to listen to all of the information that is presented to you so that you can make a decision about what action, if any, you believe should be taken.

Being a part of a civil lawsuit can be a bit intimidating, especially if you are the one being sued. If you are, you may want to seek legal representation from a qualified defense attorney, as the average citizen does not have enough training to be able to adequately defend themselves when they are involved in a civil suit.

How Age Discrimination Effects You

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

It is your civil right to be treated equally. While we usually speak about civil rights in regards to race, religion, and nationality, today, discrimination reaches much farther. One of the most common types of discrimination is ageism. Ageism can work against people who are young and people who are old, but in all cases, it is illegal. If you live in the United States it is important to know your rights regarding ageism.

Ageism is basically discrimination against someone because they are old or young. This can happen in many different sectors of the public world. For example, say a business is hiring a new person for a job. Two people apply for this job and, based on their qualifications are called back for interviews. Each person has the same educational credentials. Each has the same experience in the field. If one is 30 years old and the other is 60 years of and the employer hires the 30 year old person simply because he or she is younger, this is ageism. Although people justify ageism in a number of ways, it is still discrimination. Thankfully, civil rights laws do protect against ageism in a number of instances.

The most major law surrounding ageism is the Age Discrimination Act of 1975. According to this act, the law prohibits age from becoming a factor public realm that received federal funding. For example, when applying for college, a university cannot deny you based on age if you are as well qualified as other, younger students who have been accepted. Volunteer programs, community organization, and other such federally funded programs have to offer the same treatment to everyone regardless of age.

But what about the employment situation in the example above? Since most businesses are not federally funded, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 does not apply to them. However, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act can protect you from some ageism in the workplace. Under this act, employers are not allowed to hire, fire, or make promotions based on age.

Employees, regardless of their age, must also be give equal benefits. The only exception to this is if the costs of those benefits are higher for older employees. If this is the case, the employer must offer lower benefits that are equal tin cost to the benefits that the younger employee is receiving. To go along with the, mandatory retirement is not allowed in most cases. Although many of these laws are meant to protect older Americans, ageism can also be a problem for younger Americans. If you are denied employment because you are younger than another applicant, even though you are better qualified, ageism is at play and you are legally protected. These laws apply to any employer who has 20 or more employees.

If you feel like you’ve been discriminated against because your age, it is important to file a complaint. Your local or state employment office can help you fill out the proper paperwork. Remember, just because it isn’t about skin color doesn’t mean that it isn’t discrimination.

Discrimination in the Workplace: What are your Rights?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Under the civil rights laws given to all United States citizens with the Constitution and various other regulations, discrimination in the workplace is illegal. Discrimination here can be the result of a number of issues including, but not limited to, gender, race, religion, nationality, physical abilities, sexual preference, and marital status. However, with the help of civil rights laws like the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employees who feel like they are being discriminated against can take their case to court. If you plan to work in the United States, it is important to understand your civil rights for equality under the EEOC.

Every state has specific laws about discrimination in the workplace. At the bare minimum, however, states must uphold the following rules:

• It is illegal to hire, fire, promote, layoff, specially compensate, assign special jobs to, train, or deny benefits to an employee based on age. Specifically, this protects people over the age of 40 who may be pushed out of a job to make room for younger employees.

• Employees must consider all qualified candidates, even if they have a physical or mental disability. Employment facilities, if possible, must be altered to allow this to happen. An employer, does not, however, have to lower qualification standards.

• Wages earned must be based on skill, effort, responsibility, seniority, and working conditions, and must be equal within a single establishment, regardless of gender.

• Ethnicity must not play a role in firing or hiring. English fluency can only be required if the job demands it.

• It is illegal to consider pregnancy when hiring a new employee. Pregnancy must be considered a temporary disability, and time off must be treated in the same manner. After birth, the employer must hold the job open for the same amount of time it would have been held open for a sick or temporarily disabled employee. Pregnancy benefits must apply to everyone, regardless of marital status.

• Race, religion, and gender may not play a role in hiring, firing, promotions, salary desions, and so forth.

• Employers may not fire or demote employees due to that employee filing charges of discrimination.

• It is illegal to sexually harass someone in the workplace. Sexual harassment includes unwanted advances, sexually-natured contact, verbal conversation of a sexual nature, requests for sexual favors in return for work-related perks, and so forth. This law pertains to victims of both genders. In many states, this is being expanded to include laws forbidding sexual preference to play a role in hiring, firing, and so forth.

If you believe that discrimination has played a role in your career, you can file a charge of employment discrimination. Someone else can also file on your behalf if you want to protect your identity. You’ll have to fill out a questionnaire about your experiences, which will include your contact information, a statement about the violation, the company committing the violation, and date or dates of the violation. This form must be filed within 180 days of the violation in order to be valid. Remember, it is your civil right to be treated fairly in the workplace. Protect it by filing a charge when an employer discriminates against you.

Disabilities and Education: Section 504 and the IDEA

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

We often think of civil rights as something that affects only adults, and while it is true that discrimination in the workplace, voting rights, and so forth are primarily issues concerning adults, civil rights also affect children, especially in education. Under United States laws, all children must be given educational opportunities. This includes your child, even if he or she has a mental or physical disability.

Under Section 504 of civil rights law, all children must be given equal access to education. Under IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), your child is given even more rights. Simply put, even if your child has a disability, he or she still deserves a full education. This does not necessarily mean that a child will be part of a special education program outside of the typical classroom, but it does mean that a child will have a chance to learn, just like all other children are given.

Children must first go through an evaluation process to determine whether or not they are eligible under Section 504. If your child has a mental or physical disability that requires accommodations to make learning possible, he or she probably qualifies. A child may then be placed in a special education classroom, which is most common if the child is causing disruptions that make it impossible for other students to learn. However, in many cases, especially in elementary school, the disabled student will simply be given tools to help him or her with daily learning activities. These tools may include extra time for assignments, specially printed textbooks, books on tape, behavior intervention plans, special recreation time, visual aids, oral testing, and aid from a special teacher. Every case should be considered individually to ensure that the child is getting the best education possible.

As a parent, you are given certain rights under Section 504 that allow you to protect your child. These rights are as follows:

• The right to receive notice when you child is evaluated or placed in a special class.
• The right to access all records pertaining to your child’s health and education at school.
• The right to request a hearing to review the placement of your child.
• The right to file a complaint with your district’s Section 504 coordinator if you are unhappy with any aspect of your child’s education.
• The right to file a complaint with the regional or state discrimination offices.

It is important to understand that your school district has certain obligations but, at the same time, that there are hundreds of other children who have needs that must be considered as well. In some cases, the best choice for your child and their education is to seek private school options. Remember that you are your child’s advocate. It is important to speak up if you feel that he or she is being left behind due to not being given the tools needed to overcome disabilities and succeed in school. Always file a complaint if you are concerned about your child’s education.

A Unique Civil Right in the United States: Trial by Jury

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Most civil rights recognized in the United States are also recognized by other developed countries. However, the right to a trail by jury is unique to the United States, as many other countries have other systems in place for court proceedings. In fact, a Grand Jury trial is found almost nowhere else in the world. This right, given to all United States citizens with the Sixth Amendment, is an important one to understand so that you are prepared in case you are ever accused of a crime.

A jury is comprised of 12 people. Both the defending and prosecuting sides of the case must approve these people, and in many cases, this is not a problem. In high-profile cases, jury selection can be a long process. Most of the time, people from the general public are randomly selected and are required to report for jury duty. Juries cannot learn about the trial from any source other than the trial itself and may be sequestered (kept from all outside sources in a controlled environment) for the length of the trial. The jury’s deliberations are kept in complete secrecy.

In a criminal case, a Grand Jury first reviews the evidence to determine if there is (or is not) reason for a trial. This happens at both the State and Federal court levels. If they determine that there is cause for trial, a date is set and the prisoner is apprehended and may be released on bail. A petit jury then hears the main trial.

The job of the petit jury is to determine if the accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. This verdict must be determined purely on the facts presented to them, not on assumptions or personal beliefs. In some cases, the jury is also responsible for recommending a verdict, although most of the time the judge has the final say on the verdict.

There are no set proceedings for jury deliberation. In most cases, the first step is to elect a foreman. The foreman is the person who leads deliberation, speaks to the judge if necessary, and announces the verdict in court. In “open and shut cases”, deliberation goes quite quickly, as everyone simply votes and goes back to court, so the jury might elect a foreman at the end of deliberations just to announce the verdict.

When a jury can’t come to a decision, they are said to be “hung”. In criminal cases, the jury’s decision must be unanimous (in civil cases, majority rules). After extensive deliberation if no unanimous vote is reached, a mistrial is declared. The case may then be declared a mistrial and ended completely, or it may be retried, depending on the circumstances of the individual case. This aspect of the court’s jury system has been highly criticized, as it is easy for a jury to be hung and a trail to be declared a mistrial.

While the court system is in no way foolproof, it is a rather fair system if you are accused by a crime. Trial by jury is one of the most important civil rights, as it can ensure that you are treated fairly even if you are unjustly accused.

Is Affirmative Action Legal?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

While it is your civil right to be treated equally in the United States as all other United States citizens, there are some questions about affirmative action and whether this concept should actually be legal. Basically, affirmative action is the push to include people of all groups, and it is most applicable to woman and minorities. Affirmative action is legal in the United States and meant to balance out discrimination. However, some are opposed to its legality, as affirmative action can also mean another type of discrimination.

In the United States, affirmative action most comes into play with education, employment, and housing. It is meant to prevent discrimination. Certain entities (like colleges or business) have different policies for minorities and women in order to help diversify their total population. For example, at a university, they might accept minorities who have slightly lower standardized test scores, while having higher expectations from groups that apply more readily. This affirmative action raises their minority population.

The problem with this, some believe, is that it effectively discriminative against members of the majority group. For example, say a woman is hired in an all-male office in order to have a female presence in the company. That means that males were not considered for the job and have, in effect, been discriminated against. In other words, affirmative action and the law are at odds often. However, like with other discrimination cases, this can be hard to prove.

Affirmative action regulations were never meant to be discriminatory. Instead, they were meant to prevent people from discriminating. Employers, for example, would discriminate against blacks in the 1960s. Affirmative action rules prevented this, by ensuring the best black candidates were hired. The thought process behind these rules were that the best black candidates were probably the best candidates anyway. Today, it is not always that simple.

However, discriminate does still go on in business, education, and other public sectors. Because of this, affirmative action still had many supporters. The claim here is that the law should always support equal opportunity. While there are many holes in this legal theory, you do have options if you feel as though you are not being given a fair chance.

You should immediately speak with local or state agency if you feel like someone has discriminated against you. This is especially crucial in the case of housing, as the Fair Housing Act makes it illegal for a landlord to refuse to accept your rental application based on race, nationality, sex, religion, disability, or marital status. You can file a complain for this kind of discrimination, as well as for all other, even those you believe are caused by affirmative action laws.

The key here is to speak out as soon as possible. By filing a complaint and helping to take the case to court if possible, you can prevent discrimination in the future for yourself and others. Affirmative action can be a good thing, but it can also lead to some bad results if not regulated properly.

The Fair Housing Act

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

One of your civil rights is to have housing wherever you want it, even if you fall into certain stereotyped categories. This policy was first brought about in the 1960s, when race was a huge problem in housing. Because blacks could only get housing in certain areas, it was easy for some neighborhoods to turn into crime-ridden places to live while other neighborhoods would be well maintained by the police. The Fair Housing Act has helped to put an end to discrimination.

In the 1960s, civil rights became a huge political and social issue. The Fair Housing Act was put to use officially in 1968 as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. According to the Fair Housing Act, everyone, regardless of who they are, has certain rights in regards to shelter. These rights made it illegal to:
• Refuse to rent or sell to someone purely based on race, religion, or nationality
• Change the conditions of the rent or sale because on race, religion, or nationally
• Advertise in a way specifically meant to prefer people based on race, religion, or nationality.
• Threaten or coerce someone into moving out based on discriminatory reasons
• Interfere with personal enjoyment of housing based on discriminatory reasons

These laws meant that blacks could move into white neighborhoods, which was a first for many states, especially those in the south. Today, there is still discrimination, but with the Fair Housing Act, you can take someone to court if these refuse housing to you based on discriminatory reasons.

Certain changes have been made to the Fair Housing Act since 1968 to further include people who belong to groups that are often discriminated against. In 1974, changes were added to add sex to the list. Therefore, no longer could someone refuse to rent or sell to someone based on the fact that they were a male or female. Later, in 1988, disability was also added to the list. This was further strengthened and explained in 1990 with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Also in 1988, familial status was added to the list. You cannot discriminate against someone because they are married (or not married). Furthermore, this outlawed the refusal to rent or sell because children were anticipated. Some landlords were denying rent to pregnant women or newlyweds based on the fact that they didn’t want children damaging their apartment.

Fair House Act issues are hard to prove, especially if multiple people applied for the same apartment. However, it is important to file a complaint in case you believe that there was a discriminatory issue. Multiple complaints about the same landlord will help to bring about change! If you believe that someone has discriminated against you, your best option is to go to your local Housing and Urban Development Office. From there, you’ll be sent to their Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, where they can help you file an official complaint an speak to someone who can help you figure out what to do next.

What Can You Do To Protect Your Civil Rights?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Civil rights are those rights granted to you under the Constitution and subsequent amendments. These rights include the right to free speech, the right to pursue happiness, and so forth. In the court system today, however, civil rights are most commonly associated with the right to be treated equally, regardless of race, religion, nationality, sex, sexual preference, marital status, mental and physical ability, and so forth. It is important to understand how you can protect your civil rights.

First and foremost, it is important to understand just when and where your civil rights are protected. In most cases, for example, your neighbor doesn’t have to invite you over for dinner if he or she doesn’t like your religion. It is rare to be successful in a lawsuit of this nature, when only private parties are involved. However, if an employer refuses to hire you because he’d rather hire someone of another race, you have a potential case. The law protects your civil rights in all forms of the public sector. So, you may not be discriminated again in the workplace, in education, or in any other public arenas.

In order to sue, you must have been damaged in some way. This, however, does not necessarily mean that you must have suffered injury to your person. It may also mean that you’ve lost wages, had your reputation ruined, or were forced to pay more for items or services. If this is the case, you can sue to have money refunded to you.

However, in many civil rights cases, your only option is injunctive relief. Say, for example that the public bus driver that is supposed to stop in your neighborhood does not because he does not want to pick up someone of your race. You wait 10 minutes for the next bus to no harm, but it is an inconvenience. You’ll not be awarded any money because you have not suffered damages, but the court can stop the discriminatory behavior. Most civil rights cases end with injunctive relief.

There is such a thing as “lawful discrimination”. You should ensure that you understand these laws before you try to file suit. An example of lawful discrimination would be an insurance company offering lower rates to older drivers. It is not so much a matter of age as it is their driving experience. Unlawful discrimination only occurs when stereotypes or hatred play a role in the equality of the matter. In general, this includes discrimination due to race, ethnicity, religion, and, in most cases, sexual preferences and marital status.

If you feel like your civil rights were violated, your best option is to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. In most instances, lawsuits must be filed within 180 days of the violation, so delaying could mean that you no longer have a case. A lawyer can talk to you about your specific rights, past cases in your area, and advice with how to go about bring equality to your world.