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Civil Rights

The U.S. Constitution, the California Constitution, and a number of federal and state statutes protect Californians from discrimination and ensure certain basic freedoms and rights, including freedom of speech and association and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. The California Constitution also establishes a right of privacy which protects individuals from interference and invasion into their private personal lives and choices. Federal and state laws place responsibilities on both private corporations and government agencies to prevent discrimination against protected classes of people.

The Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in public accommodations and requires businesses and governmental agencies to make their facilities and services accessible to persons with mental and physical disabilities. California’s Code of Regulations places very specific accessibility requirements on old and new buildings which are open to the public. From large corporations to small businesses, from office buildings to restaurants, places of public accommodation in California are required to post handicapped accessible signs, provide handicapped accessible parking spots and bathrooms, and make other physical alterations to the property.

Attorneys at MARTIN & VANEGAS, APC represent both disabled individuals and small businesses in ADA litigation.

California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act prohibits businesses, including landlords, from discriminating against people based on their physical or mental disability, race, sex, gender, familial status, religion, age, and other protected characteristics. Refusing to provide services, or providing different services and privileges, based on a protected characteristic can lead to imposition of civil fines against private businesses. This also applies to businesses which boycott, blacklist, or otherwise refuse to trade with another company based on protected characteristics of the owner, customers, employees, or other individuals involved in operating the business.

The Fair Employment and Housing Act imposes liability not only on employers who engage in discrimination and harassment, but also on landlords, property management companies, real estate agents, and developers for refusing to rent or sell housing based on the tenant’s or buyer’s disability, race, sex, familial status, sexual orientation, or religion. The act similarly protects tenants from racial and sexual harassment by landlords and property managers. In California, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing has a special housing discrimination unit dedicated to investigating complaints of discrimination and harassment by tenants and buyers. The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Civil Rights is a federal governmental agency which handles complaints of discrimination in public housing and Section 8 programs.

Attorneys at MARTIN & VANEGAS, APC provide representation to tenants in housing discrimination and harassment litigation, and provide legal advice to consumers and businesses concerned with potential violations of the Unruh Civil Rights Act.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishes the right of citizens to be free from unreasonable search and seizure by the government. The law also protects citizens from the use of excessive force by government agents and the police.

MARTIN & VANEGAS, APC has experience both prosecuting and defending Section 1983 actions involving questions of whether particular searches, seizures, detentions and arrests follow the requirements of the Fourth Amendment. The torts of false imprisonment and false arrest additionally protect citizens from unlawful searches and seizures by government law enforcement agents as well as by private security guards and shopkeepers. Shoppers unduly detained, interrogated or even arrested without reasonable suspicion may have a cause of action against the merchant for damages.