The civil rights of U. S. citizens are defined and protected by wide variety of laws stretching back to the U.S. Constitution. These laws are vitally necessary because of the great diversity of the citizenry, and the regrettable reality that illegal discrimination still affects a large percentage of the population.
The categories of protected status have evolved at both the state and federal levels. Now there are protections against the discrimination on the following bases: age, sex, race, sexual orientation, pregnancy, national origin, ancestry, present or past history of mental disability, mental retardation, learning disability or physical disability.
These cases often involve a required administrative phase before they may be brought in state or federal court. The causes of action may be based on disparate treatment, or may be established by proving disparate impact. Individuals, groups of individuals, or classes of individuals may bring these actions to seek remedies for illegal discrimination. These cases are also often prosecuted in the context of other causes of action that the employee may have against the employer.
These laws represent a specialized area of practice of law, with a discrete set of procedural requirements and jurisprudence.