WASHINGTON—Yesterday, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (MI-13) introduced the Justice for All (JFA) Act of 2020, historic legislation that pushes back against decades of conservative court rulings to restore the original intent of our civil rights laws by reaffirming the availability of discrimination claims based on disparate impact. The JFA Act includes a private right of action and a prohibition on forced arbitration, both essential to allowing victims of discrimination, actual or perceived, to vindicate their rights, enjoin discriminatory behavior, and/or receive an award of damages and attorneys’ fees.
Specifically, Justice For All restores and expands protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. America’s most critical civil rights laws have been significantly undermined by conservative court rulings over the years, including the elimination of the availability of civil rights claims based on disparate impact rather than the more difficult to prove discriminatory intent. Tlaib’s bill would result in expanded protections, stronger civil rights, and a more inclusive America by, in part:
- Amending the aforementioned civil rights laws to prohibit actions which have a discriminatory effect, regardless of any discriminatory intent, and providing tools – including a private right of action – to combat intentional and unintentional discrimination against people based on (actual or perceived) race, color, religion, sex, disability, age, or national origin.
- Protecting people from discrimination in all aspects of life, including housing, schooling, public accommodations, employment, government facilities, privatized government functions, federally funded programs, and any commercial establishment (online or physical).
- Prohibiting the use of compelled arbitration clauses, which are frequently used to extinguish consumer and employee rights.
- Eliminating qualified immunity for government employees, which allows them to escape responsibility for their actions, and establishing that units of government are liable for the acts of their officials, including, most importantly, police officers who violate people’s civil rights. The bill also prohibits racial and gender profiling in police investigations and activity.
- Holding all employers accountable for the actions of all employees and eliminating court-created defenses that allow employers to escape liability for creating hostile work environments.
- Giving victims of disparate impact discrimination the compensation they deserve and the attorney’s fees necessary to allow civil rights lawyers to take up their cases.
- Clarifying the definition of “sex” for purposes of civil rights to include sexual orientation, pregnancy, gender identity, sex stereotypes, or any sex-related traits. No matter how you identify, our civil rights laws must protect you.
Tlaib’s introduction of the Justice For All Act comes after Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation, solidifying a conservative fundamentalist majority that makes the legislation all the more crucial, and amid the rejuvenated Black Lives Matter movement, in which millions have taken to the streets to demand racial and economic justice. In Tlaib’s own congressional district, protesters have marched for over 100 days after George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer. For Tlaib, Justice for All is civil rights legislation with revolutionary potential, providing people of all identities and backgrounds the tools they need to fight the most insidious discrimination we see in our communities.
“Brave Americans throughout our history have put their lives on the line to win critical civil rights protections from Congress, but unfortunately many of their sacrifices have been undermined by conservative courts determined to give corporations and the government a license to discriminate if they just use the right code words and proxies for race, gender, and other aspects of who we are,” Congresswoman Tlaib said. “Justice For All aims to restore the original intent of our civil rights laws by restoring the ability to fight discrimination as we experience it today – in things like rejected mortgage applications, unfair car insurance rates, and racial profiling by the police. We have worked with lawyers on the front lines of protecting our rights for more than a year and a half to develop this legislation that meets the injustices of today with the spirit of the civil rights warriors who came before us. We won’t stop until we get Justice For All.”
Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM-01) and Congressman Joe Kennedy III (MA-04) are original cosponsors of the Justice for All Act. Among the advocacy groups also supporting the legislation is the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), a progressive public interest association of movement lawyers, law students, paralegals, jailhouse lawyers, law collective members, and other activist legal workers that has been on the forefront of civil rights litigation—it was the first U.S. bar association to integrate, allowing the admission of minorities to their ranks.
“As a legal organization that values human rights and the planet over profit and property interests, the NLG is proud to endorse the Justice for All Act,” NLG President Elena L. Cohen said. “It is legislation like this that’s sorely needed in order to protect all people of this country, despite efforts over decades to roll back these important protections.”
A summary of the Justice For All Act can be found here.