WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (MI-12) re-introduced the Justice for All (JFA) Act of 2023, 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 legislation is co-sponsored by Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01) and Congresswoman Summer Lee (PA-12). 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.
“Too many of our residents are suffering and being left out as they seek justice and accountability. Decades of conservative court rulings continue to chip away at our most critical civil rights laws, and we are witnessing a judicial branch led by a Supreme Court with an increasingly radical right-wing agenda,” said Congresswoman Tlaib. “Justice For All provides access to our judicial system that is necessary to protect people from discrimination and their rights being violated. It is crucial that we restore the original intent of our civil rights laws to fight injustice by empowering people to take on the bias they face every day—like rejected mortgage applications, unfair car insurance rates, workplace discrimination, and racial profiling by the police. We will not stop until we get Justice For All.”
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 re-introduction of Justice For All comes amid the ongoing conservative assault on civil rights and against the backdrop of a Republican Party in full embrace of fascism. GOP-held states around the country have renewed sweeping attacks on women, racial minorities, and LGBTQ+ Americans, and the bill serves as a direct response. The legislative text has been updated to respond to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Egbert (2022) and make clear that Section 1983 applies to federal actors and agents. 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.
“All people deserve to be seen, served, and have their rights protected. Our civil rights can’t be left up to the discretion of an increasingly far-right extremist judiciary,” said Congresswoman Bush. “I am proud to cosponsor my sister-in-service Rep. Tlaib’s Justice For All Act because it is an opportunity for Congress to meaningfully move us toward a more just and equitable future for all. By expanding landmark civil rights protections, we can empower individuals to defend our civil rights, protect our communities from discrimination, and hold our courts accountable.”
“Our civil rights are under such vicious attack that without new legal tools to fight back in the courts, the next generation will have less rights than the Black, brown, and marginalized folks who put their bodies on the line in the 1960s,” said Congresswoman Summer Lee. “The Justice for All Act gives the power back to the People by restoring protections that acknowledge the impact of discrimination on our lives – from racial profiling to lower salaries, rejected loans, and unfair mortgage rates. The multiracial, multigenerational movement that sent me to Congress proved that a better future is possible – and we have a mandate to build it.”
The legislation is endorsed by the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and Defending Rights and Dissent (DRAD). The NLG is 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. DRAD traces its roots back to 1960 and work to dismantle the House Un-American Activities Committee, and is a leading civil rights and civil liberties institution.
A summary of the Justice For All Act can be found here.