Lead Sponsor: Senator Jamie Eldridge
Summary: The Massachusetts Civil Rights Restoration Act restores the right of an individual to bring a claim where a governmental policy or activity has the effect of unlawfully discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin or sex. The bill allows an aggrieved person to challenge such a policy or activity in state court.
Why This Matters: Sometimes government policies or practices discriminate or have a disproportionately harmful effect on individuals based on their race, color, national origin or sex. Civil rights laws are meant to help people seek redress against such policies or practices that have a disparate impact, even when the discrimination is unintentional.
Unfortunately, it is increasingly difficult for the victims of civil rights abuses to vindicate their rights in federal court. In Alexander v. Sandoval, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a five-to-four decision that aggrieved parties may no longer bring claims based on the disparate impact regulations under Title VI. Subsequent decisions have applied this reasoning to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 that prohibits discrimination based on sex.
Because the Supreme Court held that the disparate impact regulations are enforceable in federal court only by the federal government, not the beneficiaries of the civil rights statutes, the decision has seriously limited challenges to government policies and practices having a disparate impact in such areas as environmental justice, transportation, and housing. One solution is to ensure that aggrieved parties can bring their claims alleging discriminatory effect in state court.
What this Bill Would Do: This bill restores the right of an individual to bring a claim where a governmental policy or activity has the effect of unlawfully discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin or sex. The bill allows an aggrieved person to challenge such a policy or activity in state court.
Specifically, the Civil Rights Restoration Act aims to:
- Bar discrimination under any state government program or activity on account of race, color, national origin or sex
- Bar methods of administration that have the effect of discriminating against an individual on a prohibited basis
- Allow an aggrieved person to file a civil action in state court to redress said discrimination
You can view the full text of the bill and track its history here.