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Civil Rights

The U.S. Attorney’s Office represents the interests of the United States in the Eastern District of New York, vigorously enforcing civil rights laws which prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender preference, and religion, among other protected categories.  We protect the constitutional rights of residents and affirm equal opportunity in areas including the rights of individuals with disabilities, housing, employment (in state and local governments), education, and voting. We are also responsible for investigating and criminally prosecuting traditional civil rights violations and hate crimes, among other defenses.  For more information about this work, see the Office’s Civil Rights Brochure Folleto de derechos civiles de la oficina

How to Make a Civil Rights Complaint  

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York welcomes information from the public regarding possible violations of our nation’s civil rights laws. Civil rights complaints can be submitted by email, mail, or phone. You do not need a special form to submit a complaint, but you can use this form:

 Civil Rights Complaint Form (English)  

 Formulario Para las Demandas y Quejas Sobre los Derechos Civiles– Español

You can send your complaint by U.S. Postal Service mail or email to: 

       usanye-civilrights@usdoj.gov

                                  or

                 U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New York
                 271-A Cadman Plaza East
                 Brooklyn, New York 11201
                 Attn: Chief of Civil Rights

To submit a complaint by telephone, call 718-254-7000.

Civil Enforcement

Civil Statutes We Enforce

The Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney’s Offices are responsible for enforcement of more than 20 statutes prohibiting discrimination include:

  • Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq.
    We enforce the rights of individuals with disabilities: in employment (title I), to access state and local governmental services (title II) and public accommodations such as restaurants, gyms and sports arenas (title III).
     
  • Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §  3601 et seq.
    We investigate and bring suit against landlords, realtors and others who discriminate against individuals and families based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status or national origin.
     
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Act (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), 42 U.S.C. §  2000 et seq.
    Under Title VII, the Department of Justice is responsible for litigating cases against state and local government employers which discriminate against employees based upon race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
     
  • Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq.
    CRIPA authorizes the Attorney General to investigate and commence civil actions against state and local governments which engage in patterns or practices of depriving persons of their constitutional and statutory rights in institutional settings such as jails, prisons and psychiatric hospitals.
     
  • Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (Law Enforcement Misconduct Statute), 34 U.S.C. § 12601 (formerly 42 U.S.C. § 14141)
    The Attorney General is authorized by this statute to investigate and bring civil actions against law enforcement agencies which engage in a pattern or practice of depriving persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.
     
  • Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. §§ 10301 et seq.
    The Department of Justice is charged with protecting the right of all citizens to vote, including the right to register to vote and cast meaningful votes, as protected and guaranteed by the Constitution.    
     
  • National Voter Registration Act of 1993, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1973gg et seq.
    The Department of Justice has authority to bring civil actions in federal court to enforce the NVRA, also known as the “motor voter law,” “to enhance voting opportunities for every American.” The Act has made it easier for all Americans to register to vote and to maintain their registration.
     
  • Unformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. §§ 4301 et seq.
    We bring lawsuits against private, state, and local government employers for violations of USERRA upon receipt of a referral from the Department of Labor (“DOL”).  USERRA entitles servicemembers to return to their civilian employment upon completion of their military service with the seniority, status, and rate of pay that they would have obtained had they remained continuously employed by their civilian employer.  USERRA also prohibits discrimination based on present, past and future military service.

Other civil statutes we enforce include:

Examples Of Our Civil Rights Work

Police Reform

In re: Suffolk County Police Department (Reforming SCPD’s policies and practices focusing on Latinx communities)                     

​ Press Release Settlement Agreement Compliance Reports

            

U.S. v. City of New York (Kings County Hospital Center Police) (Reform of Hospital Police at NYC H+H medical center)

 Complaint  Consent Order Compliance Reports

                                   

Disability Rights

U.S. v. State of New York (Protecting the right of Individuals with Serious Mental Illness residing in Adult Homes to integration into community housing)

 Complaint  Settlement Agreement  

                                   

In re Camp Treetops (Enabling child with diabetes to attend summer camp)

 Press Release  Settlement Agreement  

                                   

U.S. v. City of New York (Ensuring that families in NYC shelter system have access to auxiliary aids and services)

 Press Release  Complaint  Consent Order

                                   

In re Dr. William Sher (Wrongful refusal by a surgeon to operate on patient who was HIV+)

 Press Release  Settlement Agreement  

                                   

In re Fabco Shoes (Denial of access by a shoe store manager to a customer in a wheelchair)

 Press Release  Settlement Agreement  

                                   

Housing Rights

U.S. v. Bank of America (Wrongful refusal of a bank to issue loans to individuals with disabilities under guardianships)

 Press Release  Complaint  Consent Judgment

                                   

U.S. v. Trump Village, Section IV, Inc. (Fair Housing Act case against a co-op apartment complex for refusing toallow residents to live with emotional support animals)

 Press Release  Complaint  Settlement Agreement

                                   

U.S. v. Village Realty (Racial steering by Staten Island realtor)

 Press Release  Complaint  Consent Order

                                   

Employment Rights

U.S. v. City of New York (NYSNA) ($20.8 million to settle discrimination charges made by city-employed registered nurses and midwives who were subjected to discrimination because they were woman.)

 Press Release  Complaint  Consent Order

                                   

U.S. v. Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (Protecting the rights of pregnant TBTA Officers to equal treatment)       

 Press Release  Complaint  Settlement Agreement

            

U.S. v. City of New York (FDNY) (Ensuring that the FDNY provides reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities)

 Complaint  Consent Order  

                                  

Voting Rights

U.S. v. NYC Board of Elections in the City of New York (Action to ensure proper maintenance of voter rolls in the New York City)

 Complaint in Intervention  Consent Order  

                                   

Institutional Reform

U.S. v. City of New York (Kings County Hospital Center Psychiatric Unit) (Transformation of acute care psychiatric hospital to model facility)

 Complaint   Consent Order  Compliance Report

                                                           

Criminal Enforcement

The Civil Rights Section within the Office’s Criminal Division is responsible for investigating and criminally prosecuting traditional civil rights violations and federal hate crimes, among other offenses.  With respect to traditional civil rights violations, the Section prosecutes law enforcement officers and other individuals who operate under the color of law and who willfully deprive individuals of their constitutional rights, including those protected by the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments of the Constitution.  With respect to hate crimes, the Section prosecutes individuals who commit federal hate crimes on account of someone’s race, color, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability.  In addition, the Section prosecutes individuals who commit violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act by injuring or otherwise interfering with those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health care services. 

  • Federal Hate Crimes.  Two statutes, 18 U.S.C. § 245 and 18 U.S.C. § 249 (the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act), make it a federal crime to injure or threaten to injure through the use of a firearm or other dangerous weapon individuals on account of their race, color, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and disability.  When the crime is on account of an individual’s gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability, the crime must also affect interstate or foreign commerce as described in the law.
  • Willful Deprivation of Constitutional Rights.  18 U.S.C. §§ 241 and 242 criminalize individuals who operate under the color of law, including police officers and correctional guards, who willfully deprive individuals of their constitutional rights.  A law enforcement officer can deprive an individual of their constitutional rights by using excessive force or committing a sexual assault, among numerous other means.
  • Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.  The FACE Act, 18 U.S.C. § 248, makes it a crime to injure or otherwise interfere with an individual seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health care services.
  • Rights to Fair Housing.  Another statute, 42 U.S.C. § 3631, makes it a federal crime to injure, intimidate or otherwise interfere with an individual because he or she rents, buys or sells an apartment or house and because of the individual’s race, color, religion, gender, disability, national origin or familial status.

            The Office has a long history of using these statutes to prosecute some of the most serious and offensive crimes in the history of the District.  For example, the Office prosecuted former New York City police officer Justin Volpe for brutally sodomizing an individual in his custody and prosecuted Lemrick Nelson for fatally stabbing a Jewish man walking on a public street on account of his religion.  More recently, in three companion cases, the Office prosecuted a trio of federal prison officials who brazenly sexually assaulted inmates in their custody and care.  In United States v. Nicoletti, et al., the Office prosecuted four individuals who carried out four separate racially-motivated assaults immediately following the election of Barack Obama.

Other Resources

In addition to the U.S. Attorney’s Office civil rights enforcement program, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and a variety of other federal agencies provide online resources and information.  These include:

Updated June 16, 2021

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