The Civil Rights Enforcement Section is committed to the strong and vigorous enforcement of federal and state civil rights laws. The Section addresses a broad array of civil rights issues, including, but not limited to:
- Discrimination by business establishments, including discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, sexual orientation, citizenship, primary language, immigration status, and other protected classifications
- Disability Access Rights
- Employment and Housing Discrimination
- Reproductive Rights
- Education Rights, including Equal Access to Higher Education
- Sexual Assault on College Campuses
- Immigrant Rights, including Combating Immigration Consultant Fraud
- Hate Crimes
- Human Trafficking Prevention under the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act
- Police Practices, including the Investigation of Police Misconduct
- Children’s Rights
- Voting Rights
- The Protection of Free Speech
- Workers’ Rights
Civil rights issues are also the focus of two specialized branches of the Civil Rights Enforcement Section. The Bureau of Children’s Justice, formed by Attorney General Kamala D. Harris in February 2015, employs a broad array of tools to protect the rights of children and focus the attention and resources of law enforcement and policymakers on the importance of safeguarding every child so that they can meet their full potential.
The Attorney General’s Underground Economy Unit works to protect California workers' rights, legitimate businesses and taxpayers by prosecuting violations of California’s labor laws, such as theft of wages; unpaid overtime; misclassification of employees as independent contractors; payroll tax fraud and evasion; workers' compensation insurance premium fraud; serious safety violations and the illegal avoidance of workers' compensation coverage for employees.
The Civil Rights Enforcement Section takes a proactive role in identifying civil rights violations to be remedied by the Attorney General. It also works closely with the public, state, federal and local government agencies, and civil rights and community organizations to identify potential civil rights initiatives. When civil rights violations are confirmed, the Civil Rights Enforcement Section will represent the Attorney General in her independent capacity as California’s chief law officer in prosecuting those who have violated the law, and will seek the strongest remedies to prevent further violations of those laws.
The Civil Rights Enforcement Section provides legal representation to state agencies that are charged with enforcing specific California civil rights laws. The Section provides advice and consultation services to these agencies and represents them before state and federal trial and appellate courts. These agencies include, but are not limited to, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which is responsible for enforcing the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, and the Native American Heritage Commission, which is charged with enforcing the Native American Heritage Act that protects Native American burial and sacred sites.
The Civil Rights Enforcement Section also prepares and files friend-of-the-court briefs (called amicus curiae briefs) on behalf of the Attorney General and on behalf of client agencies in cases brought by third parties in which significant civil rights issues will be resolved.
Additionally, the Civil Rights Enforcement Section educates the public about California and federal civil rights laws to ensure that the public is aware of their rights and remedies under those laws. The Section engages in outreach to the civil rights community and the public to gather information to assist the Section in identifying appropriate subjects for investigation and/or litigation.
The Civil Rights Enforcement Section also provides proposals and advice to the Attorney General on potential civil rights legislation.