Diversity & Inclusion

Virginia’s New Office of Civil Rights to Target Bias

Virginia Attorney General (AG) Mark Herring has launched a new Office of Civil Rights to help protect residents from discrimination. The move is seen as a response to the cultural awakening the nation experienced in 2020 after high-profile police shootings and the recognition that once-common offensive behavior toward certain gender groups is no longer acceptable in the Old Dominion.

Civil Rights
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What’s Changing

On January 5, 2021, Herring announced the existing Office of Human Rights would be restructured to create the new Office of Civil Rights. Along with the name change, the staffing will increase significantly, and the new office’s scope and reach will be more encompassing.

The Office of Civil Rights will be staffed by seven attorneys and six staff members, which is a dramatic uptick from the Office of Human Rights’ previous complement of just one lawyer and three staffers.

The change builds upon a series of bills passed in the Virginia General Assembly in 2020 authorizing the AG to investigate discrimination in local police departments and enhancing the agency’s ability to protect LGBTQ rights and root out gender-based discrimination.

As Herring explained when announcing the change, “The Office of Civil Rights will enhance our ability to protect Virginians from discrimination in housing, employment and public life, as well as allow us to tackle new responsibilities, like ‘pattern and practice’ investigations that can root out and end unconstitutional policing and enforcing protections against discrimination for LGBTQ Virginians.”

You can reach the new office at 804-786-2071 or by e-mail at CivilRights@oag.state.va.us.

Billy B. Ruhling, II, is an attorney at DiMuroGinsberg P.C. in Alexandria, Virginia, and can be reached at bruhling@dimuro.com.