42 U.S.C. § 1983

Also known as: Section 1983; Civil Rights Act of 1871; Civil Rights Act; Constitutional Claim; First Amendment Whistleblower Law; Ku Klux Klan Act; Force Act of 1871; Ku Klux Force Act; Third Enforcement Act; Third Ku Klux Klan Act

Signed into law by Ulysses S. Grant
April 20, 1871

Passed as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 largely in response to abuses by the Ku Klux Klan in the southern states, the law provides a cause of action for violations of individual constitutional rights by the federal and state governments. Often this provision is used to pursue cases of government employee whistleblowers who discuss or disclose information related to a matter of public concern. Because these disclosures may be protected as free speech under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, an employee who suffers retaliation for raising matters of public concern may be able to bring a claim under this statute.

Enforcement & Remedies

42 U.S.C. § 1983 creates an individual right of action for government violations of Constitutional rights, and a claim that a government employer has violated the first amendment or other Constitutional rights may be brought in directly in federal court.

Notable sponsors: Benjamin Franklin Butler  Samuel Shellabarger