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When Hate Crimes Happen at Work

By David Boehrer | Posted on July 06, 2020

Workplace hate crimes may fall under state or federal laws that impact injury claims and damages for an injured worker.

Workplace Hate Crimes on the Rise

Hate crimes occur when a person engages in illegal behavior that’s motivated by bias against the victim’s race, ethnicity, gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability. Hate crimes can happen in neighborhoods, schools, outdoor venues, hotels, casinos, restaurants, retail stores, and many other places where people gather, even in the workplace.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines workplace violence as encounters or incidents that involve verbal abuse, bullying behaviors, sexual and racial harassment, threats of violence or harm, and physical attacks to workers. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, workplace violence usually falls into one of four categories:

  • The perpetrator has no known association with the worker or workplace
  • The perpetrator has a personal relationship with a worker
  • The perpetrator is a current or former employee
  • The perpetrator is a customer, guest, or patient in the workplace

Over the past few years, Nevada businesses have experienced a rise in hate crimes. Henderson workers comp lawyers have seen a jump in personal injury claims filed by workers injured by some type of workplace violence related to hate crimes. Workers with the highest rates of injuries from workplace violence include healthcare and social services workers, public transportation workers, hotel staff workers, teachers, and school employees, and office managers and personnel workers. Due to minimal protection and limited staffing, these workers face a greater risk of physical injuries from workplace violence.

According to the Government of Accountability Office (GOA), healthcare and social services workers endure the highest rate of verbal abuse attacks and physical assaults within the U.S. workforce. Most cases of hospital workplace violence involve verbal and physical assaults on doctors and nurses perpetrated by patients or their family members

Victims of Hate Crimes

When victims are targeted because of their race, ethnicity, gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability, the perpetrator can be charged with a hate crime under federal laws. If the hate crime involves violence, the perpetrator can be charged with a federal crime under U.S. statutes. Federal crimes that may also be considered hate crimes include aggravated assault, assault with a deadly weapon, attempted murder or first-degree murder, homicide, and sexual abuse. If a perpetrator is convicted of a federal hate crime, he/she can be sentenced to many years in prison.

Although there are numerous state and federal laws with enhanced punishments for hate crimes, there are no laws that punish “hateful speech” since Americans are protected under First Amendment Rights that allow freedom of speech. If a perpetrator is screaming racial slurs while physically assaulting the victim, their speech is evidence of a hate crime that’s racially motivated, but screaming racial slurs is not illegal.

Victim Compensation Programs

Every state offers services and programs to help violent crime victims and their families. Individuals convicted of violent hate crimes in lower courts often have an order of “restitution” included in their sentence, which makes them legally obligated to pay for the victim’s damages including:

  • Expenses for medical treatments
  • Expenses for physical therapy or rehabilitation
  • Expenses for mental health treatments
  • Expenses for prescribed medications
  • Out-of-pocket expenses related to treatments
  • Lost wages

Every state has different types of benefits, compensation limits, and deadlines to apply for aid. In Nevada, a Henderson workers comp lawyer can provide legal guidance and advice on state victim compensation programs and workers’ compensation claims for workplace hate crimes.

Nevada Hate Crime Laws

In Nevada, a crime committed against a person because of that individual’s race, color, national origin, religion, mental or physical disability, or sexual orientation, is a hate crime. Even if the perpetrator wrongly believes the victim is in one of these groups, he/she can still be charged and prosecuted for a hate crime.

While Nevada laws do not delineate hate crimes with specific penalties, the state does enhance the penalty for certain crimes which happened mainly because of the protected status of the victim. If the victim is a minority, of a different sexual orientation, or physically or emotionally disabled, penalties for a hate crime can be increased by the court.

In Nevada, a hate crime in the workplace could also be an employment discrimination case in certain circumstances. In some cases, when an employee is the victim of a workplace assault he/she may have to choose between filing a workers’ compensation case with a workers comp lawyer and filing a tort case under the so-called exclusive remedy of workers’ compensation. When a workplace hate crime case becomes complicated, a Henderson workers comp lawyer can address legal issues and provide guidance that ensures the best outcome for the employee. In general, any criminal sanction against the perpetrator will have no effect on a workers’ compensation claim.

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