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A hate crime is an act of violence toward an individual or group on the basis of a certain status, such as gender, disability, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion. Not only is it frightening if an employee of yours allegedly commits a hate crime against another, but it can also raise important legal questions to which you may not know the answer. What is your responsibility in a situation like this? Are you within your legal rights to fire the employee who allegedly committed the crime?

According to Chron.com, the short answer is yes, it is legal for you to fire an employee who allegedly committed a hate crime against another. As a matter of fact, you may actually avoid adverse legal consequences by doing so. Victims have the right to bring harassment lawsuits against employers who know about conditions contributing to a hostile work environment yet do nothing to resolve them. You also have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment, and other employees may feel threatened by the presence of a co-worker with an alleged history of committing hate crimes.

With that said, there may be special considerations involved in firing a worker who has an employment contract with your company. You should check the contract to be sure of what options it provides you. Most employment agreements of this type include a provision allowing you to fire an employee who allegedly violates the law, especially if it puts others in danger.

If the employment is at will, the law is on your side. You can fire the employee without having to prove that he or she committed a hate crime. You do, however, have to ensure that the firing does not violate any applicable anti-discrimination or anti-retaliation laws.