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Civil Rights and Hate Crimes

The Office’s Civil Rights Program helps enforce federal civil rights laws aimed at prohibiting discrimination and ensuring equal opportunity in Vermont. It also prosecutes hate crimes, law enforcement misconduct, and other criminal civil rights violations.

Civil Enforcement

The scope of federal civil rights protections is broad, and includes laws aimed at addressing housing discrimination, equal educational opportunities, disability access, and stopping discrimination by state governments, local municipalities, or in public accommodations. The Civil Rights Program works with DOJ’s Civil Rights Division to enforce federal statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity), religion, familial status, national origin, and citizenship status. 

File a Complaint: We welcome information concerning possible violations of federal civil rights laws. However, our office does not represent individuals and cannot be your lawyer. If you would like to file a complaint, please do so by using the form at the link below. Our office reviews each complaint it receives.  In an emergency situation, please call 911 or call local law enforcement.

File a civil rights complaint Link to PDF

Filing Complaints with Other Federal Agencies

Often, our office only becomes involved with an individual’s claims after they have been filed with, and investigated by, another federal agency. Examples may include:

•    Employment discrimination: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
•    Housing discrimination: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
•    Education discrimination: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights
•    USERRA violations: U.S. Department of Labor

Criminal Enforcement

Our Civil Rights Program can also prosecute federal criminal civil rights offenses, such as hate crimes, vandalism or arson of religious property, misconduct by law enforcement officers, human trafficking, and criminal interference with persons obtaining reproductive health services.

The Civil Rights Program’s main federal investigatory partner is the FBI.  For more information, please visit:

What is a Hate Crime?

Hate Crime = A Crime + Motivation for committing the crime based on hate

An act (or attempted act in some cases) that violates criminal law and is motivated by bias may be a prosecutable hate crime.

At the federal level, this can include crimes motivated by bias against race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability. 

However, not all hateful behavior, including hate speech, is a crime. Acts of prejudice that are not crimes and do not involve violence may include threats, or certain property damage.  These incidents are considered bias or hate incidents and, despicable and unnerving as they are, may not rise to the level of a crime.  However, reporting such incidents to local police and city/town representatives can help them educate, inform, and protect all of our communities. Not everyone who engages in hate speech will escalate to committing a hate crime. When it does happen, however, documentation of these incidents could potentially be useful in a criminal prosecution.

Learn more about hate crimes.

Hate crimes impact everyone

Hate crimes have devastating effects beyond the harm inflicted on one victim. They reverberate through families, communities, and the nation as others fear that they, too, could be threatened, attacked, or marginalized because of who they are or are perceived to be.

Federally protected classes

A federal hate crime law may protect individuals from crimes motivated by bias against the following characteristics:


  • Race or Color
  • National Origin
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Familial Status
  • Sex
  • Gender
  • Gender Identity

If you believe you are the victim of a hate crime

Report it

  • In an emergency, always dial 911 or your local police to get immediate help.
  • If the situation is no longer an emergency, you may report a potential hate crime to your local police, the FBI, or both.
  • Learn more about how to report a hate crime.

Get Support

  • You are not alone - reach out to friends, community groups, victim support groups.  Our office can also provide resources in certain cases. 
Updated April 18, 2024