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Eugene Nassif

Generally speaking, in Iowa, most workers are what’s called “at will” employees. This means that your employer can fire you at any time. The only protection for workers is if they have a contract with their employer. There are a few protections for at will employees. These protections keep employers from firing employees for illegal reasons.  

In Iowa an employer can fire an at will employee for misconduct, for some minute or irrational reason or for no reason at all. However, under Iowa law, employers cannot fire an employee because of any bias they have against the employee. The areas which employers can’t discriminate against include race/color, gender, religion, sexual orientation/gender identity, disability, age, or ethnic/national origin. 

In this article, we discuss employment discrimination in Iowa and cover the following topics: 

  • What do I do if I believe I am being discriminates against by my employer in Iowa?
  • Iowa Civil Rights Commission 
  • Equal Employment Opportunities Commission  

What do I do if I believe I am being discriminates against by my employer in Iowa?


The Iowa anti-discrimination statute covers some small employers that are otherwise not covered by federal law. If your workplace has 4-14 employees, you should file your claim with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces federal law and only covers employers with 15 or more employees. If your workplace has 15 or more employees, you may file with either agencies, however many prefer the Iowa Civil Rights Commission as the state has a shorter period for filing. 


Iowa Civil Rights Commission 


If you believe you have been discriminated against, you can make a complaint to the Iowa Civil Right Commission (ICRC). You will have 300 days from the discriminatory act to file a claim. The ICRC will send you paperwork that you will need to fill out and return.  Then, the ICRC will investigate your claim. They will screen the information and make a determination if there is a “reasonable possibility” for a probable cause finding. If further investigation isn’t warranted, the complaint will then be administratively closed. If further investigation is warranted, the parties will be given an opportunity to participate in a mediation, which allows parties to resolve the complaint prior to investigation.  


Once your complaint has been on file for 60 days, you have the option to remove the complaint from the Civil Rights Commission and commence a lawsuit with the state district court. You must request, in writing, the right to sue letter from the commission. When the commission issues this letter, the commission administratively closes the complaint and will take no more action. Once the letter is issued, you have 90 days to pursue the complaint in court.  


During the investigation, the commission investigator will interview witnesses, the person making the complaint and the respondent. The investigator will review all of the information gathered and will forward the information to an administrative law judge to review the case and determine whether probable cause or no probable cause exists to believe that the discrimination occurred.  


There are two main outcomes to this administrative judicial review. If the administrative law judge finds no probable cause, the complaint will be closed and the person making the complaint will not be able to file suit. If the administrative law judge does find probable cause, the complaint will move to conciliation, where the parties will attempt to settle the case and create remedies to address the discriminatory practices. If conciliation fails, a public hearing could be done to further review the case and determine whether probable cause exists to believe discrimination has occurred. If the complaint is not selected for a public hearing, the case will be administratively closed and you can request a right to sue letter within two years of administrative closure.  


Equal Employment Opportunities Commission 


The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission investigations discrimination on a federal level. This agency has a work sharing agreement with the ICRC which means they work together in processing claims. You do not need to file a claim with both agencies so long as you indicate to one of the agencies that you want to cross file with the other agency.  


You can file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC both online, by mail, at a local employment practice agency, over the phone or in person at an EEOC office. You need to file this claim within 300 days after you believe you were discriminated against.  


When your charge is filed, the EEOC will give you a copy of your charge and your charge number. Within 10 days, the EEOC will send a notice and a copy of the charge to the employer. At that point, the EEOC may decide to take part in mediation, ask the employer to provide answers to your claims, then give the charge to an investigator, or dismiss the claim.  


If the EEOC decides to investigate, they will interview witnesses and gather evidence. After the evidence is reviewed, they will let you and your employer know the result. If they determine that discrimination didn’t exist, they will send you a “Notice of Right to Sue.” This notice gives you permission to file a lawsuit in court. If the EEOC determines that discrimination did occur, they will try to reach a settlement with the employer. If settlement doesn’t happen, your case will get referred to the EEOC’s legal staff and a “Notice of Right to Sue” will be issued, allowing you to file suit. 

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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