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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article we discuss the laws surrounding terminating an employee in Iowa. Specifically, we address:

  • What types of employees exist in Iowa?
  • Do you have to provide notice of termination in Iowa?
  • What can you NOT fire someone for in Iowa?

What types of employees exist in Iowa?

Iowa categorizes employees in two ways: “contract employees” and “at will employees”. Contract employees typically have a written contract with their employers that covers the terms of their employment. This usually includes the terms that apply to termination of the contract by either party.  

At will employees do not have an employment contract, and this relationship can instead be terminated by any party at any time, for any reason. For more information on “at will” vs “contract” employees, check out our article on Wrongful Termination in Iowa.  

Do you have to provide notice of termination in Iowa?

Iowa law does not require that employers provide at will employees with any notice for termination, nor do they require that termination be for “just” or “good” cause.  

Termination of a contract employee, however, is typically governed by the language of the employment contract. Some contracts state that termination is at-will, while others enumerate the circumstances under which termination is proper. Some contracts, however, are silent on termination all together. When this is the case, Iowa courts have found that the employer still has the implied right to terminate the employee for cause, but otherwise cannot terminate the employee during the term of employment. Contract employees under a “for cause” contract may also be discharged for reasons related to employment. Should a lawsuit ensure, it is up to the fact-finder (judge or jury) to determine whether the employer had cause.  

What Can You NOT Fire Someone For in Iowa?

As previously discussed, contract employees’ termination is governed by their contract. However, at will employees may be fired for no reason at all, with no warning. There are a few exceptions to this rule, though. An employer may not violate a statute prohibiting discrimination when firing an employee. Therefore, an employer may not fire an at will employee on the basis of religion, skin color, etc. or for any other reason prohibited by law.  

Similarly, employers are not permitted to engage in unlawful retaliation when terminating an employee. For example, an Iowa employer is not permitted to terminate an employee because their wages are being garnished. For more on wage garnishment, visit our Wage Garnishment in Iowa article. However, not all employee actions are protected from retaliation. A few that are currently protected and could lead to a wrongful termination claim are:

  • Filing a civil rights claim;
  • Whistleblowing;
  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim

These are not the only reasons an employee cannot be terminated. For a complete list, see the IA Code. If you are unsure about whether you have the right to terminate one of your employees, or if you feel you may have been wrongfully terminated, contact an experienced attorney at O’Flaherty Law for a consultation today.  

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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