State Law: Iowa


The Law

The Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965, Chapter 216 of the Indiana Code, makes it illegal for an employer or labor organization to discriminate against someone on the basis of sex.

An "employee" under the Iowa Civil Rights Act is defined as "any person employed by an employer." Under Iowa law, an "employer" means, "the state of Iowa or any political subdivision, board, commission, department, institution, or school district thereof, and every other person employing employees within the state."

Thus, the Iowa statute against discrimination in the workplace applies to all employers, regardless of the number of employees, while Title VII only applies to employers with 15+ employees.

The Iowa Civil Rights Act specifically covers employment discrimination on the basis of age, race, creed, color, sex, national origin, religion, and disability.

Filing A Complaint

The Iowa Civil Rights Commission investigates complaints filed with it free of charge. Complaints under state law must be filed within 180 days of the date you became aware you were being discriminated against or the date of the alleged illegal act. You may file a complaint with the Commission by visiting the office, mailing, faxing or using a courier service to deliver the complaint. Complaints can be mailed to: Grimes State Office Building; 400 E. 14th Street; Des Moines, IA 50319-1004. You may also reach the Commission by calling (515) 281-4121 or 1-800-457-4416.

The complaint must include your full name, address and telephone number; the name and address of the employer or labor organization; a clear and concise statement of the facts, including the dates of any alleged discriminatory acts; and the approximate number of employees the employer has.

Once you file a complaint with the Commission, the Commission will send your employer a letter and a copy of your complaint, stating that you believe you were/are being discriminated against. Both you and the employer will be required to fill out and submit questionnaires. Position statements can be submitted in place of the questionnaires. You will be given the opportunity to mediate the complaint.

A neutral investigator will be assigned to your case. After the investigation is complete, an Administrative Law Judge will determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe you have been discriminated against and your rights violated.

If probable cause is found, you and your employer will be required to attempt to negotiate a settlement. If settlement negotiations fail, a public hearing will be held, overseen by an Administrative Law Judge. If your case goes to public hearing, the Commission takes the case on behalf of Iowa.

You may decide to go through the federal or state court process instead of the Commission’s investigative process. You must first file with the EEOC or Iowa Commission and request a Notice of Right to Sue letter (or administrative closure) in order to file in court. The attorney you hire will explain this process to you. Most cases may be brought in either state or federal court. State law does not limit compensatory (emotional pain/suffering) damages, but it does not allow punitive damages. Iowa does not allow for a trial by jury for claims brought under the Civil Rights Law.

For more information and a more detailed explanation of the complaint process, please visit the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.