The state of Iowa is perhaps best known as home to the Presidential primaries, which often determine the nominees of America’s big political parties. Iowa’s population (according to a 2008 estimate) is almost exactly three million. The state’s biggest cash crop is corn, but today’s Iowa also boasts thriving financial services, green energy, and biotech industries. Cottage industries spring up quadrennially to capitalize on the influx of visitors and resources during primary season.

Civil rights and employment rights are enforced via the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. This association educates employers and employees about the state’s labor laws, enforces compliance with said laws, mediates disagreements, advocates on behalf of the disadvantaged, and supports safe and sustainable employment in the state.

The Iowa Civil Rights Commission was founded as a neutral arbiter of disagreements. The Commission has been in constant operation since the Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965. It performs five basic tasks, (per the ICRC website):

  1. First, it looks into complaints about discrimination and attempts to resolve them.
  2. Second, it looks towards reconciling intractable problems by bringing in outside mediators and other experts.
  3. Third, it spearheads a multi-pronged education campaign designed to bring awareness of discrimination issues to the public’s mind.
  4. Fourth, it offers consulting services for employers or local groups who want to end longstanding discrimination and/or diversity complaints.
  5. Fifth, it enforces the Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965, which forbids discrimination or unequal treatment on the basis of an individual’s gender, religion, national origin, race, color, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, creed, age, family status, marital status, and color. The law also forbids retaliatory practices (e.g. an employer firing an employee for filing a discrimination complaint).

Common forms of discrimination in the workplace include failing to promote a qualified employee, unfair termination, pay reductions, loss of benefits, prejudicial hiring, unfair reassignment, and demotion.

Sexual harassment often takes the form of unwanted sexual advances, public distribution of sexually explicit/pornographic materials, inappropriate touching, asking for sexual favors, crude or offensive remarks, sexual gestures, and any other sexual act that creates a hostile work environment.

Under state and federal law, “whistle-blowers” are protected while reporting acts of discrimination and harassment. This means employers cannot retaliate against an employee for reporting any form of illegal activity – regardless of the circumstances. Retaliation is often identical to discrimination and may include a loss of benefits, demotion, transfer, termination, or other similar action that is directly related to speaking out against discrimination or harassment.

In 2009, Iowa became one of only a handful of states to legalize gay marriage. The decision was met with protest from many on the religious right, including some who believe that sexual orientation should not be included in the “laundry list” (above) of classes protected from employment, credit, and housing discrimination.

If you have been discriminated against or feel that your Iowa employer somehow treated you unjustly, it is important to take legal action to remedy the problem. For further assistance, contact the appropriate government agency or a qualified local attorney by clicking here.

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