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West Des Moines Employment Law Blog

Court lets state workers file workplace discrimination claims

Discrimination in the workplace can take place in any kind of job in Iowa, even for state workers who might expect to be treated in an evenhanded fashion due to the nature of the employment. Nonetheless, discriminatory practices can affect people across a wide spectrum. Fortunately, there are options to seek better treatment and to be compensated for wrongdoing, if it is proven to have occurred. For state workers, a new ruling opens the door to pursue a lawsuit.

A lawsuit in which Iowa Workforce Development was sued due to allegations of wrongful discharge could go forward. The case began in January 2015 when one of the judges sued due to many allegations of mistreatment at work. Among other things, she claimed she was subjected to wrongful discharge, breach of contract, retaliation and defamation. The wrongful discharge claim had been dismissed by a judge because of the idea that state workers who are working under contract have ways to deal with their workplace issues via that contract and cannot sue. She appealed to State Supreme Court.

Understanding when retaliation violates employment law

Iowans with issues at work, and believe there has been a violation of their employment rights, are often concerned about filing a complaint, due to fear of retaliation. This is also a problem when an employee takes part in protected activities, but the threat of retaliation is in place to dissuade them. However, retaliating against an employee is a violation of the law.

But, there are foundational circumstances that must be in place for there to be a violation of the law against retaliation. This is essential when there is a desire on the part of the employee to file a lawsuit. The severity of the retaliation is key.

Woman claims harassment and discrimination at former job

Iowa residents who are simply trying to do their jobs to the best of their abilities might find themselves confronted with various forms of harassment and discrimination. This can be frightening and worrisome, as they may not know what to do to put a stop to it and are concerned about the possibility that a complaint could make matters worse. However, workers must remember that they have employee rights and can take steps to exercise them. Even if it takes time to file a case, it is important to understand how to move forward.

For example, a recent report notes that a 29-year-old woman who worked at an amusement park has filed a lawsuit asserting that she was harassed and was subjected to sexual and disability discrimination. The employee says that she worked at the job from May to September of 2017. She suffers from medical issues and asserts that she was subjected to harassment because of it. According to her, she informed the employers of her disabilities when she was interviewed for the job. Supervisors took part in bullying behaviors because of them. She claims that she was dismissed and a manager said that she would not have passed a drug test due to the medications she takes.

Understanding the options available to a victim of harassment

As a growing number of prominent people are accused of sexual harassment and face losing their jobs and even being arrested, there might be a belief that sexual harassment on the job will no longer be tolerated and all victims need to do to put a stop to it is report it. However, it is important that Iowa residents who are a victim of harassment understand that reporting it is the first step toward achieving justice. Those who fail to report being a victim of harassment will also hinder any attempt to file a lawsuit based on a sexual harassment claim.

Are you familiar with the types of sexual harassment?

As an employee, you hope you never have to deal with any form of sexual harassment. Unfortunately, there may come a time when you find yourself in this undesirable position.

It's important to become familiar with the many types of sexual harassment, as this will give you a clear idea of your legal rights and the steps you should take (as well as things to avoid).

What is military service qualifying exigency under FMLA?

Workers in Iowa who have family members who are in military service will often be worried about how potential demands for time off will affect their work. The Family and Medical Leave Act has a stipulation that an eligible worker can use FMLA if there is a qualifying exigency. When seeking to take time off from work and have the job protected, it is important to understand how FMLA protects these individuals.

To use FMLA, the eligible employee must have a spouse, offspring or parent who is a covered military member on active duty, is call to covered active duty or was notified that there is an impending call to covered active duty and it will be in a foreign country. It must be a federal call. A state call will not be covered except in circumstances in which it stems from an order by the president. A specific form - "Certification of Qualifying Exigency for Military Family Leave" - must be given to the employee's supervisor.

Sexual harassment in Iowa and witnesses reporting it

When sexual harassment takes place in the workplace in Iowa, it is common that the victim is not the only person aware of it. Witnesses might see that there is harassment taking place and there is frequently confusion as to the protocol of reporting it when another person is a victim of harassment. Understanding how the law views this issue is important when a person is subjected to sexual harassment at work and would like to seek help and file a legal claim about it.

There are certain public universities and government agencies that require witnesses to sexual harassment to report it. This is designed to shield the victim. In a recent incident, the Governor of Iowa, Kim Reynolds, dismissed the Iowa Finance Authority's director when he was alleged to have sexually harassed an employee. The victim asserted that he commented on her physique, questioned her regarding her sex life, asked her to join him in his hotel room and made jokes and gestures of a sexual nature. When she complained, she expressed how fearful she was, but felt she had no alternative.

Sexual harassment: What investigative steps must employers take?

When there is an allegation that sexual harassment has taken place in a workplace in Iowa, the victim should know how the case will be handled by the employer. There are basic, foundational issues that must be understood even before moving forward with a sexual harassment claim and seeking compensation in a legal filing. The internal investigation has numerous facets that are vital to a case. If the employer is derelict in its duties to fully investigate, that can be part of a case.

The employer must conduct an interview with the complainant regarding the allegations. It must know who the harasser is, the behaviors that took place, what the complainant's reaction was, where it happened, if there are witnesses and if it was a singular incident or there was a pattern of behavior. The complainant must be assured that the case will be as confidential as is reasonably possible.

Religious discrimination laws protect grooming and garb practices

For many Iowa residents, part of their religious observance dictates how they groom themselves and the clothes they wear. Some people are unaware of its importance to those who follow various religions and that these mandates must be followed. They will subsequently engage in religious discrimination in the workplace. Others might simply make untoward comments about it. This too can be viewed as religious discrimination and a violation of employee rights. Understanding how religious garb and grooming are protected in the workplace is important. If there is a violation, the victim may have the right to seek compensation in a legal filing.

A variety of religions - Judaism, Islam, some forms of Christianity and others - require that adherents adjust their grooming practices or wear certain clothing. Employers, in general, are required to alter their basic rules to allow workers to observe their religion. There are certain rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that shields these workers if the workplace has a minimum of 15 employees.

Sexual harassment during your probation period in Iowa

When you have recently started a new job, you will likely have a probationary period. This is in place so that your employer has more rights than usual for the purposes of making sure that you are the right employee for them. While your probationary period will mean that you feel more vulnerable to the possibility of dismissal, and you may feel an increased pressure to impress your employer, it does not mean that you are in any way exempt from the basic rights of an employee.

If you work for a company with the required amount of employees, you will be protected by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) whether you are a full-time employee, an employee on your probationary period or even an intern. This minimum required number of employees will depend on the type of company that you work for, whether it is a governmental agency, labor union or a private company.