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West Des Moines Employment Law Blog

Legal assistance in dealing with a hostile working environment

Although sexual harassment is an ongoing problem in Iowa and across the nation, its ancillary effects are often as problematic or worse for workers who are dealing with it. For many, being harassed by a boss, a supervisor, a co-worker, or a customer is bad enough, but it is when other issues that frequently accompany this type of harassment arise that it causes more extensive problems in their lives. Specifically, a hostile working environment and a downward spiral in how they are treated on the job can negatively impact them just as badly as or worse than sexual harassment. With any of these issues, legal assistance can be useful to put a stop to it and seek compensation for what occurred.

People who are simply trying to do their jobs and have told another person to stop bothering them should not need to worry about such punitive measures as worse work hours, lost wages, a demotion, and even a dismissal. Unfortunately, these things do happen simply because a person declined to have a personal relationship away from the job or asked that comments, jokes, and the showing of offensive material stop. Knowing how to end all these behaviors is key, and a lawyer may be able to help.

Can my workplace discrimination claim be kept confidential?

Iowans who are confronted with an employee rights violation and are hoping to file a complaint about it to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will often be worried about confidentiality and the chance that they will suffer retaliation and other repercussions because of speaking out. This is a natural reaction to an already intimidating situation. Understanding the EEOC's policy on public sector confidentiality when lodging a complaint is an important part of a case as is having legal assistance.

When the EEOC gets information from a complainant who has suffered employment discrimination, harassment or any other employment-related mistreatment, the employer will not be notified until the charge has been filed. The complainant must provide the following information: their name, address and contract information; the name and contact information for the employer; and approximation of the number of employees at the workplace; the date(s) when the issues took place; the employer's explanation, if there is one; why the complainant thinks the actions were taken; and if others were treated in a more favorable way and who they are.

Fired worker alleges employee rights were violated and files suit

There are many ways an Iowa worker can be subjected to harassment. While sexual harassment is prominent in the news today, there are a seemingly endless number of other behaviors that can be deemed abusive and harassing. Some cases involve actual assault. To make these circumstances worse, some employees who claim they were mistreated in this way are disbelieved and eventually dismissed. Fortunately, there are strategies within the law to seek justice. The first step is to discuss the case with a qualified attorney.

A former county employee has filed a lawsuit alleging she lost her job after she complained about being assaulted. The woman worked as a food and planning coordinator. She had complained in May 2017 that her boss had yelled and lunged toward her. After she initially complained about her dismissal, the decision was upheld by the Board of Supervisors of the county. There are multiple allegations in her filing, but it focuses on the assault and how she faced retaliation in its aftermath.

Dismissed Iowa Finance Authority head committed sexual harassment

Workers in Iowa might be intimidated when they are facing sexual harassment on the job. This is made worse when the alleged harasser is a person who is in a powerful position in the state. It is important to remember that everyone has rights and it is irrelevant if the perpetrator is someone who might have a certain amount of sway and political connections due to the nature of his or her job and reputation. Reporting the sexual harassment is critical not just for the good of the victim, but to put a stop to the behavior so others will not be subjected to it. Having a law firm with experience in helping those who are victimized is crucial when taking that next step.

Understand your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act

West Des Moines employers who discriminate against their disabled employees are in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). What is particularly distressing is that unless a discriminated-upon employee registers a complaint, companies get away with it.

Unless they are held accountable, companies often hide behind "at will" employment statutes that allow businesses to terminate workers' employment for any reason — or no reason at all. But, because of the ADA, there are certain discriminatory practices that are prohibited.

Teacher facing charges asserts her civil rights were violated

Not all Iowa cases where there are allegations of civil rights being violated, issues with a worker's employee rights and other claims of the law being flouted are easy to assess. Often, there are statements from both sides as to what happened. Regardless of any disputes as to which side is at fault for the workplace problems, a person who believes he or she has been subjected to illegal treatment by an employer has the right to seek compensation in a legal filing. Having a law firm on the worker's side is one of the most important factors in determining what happened.

A teacher who was facing criminal allegations of harassment of school officials has alleged that she was retaliated against due to her complaints. The woman, 51, was a teacher at a middle school when she was put on administrative leave for letters she is accused of sending. She has admitted to being a critic of the district and its officials, but denies sending the letters. She has filed a civil rights complaint because of the alleged retaliation. She states that she was informed that there will be an investigation into her assertions.

Judge overturns decision on former fire chief's harassment claim

When Iowa employees are confronted with problems at work ranging from harassment, discrimination and allegations of wrongdoing, they have the right to protest. If these allegations end with the person losing his or her job, it is even more important to remember that there are laws to protect workers from ill treatment. Many cases are complex and issues arise where the complainant must deal with setbacks and adversity. Remembering the importance of legal help when seeking justice for mistreatment at work is critical.

A former fire chief who asserted that she was fired because of her complaints about harassment was dealt a blow when a judge found in favor of the city. The woman ran the fire department for around five years before the city administrator dismissed her. She protested and the case went before the city's civil service commission. Its mandate is to review complaints from public employees. The commission stated that the city was in the wrong for its decision. The county court heard the city's appeal and found in its favor. According to the judge, the commission did not have the proper jurisdiction nor the authority to overrule the city. Current law was cited as the justification for the decision.

How does credibility determination impact harassment allegations?

When there are allegations from an Iowa employee that his or her employee rights were violated and harassment has been taking place, it is often one person's word against another person's word. This can be complicated for the employer to determine what happened and conclude how to handle the situation. Workers have the right to be free of mistreatment on the job. If there is any kind of mistreatment and harassment whether it is sexual, race-based, gender-based or for any other reason, it could be the foundation for a legal filing.

People who are dealing with any violation of employment law should be cognizant of how credibility determinations are made and what impact it will have on how the case will be resolved. The employer will need to weigh how credible the people are in the case. The factors that will be considered include inherent plausibility, demeanor, if there is a motive to make false statements, if there is corroboration available and the past record of the employees.

What does the law say about equal pay requirements?

In a perfect world, equal pay between men and women would no longer be an issue in Iowa and across the nation. However, it remains problematic as employers might still violate the law by failing to pay men and women equal pay for equal work. When there is a belief that wage discrimination is taking place, a law firm that is experienced in helping workers who have been confronted with wage discrimination can be a vital part of getting justice.

According to the Equal Pay Act, men and women who work in the same establishment should receive equal pay if they are doing the same work. It is not necessary for the jobs to be identical. They only need to be considered "substantially equal." There are multiple aspects that are considered including skill, effort, responsibility, working conditions and establishment.

Family Medical Leave Act violations: Don’t be a victim

There may come a time when your work life and your family responsibilities get in the way of one another. While it's your job to figure things out, there is help to be had. For example, you may be eligible for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

If you have reason to believe you can take advantage of FMLA, it's important to learn more about the system, including how to request time off and the impact it will have on your life.