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Key points about sexual orientation, gender identity and the law

For Iowans who are concerned about discrimination at work because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, the law protects them. However, there are certain points that workers must be aware of when they are thinking of filing a claim about workplace discrimination because of these factors. Some will benefit them when considering a claim, others will not.

Employers can have a dress code and standards for grooming at the workplace. The employer must let the employee adhere to dressing and grooming in a way that is consistent with his or her gender identity, but apart from that, grooming and dress codes are allowed. Much has been made in the media regarding segregated restrooms. In Iowa, employers can have segregated restrooms. They are, however, obligated to let the employee use the restroom that adheres to the gender identity.

Workers who believe they are facing harassment should know that it is illegal if it encompasses physical, written or verbal conduct that is denigrating or shows an aversion to the person due to his or her gender identity or sexual orientation. For it to be actionable, it must: create an offensive, hostile or intimidating work environment; unreasonably interfere with the employee doing the job; or influence the employee's compensation or career opportunities. Workers cannot be discriminated against during the hiring process; when given job assignments; with wages; with leave or benefits; when being promoted; when being disciplined; with referrals; when given training; when dismissed or laid off; with retaliation for making a complaint; and with harassment.

When there is a belief that discrimination has taken place, the complaint must be filed with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission within 300 days of it being found out. Those who believe they have been mistreated because of their gender identity or sexual orientation should remember that they have rights. A lawyer who is experienced in workplace discrimination can help with filing a case to be compensated.

Source: icrc.iowa.gov, "Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity," accessed on April 3, 2018

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