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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.

It was ruled that the workers do have the right to file a lawsuit, even if they are working under a contract. The former judge heard unemployment appeals for 15 years. When a new director of the agency was named in 2011, the plaintiff and others stated that they had been pressured to lean toward favoring businesses instead of workers. Following testimony about issues at the job, she was given poor ratings for her work and dismissed in January 2015. She was accused of insurance fraud. It was found that she was retaliated against. Another worker had filed a whistleblower claim slightly less than one year earlier. In that case, which was also dismissed, the Supreme Court issued a reversal saying whistleblowers against state agencies can also sue. Finally, another employee alleged age discrimination was at the root of a job he had applied for being given to a younger staffer and there was an admission that age was a factor.

While state workers had previously faced problems filing lawsuits for discrimination based on how their situations were viewed by the law, this decision could open the door for those who are employed by the state to seek compensation when there are violations. Given this potential change, state workers who are dealing with workplace discrimination, should immediately discuss their case with a law firm that specializes in these cases.

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