Iowa Employee Rights FAQ

Is an employer allowed to fire me without giving a reason?

Iowa is an at-will employment state, which means that either an employer or an employee can end the work relationship at any time, for virtually any reason or for no reason at all. The employer is not required to give a reason for the termination. If you suspect that an employer has fired you for a discriminatory reason, you could have the basis for a legal action.

Some people may not legally be fired when it is contrary to an employment contract, and it is also unlawful to fire an employee after they have taken a protected whistleblower action, such as submitting an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) complaint.

If your employment has been terminated, you should still receive your final paycheck on your next regularly scheduled payday. Continuation of, or payout for, any fringe benefits – such as vacation or sick time – will depend on your contract or your employer’s stated policy.

What are the time limits for filing discrimination complaints?

You generally have 300 days from the date of a discriminatory incident to file a discrimination complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. A case can also be filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) when federal laws apply to the case.

The EEOC requires action to be taken within 300 days of a discriminatory incident, and HUD gives a person one year from the date of a discriminatory incident.

How does the Family and Medical Leave Act work in Iowa?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees to take unpaid leave due to serious medical conditions or familial concerns, like the birth or adoption of a child, with the right to reinstatement.

Employers in Iowa are subject to FMLA when they have at least 50 employees for at least 20 weeks in the current or previous year, and employees are eligible for FMLA leave if they have worked for the company for at least one year, they worked at least 1,250 hours during the prior 12-month period, and the company has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius. Employees are allowed to take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period. Health insurance must continue to cover employees while they are on FMLA leave.

What constitutes a hostile work environment?

A hostile work environment is a workplace in which the actions of an employer or co-worker make it impossible for a person to do their job. The behavior must affect the conditions of employment such that they defy the expectations of a comfortable work environment, and the actions must be discriminatory in nature. Federal law prohibits discrimination based on age, disability, national origin, pregnancy, race, religion, sex or gender, and sexual harassment.

What constitutes sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment often takes the form of repeated propositions for dates, or other sexual encounters by employers or co-workers. It can also include inappropriate touching or contact by other employees, sexual comments about a person’s appearance, or other kinds of sexually-motivated actions. An employee has a valid sexual harassment claim when these types of actions interfere with their ability to perform their job.

What kinds of breaks must employees be provided in Iowa?

Iowa does not require employers to provide meal breaks, and employers are not required to pay employees who take breaks that relieve them of work duties. The only breaks employers are required to provide are restroom breaks as needed, and one half-hour break for individuals under 16 years of age when they are scheduled to work five or more hours in a single shift.

Other individuals in certain industries or unions may have contracts requiring breaks, but these will differ depending on the situation.

What can be deducted from my wages?

The only lawful deductions from your wages are applicable taxes, garnishments, and other deductions you have specifically authorized, such as pensions or 401(k) plans. An employer cannot deduct funds for:

  • Cash shortages in common money tills
  • Losses caused by breakage, acceptance of bad checks, or customer credit defaults
  • Personal protective equipment

Deductions for lost or stolen property are only allowed when certain conditions are satisfied.

Are pay stubs required?

An employer must provide an employee with a statement that provides the number of hours the employee worked, the wages the employee earned, and the deductions on that paycheck. The pay stub must be either mailed to the employee, given to the employee electronically, provided at the place of employment, or made accessible and printable.

When an employee is exempt from overtime under federal law and the employer does not pay any overtime, the employer will not be required to provide information on the number of hours worked.