Frequently Asked Questions About Racial Discrimination

If you believe you’ve been a victim of racial discrimination in the workplace, contact Higgins Law Firm, PLLC at (515) 619-9148 for a confidential consultation. In the meantime, we’ve provided the answers to some frequently asked questions below:

How do I know if I have a valid racial discrimination case?

While unfair things may happen in the workplace, it doesn’t necessarily mean they were acts of discrimination. Because of this, many people aren’t sure if they have a valid racial discrimination claim at first.

Here are some hypothetical situations that depict racial discrimination.

  • A less-qualified white applicant got approval for promotion over a worker of color, and there is evidence it was due to race.
  • People of color in your workplace are held to different standards than white colleagues. For instance, if your Caucasian coworkers routinely violate workplace rules and are not disciplined, but workers of color are disciplined for the same violations, this may be racial discrimination.
  • People of color in your workplace face greater barriers for advancement than white workers.
  • People of color in your workplace get paid less than white coworkers for similar skills and experience.

However, these are just a few examples of racial discrimination. Every case is unique, which is why it’s best to consult with a racial discrimination attorney first. An experienced attorney can evaluate your case and determine if you may have a valid claim for racial discrimination.

Can a white person file a claim for racial discrimination in the workplace?

Yes. The law states that discrimination on the basis of race or color is illegal, so it doesn’t matter whether you’re white or a racial minority. White employers can still file a claim for racial discrimination in the workplace, as long as they have a valid claim.

Is it still racial discrimination if both parties are the same race?

Yes, it can be. “Colorism” still counts as discrimination, even if you and the other party are both the same race. Even if colorism isn’t involved, racial discrimination may still occur if both parties are the same race.

What if I’m of mixed ethnicity? Can I still file a claim for racial discrimination?

Yes, as long as you have a valid claim. Employees and job applicants who are bi-racial or multi-racial are still protected under state and federal laws for racial discrimination.

Is it discrimination if a potential employer asks about my race during a job interview?

There are no laws that prevent employers from asking employees or potential employees about their race.

However, race-related questions may indicate an intent to discriminate (excluding situations when employers are complying with Equal Employment Opportunity laws that require reporting an employee’s race).

If you suspect you were the victim of racial discrimination during a job interview, it’s best to consult with an experienced attorney who can evaluate your claim.

Am I required to file with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission before I can file suit in District Court?

Yes. A race discrimination complaint originated out of the State of Iowa needs to be filed with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission (ICRC) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)before you are allowed to file a lawsuit in court. You can request a “right-to-sue letter” from the ICRC after your complaint has been on file for 60 days.

What is the time limit to file a complaint?

You only have 300 days from the date that you first found out about a discriminatory incident to file with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. Your case will also be filed with the EEOC when federal laws apply, and the EEOC also has a time limit of 300 days from the date of the discriminatory incident.

What is the fee for filing a racial discrimination complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission?

There is no fee required.

Is it possible to file an anonymous claim for racial discrimination with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission? Will my employer find out?

While it’s understandable that some employees might want to file a claim anonymously, it’s not possible. But don’t let this stop you from filing. If you believe you have a valid claim for racial discrimination, you deserve to get the compensation you’re entitled to.

When filing a claim with the EEOC or Iowa Civil Rights Commission, your employer will be notified shortly after the claim is filed. And when you file a lawsuit in court, your employer will need to be served with the complaint. So, in either case, your employer will be notified about who filed the claim.

Because of this, you should hire a racial discrimination attorney to handle your claim. Having a knowledgeable attorney representing you makes going up against an employer much less intimidating, especially if it’s a large corporation. An attorney can also fight on your behalf and negotiate the highest settlement possible.

I’m afraid I’ll get fired after filing a claim for racial discrimination. Can my employer discipline or fire me for filing a claim?

Legally, no. It is illegal for an employer to harass you in any way, retaliate, or fire you simply because you reported discrimination. Even if the Commission or the court finds that there was no racial discrimination, you are still legally protected.

If you recently filed a claim for racial discrimination and were fired, you may be entitled to compensation.

What happens after I file a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission?

After filing a complaint about racial discrimination with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, you can expect:

  • Your complaint is first reviewed by the Commission to ensure it meets all filing requirements. If your complaint fails to meet the procedural requirements, the Commission will close the case and notify you.
  • If all filing requirements are met and your case is accepted, the case will be assigned a docket number. A docket number is a way the case is tracked within the Iowa Civil Rights Commission’s system.
  • Once the case is assigned a docket number, your employer will be notified of the complaint.
  •  At this point, you will be asked to provide additional information to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, including being required to answer written questions sent to you by the ICRC.
  • The Iowa Civil Rights Commission then reviews the civil rights complaint, any information you have provided, and a position statement or other response from the employer. The ICRC will then issue a screening decision, indicating whether the case warrants further investigation.
  • If the complaint is deemed to warrant further investigation, you will be asked to take part in mediation to attempt to resolve the claim and work toward achieving a settlement.
  •  If the case is not sent to mediation, then it will proceed to the investigation process.
  • During the investigation process, all parties must provide their statements and supporting documents related to the facts of the case. Statements from witnesses may also be taken.
  • The Commission will review all evidence and materials to determine if you were, in fact, a victim of racial discrimination in the workplace.
  •  If you are found to be a victim of racial discrimination, the Commission will notify you, and a settlement will be negotiated.
  • If the Commission did not find evidence of racial discrimination, you will be notified and may be able to appeal. You will also be able to request a Right to Sue letter.

Who might not be eligible to receive a right-to-sue letter?

Administrative Rules provide that right-to-sue letters are not be issued in cases after findings of “no probable cause” have been made by Administrative Law Judges, conciliation agreements were reached between parties, notices of public hearing were served by the Commission, over two years have passed since a case was closed administratively, or a finding of “not timely filed” or “no jurisdiction” was made by Administrative Law Judges.