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State and federal laws prohibit Iowa employers from engaging in discriminatory practices when it comes to employee wages. Nonetheless, many people learn that they are paid lower wages because of their race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, disability, or age.
Not all instances of wage discrimination are necessarily intentional efforts to punish certain employees. However, some policies adopted by an employer could still end up discriminating against a protected group. The manner in which you can pursue a wage discrimination case will depend on the specific laws that were violated, as procedures may differ in each case.
If you believe that you were the victim of wage discrimination in the greater West Des Moines area based on your creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, disability, age, or race, contact an experienced attorney right away. Higgins Law Firm, PLLC, represents clients in Polk County, Dallas County, Warren County, and many other surrounding areas.
Our firm can fight to make sure that your employer is held accountable if they’ve failed to pay you the fair wages that you are entitled to. You could be owed back pay for lost wages and payment for your suffering. You could also be eligible for reinstatement to your position, a promotion, or other measures. We will sit down with you to discuss your situation and will discuss all of the legal options available to you when you call (515) 619-9148 or contact us online to set up a 100% confidential consultation.
Iowa Wage Discrimination Laws
Iowa Code § 216.6A(1)(a) established that discriminating against any employee because of their age, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, or disability by paying wages at a rate less than that paid to other employees resulted in seven unfavorable actions:
- Unjustly discriminating against a person receiving a lesser rate
- Leading to low employee morale, high turnover, and frequent labor unrest
- Discouraging employees paid lesser rates from training for higher-level jobs
- Curtailing employment opportunities, decreasing employees’ mobility, and increasing labor costs
- Impairing purchasing power and threatening the maintenance of an adequate standard of living by employees and their families
- Preventing optimum utilization of the state’s available labor resources
- Threatening the well-being of the citizens of this state and adversely affecting the general welfare
Under Iowa Code § 216.6A.2.a., it is an unfair or discriminatory practice for any employer to discriminate against any employee because of age, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, or disability by paying them wages at a rate less than the rate paid to other employees who are employed within the same establishment for equal work on jobs requiring equal skill and performed under similar conditions. Lowering the rate paid to other employees is not a remedy to this violation.
Iowa Code § 216.6A(3) provides that all of the following can be affirmative defenses for an employer to explain a discrepancy in wages:
- Seniority system
- Merit system
- System that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production
- Any other factor other than the age, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, or disability of an employee
Under Iowa Code § 216.6A(4), this law applies only to employers who regularly employ four or more individuals. A person has 300 days from the date they learned of a discriminatory incident to file a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, and a case will also be filed with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) if federal laws apply.
Two major federal laws that apply to some wage discrimination cases are the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A person needs to obtain a Right to Sue letter from the EEOC before they can file a lawsuit for a Title VII violation, but you can file a claim for an Equal Pay Act violation without such a letter.
How Can an Attorney Help?
Depending on the specific circumstances of your case, the wage discrimination you’ve experienced could be a violation of the Equal Pay Act or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Your attorney could help you file a charge with the EEOC for Title VII violations, or could take an Equal Pay Act claim directly to court. Your lawyer might also advise you to pursue a claim directly against your employer under both the Equal Pay Act and Title VII.
To prove your claims, your lawyer will need to evaluate your compensation based on the salaries and wages of other “similarly situated” employees. Once those employees have been identified, your lawyer will have to determine if the differences in pay are due to discrimination.
This process can be complicated and it can take time to build a strong case on your behalf. Because of this, it is important to hire an attorney who has specific experience handling wage discrimination claims. It’s also vital to get representation right away so that your case can be thoroughly investigated.
What Are the Possible Remedies and Compensation?
As the EEOC notes, remedies for employment discrimination often include monetary damages. The two types of damages in these cases are compensatory damages and punitive damages.
Compensatory damages are broken into economic damages that apply to actual out-of-pocket costs a victim has incurred or will incur and noneconomic damages that include more emotional or psychological harm that cannot be quantified. Punitive damages are awarded only in cases in which an employer engaged in malicious or reckless discrimination.
Compensatory and punitive damages in EEOC cases are limited: an employer with 15–100 employees will not pay more than $50,000, an employer with 101–200 employees will not pay more than $100,000, an employer with 201–500 employees will not pay more than $200,000, and an employer with more than 500 employees will not pay more than $300,000.
Cases involving sex-based wage discrimination or age discrimination will result in an award of liquidated damages instead of compensatory or punitive damages. Liquidated damages will be equal to the amount of back pay awarded to a victim.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Wage Discrimination
What Federal Employment Discrimination Laws Enforced by EEOC Are Applicable to My Workplace?
The number of employees that your employer has determines your applicable federal laws. All businesses are required to provide equal pay for equal work to all employees. Additionally, businesses:
- With 15 to 19 employees cannot discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, disability, and genetic information (including family medical history)
- With 20 or more employees cannot discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, disability, and genetic information (including family medical history) as well as age (40 or older).
What is an Employer Prohibited From Asking About When Hiring?
An employer cannot ask whether an applicant has a disability, nor can they ask any question that may reveal that an applicant has a disability. An employer can ask if a reasonable accommodation will be needed, and they can also give applicants the opportunity to self-identify as disabled for affirmative action purposes. The law also prohibits an employer from asking about genetic information, such as family medical history.
What is the EEOC’s Mediation Program?
The EEOC mediation program is a free and voluntary program in which the employee and employer work together to achieve a resolution to their issue. Participation is not an admission of guilt, and there is no winner or loser. The process is confidential and can help avoid litigation. However, the best results occur when both parties enter with a willingness to achieve a resolution rather than trying to get the other side to accept their demands.
Contact a Wage Discrimination Lawyer in West Des Moines Today
Do you think you were the victim of wage discrimination based on your color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, disability, age, race, or creed in West Des Moines or a surrounding area of Iowa? You will want to immediately contact Higgins Law Firm, PLLC, for help in holding your employer accountable.