Investigations of Note


Prior to any civil rights legislation, it was common practice for some employers to segregate jobs by sex. In a large factory in Iowa before the Iowa Civil Rights Act was passed in 1965, certain jobs were for men and other jobs were for women. One effect of this practice was that the time clock numbers were also segregated by sex, with the lower numbers for men and the numbers greater than 100 for women. The time clock numbers were used as a tie breaker when more than one employee began employment on the same day. The employee with the lower time clock number was most senior.


When the law changed, the Iowa factory abolished the segregation of jobs by gender. However, the clerk who worked with the new employees did not change her manner of assigning time clock numbers. Men were still assigned numbers under 100 and women were assigned numbers over 100. The inevitable consequence of the time clock number assignment was that women beginning work on the same day with men always were assigned lower seniority than the men.


In the middle 1990's, a woman who had worked for the company for some time filed her complaint at the Commission alleging sexual discrimination based on her lower seniority rating in relation to the four men with whom she began working at the factory. They all were assigned to work in the same unit, with the same position at the same pay grade. However, the daily job assignments were made by seniority date, and the person with the lowest seniority date got the least desirable job assignment. When other jobs became available at the plant, she was edged out by men who began working on the same day.


The investigator recognized this as a different treatment case and focused on resolving the issue, "Whether the Complainant was treated differently because of her sex?" Our investigator delved into the origins of the time clock practice and conducted interviews with the clerk. She candidly admitted that she based the time clock numbers on sex because that was the way it had always been done.


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In a small northern Iowa town, a young African-American woman and her two school age children were looking for a place to live. She had a full time job and she wanted her children to go to a good school in a small town. She wanted to work within twenty miles of her work place.


She scanned the ads in the local and regional papers and found that the housing market was very tight in the area. One morning she found an ad for a house that fit her needs perfectly. She called, and the owner described the house. She asked if she could come by and see it. He agreed to show her the house as soon as she could drive over from work. Less than 15 minutes later, she arrived. She walked up to the door and the owner told her flatly that the house was rented and slammed the door. When she got back to her car where her two children waited, she cried, feeling that her race and the color of her skin were factors in limiting her family's housing options.


When she told her friends about what had happened later in the morning, she asked if one of them would call and ask about the house. One of her friends did call, and he was told by the owner that it was vacant and ready for occupancy.


The civil rights investigator conducted a thorough investigation, speaking with witnesses, the complainant and the respondent/owner. The owner claimed that in the brief period between the complainant's call and her arrival, the preferred tenant came by with a check for the house. He claimed that the complainant's friend who conducted a phone test was not telling the truth. But, after speaking to all the parties and examining all the documentary evidence, the owner's story didn't add up to anything but unlawful discrimination.


This case illustrates the pain and financial hardship that racism and discrimination inflict. The Complainant's grade school age children became upset when they saw their mom's anguish over racism. The family had been living with friends while looking for a home. When they couldn't locate housing, they had to live in a motel, an expensive and unsuitable option for a family of three, before locating other housing. The small town lost the benefit of having a stable, hard working family. (In spite of the problems in locating appropriate housing, the Complainant continued to work at her job she still does today.) These consequences were due to one man shutting the door on a woman because of his prejudice against people of color.