Case Processing

FY95 was a record-setting year for the Commission: a record number of new complaints, a record number of case resolutions, a record number and dollar amount of settlements. Commission staff and volunteers continue to work harder and smarter to successfully handle their burgeoning work load.

This year the Commission received 2,274 newly-filed complaints, a 10% increase from last year. Employment continued to be the largest area, accounting for 83.9% of the complaints. Sex and disability were the most frequently alleged bases for discrimination, accounting for 36.5% and 35.5% respectively. Race at 29.6% and age at 15.7% remained close to last year's levels. Retaliation, that is adverse action happening to a person because of filing a complaint or opposing a discriminatory practice, rose to 12.2% this year from 10.5% last year.

It is noteworthy that while race discrimination was alleged in 29.6% of the total number of complaints, in housing complaints race discrimination rose to 41.4%. The most frequently alleged basis in housing complaints was familial status at 42%. Although disability discrimination was alleged in 35.5% of all complaints, it accounted for only 8% of housing complaints.

Discharge or termination continued to be the most frequently alleged discriminatory incident in employment complaints at 24.6%; while failure to rent was the most frequently alleged discriminatory incident in housing complaints at 45.9% Sexual harassment complaints rose to 8.8% of complaints, compared to 5.5% last year.

Case resolutions rose to 2,434 for this fiscal year. This was the second year in a row that more cases were resolved than were filed, resulting in significant inroads in resolving backlog cases. At the end of the fiscal year, there were 299 investigation-ready but unassigned cases in the backlog, down from 514 at the end of the previous year.

Annualized benefits, monies paid to Complainants as a result of settlement agreements or final agency decisions, reached a record-setting $1,378,000 during this fiscal year. The total figure would actually be higher, as some settlements are confidential and the Commission is not informed of the settlement terms. Settlement awards, however, are a double-edge sword. While it is admirable that the agency has been able to settle a large number of cases for significant amounts of money, this also means that there is too much discrimination, actual or perceived, taking place in Iowa.

Complaints Filed: Five Year Comparison

FY 95 2,274
FY 94 2,038
FY 93 1,826
FY 92 1,562
FY 91 1,282


Complaints Filed by Area

 Area  %
 Employment  83.9
 Public Accommodations  7.9
 Housing  6.0
 Education  1.5
 Credit  <1


Complaints Filed by Basis
Basis %
Sex 36.5
Disability 35.5
Race 29.6
Age 15.7
Retaliation 12.2
National Origin 4.8
Familial Status 2.1


The additional bases (creed, marital status, religion, and color) accounted for less that 1% each of the total complaints filed. Many complaints are filed under more than one basis, such as race and sex, sex and age, or age and disability.

Complaints Filed by Alleged Discriminatory Incident (Employment)
Incident %
Discharge 24.6
Harassment 15.0
Terms and Conditions 11.0
Reasonable Accommodation 9.2
Sexual Harassment 8.8
Hiring 8.1
Demotion 5.0
Promotion 4.5
Constructive Discharge 2.9
Layoff 2.1
Wages 2.1
Suspension 1.9

Other incidents such as benefits, early retirement, training, recall and union representation, accounted for less than 1% each.

Complaints Filed by Respondent Type (Employment Complaints)
Respondent %
Private Employers 85.8
State/Local Government 8.0
Public School (Elem./Secon.) 2.3
Public College/Univ. 1.7
Private College/Univ. 1.0


Other respondents, such as private schools, employment agencies, and unions, accounted for less than 1% each.

Complaints Filed by County (Top Ten)
County %
Polk 26.4
Linn 9.0
Scott 8.7
Black Hawk 8.2
Cerro Gordo 3.9
Johnson 3.9
Woodbury 3.5
Dubuque 2.8
Pottawattamie 2.0
Clinton 1.8
Marshall 1.8


Complaints Filed by Agency
Agency #
Iowa Civil Rights Commission 1651
Des Moines Human Rights Commission 112
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 111
Davenport Civil Rights Commission 96
Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission 95
Waterloo Human Rights Commission 66
Mason City Human Rights Commission 65
Iowa City Human Rights Commission 44
Dubuque Human Rights Commission 31
Sioux City Human Rights Commission 21
Council Bluffs Human Relations Comm. 11
Ft. Dodge Human Rights Commission 8
Cedar Falls Human Rights Commission 7
Housing & Urban Development 3
Ames Human Rights Commission 1


Analysis of Determinations

In FY 95, there was a total of 2,434 case resolutions; 529 of these resolutions came from local commissions.

Probable Cause 92
Noticed for Public Hearing 17
Screen-outs 958
Rights-to-Sue 339
Mediations 206
Conciliations 27
Withdrawals 66
Admin. Closure/Local Commissions 236
Admin. Closures/EEOC 54
Admin. Closures/Other 258


Case Resolution: Five Year Comparison

FY 95 2,434
FY 94 2,087
FY 93 1,737
FY 92 1,362
FY 91 1,172


Annualized Benefits: Five Year Comparison

94/95 $1,378,000
93/94 $633,742.22
92/93 $429,890.19
91/92 $281,704.05
90/91 $427,193.66

Volunteer Workers

Volunteers have continued to be an integral part of our staff. Volunteer attorneys have become the main resource for settlement of complaints through mediation. Local educational institutions have provided a solid corps of interns to work on special projects according to their fields of study. Volunteers have assisted with investigations, have done legal research and review of cases, and have served as volunteer testers.

Cooperative Agreements

Cooperative work agreements with local civil rights/human rights commissions around the state have also been an incentive to complete case investigations and resolutions. All of the commissions with paid staff, except one, have entered into agreements with the commission that provide payment to them for completed work on cross-filed complaints submitted to the Commission.


Contested Case Decisions

During FY95, three proposed decisions from administrative public hearings were considered and voted on by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

On August 23, 1994, a final decision was issued in the case of Stacey D. Davies and the Iowa Civil Rights Commission v. Nissen Company, Subhash Sahai, M.D., and Webster City Medical Clinic. Complainant Davies was not hired as a production line worker with the Nissen Company because of her pregnancy, based on the recommendation of Dr. Sahai of the Webster City Medical Clinic. Because this action was not justified by proof that non-pregnancy was a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) for the position, this constituted illegal sex discrimination. While a pregnant female applicant may be informed of any special risks to her inherent in a position, it is for her, and not the employer or its agents, to determine if she wishes to take those risks. Davies was awarded $2,732.99 in back pay and $8,500.00 in damages for emotional distress. Hearing costs were also assessed against Nissen Company, Dr. Sahai, and the Clinic.

A petition for judicial review of the Commission's decision was filed by Dr. Sahai and the Clinic. Nissen did not actively participate due to bankruptcy proceedings. On August 28, 1995, the District Court for Hamilton County affirmed the final order of the Commission, and found that Dr. Sahai and the Clinic were liable for sex discrimination. Even though they were not the employers of Davies, they controlled her access to employment. Dr. Sahai and the Clinic have filed an appeal to this decision.

On October 28, 1994, the Commission issued a final decision in the case of Connie Zesch-Luense and the Iowa Civil Rights Commission v. The Chicken House and Robert Pliley. The Commission found that race discrimination in public accommodations, the aiding or abetting of such race discrimination, and retaliation for lawfully opposing race discrimination had occurred. Zesch-Luense alleged that Pliley asked her to tell a Native American customer that she would no longer serve him drinks, because Pliley did not want Blacks and Indians in his bar. When Zesch-Luense refused to so inform the customer, Pliley terminated her employment. Remedies awarded to Zesch-Luense included $1,137.50 in back pay and emotional distress damages of $10,000. (The Commission increased the damages for emotional distress from a recommended $2,000.) Pliley is to cease and desist from further discrimination, is to post a notice of non-discrimination in public accommodations, and was assessed hearing costs.

On February 27, 1995, the Commission issued a final decision finding that the City of Des Moines had committed sex discrimination in employment in the case of Sandra Whaley and the Iowa Civil Rights Commission v. the City of Des Moines, Iowa. Whaley alleged that the City failed to hire her for an open position as Recreation Supervisor because of her sex. The allegations of sex discrimination were proved through both direct and circumstantial evidence, including statements by the former Superintendent of Recreation that he wanted to hire a male for this position because of safety concerns at the community centers involved.

Remedies awarded included a cease and desist order, implementation of a written policy to prevent inappropriate use of safety concerns in hiring, posting of notices, $18,789.72 in back pay, $5,522.75 in deferred compensation, $10,000 in emotional distress damages, and front pay and front deferred compensation. The City of Des Moines has filed an appeal in Polk County District Court.