Enforcement Powers: Case Processing

The enforcement powers of the Commission are concentrated on the processing of complaints filed by individuals who allege that they have been discriminated against in the areas covered by the Iowa Civil Rights Act. The Commission is empowered under Iowa Code, Section 601A.5(2), "(t)o receive, investigate, and finally determine the merits of complaints alleging unfair or discriminatory practices ......

The Compliance Division is responsible for the processing of complaints, and throughout the fiscal year was able to make inroads in the number of cases awaiting action. A drop in the number of complaints filed and an increase in the number of cases closed allowed the Commission to keep abreast of the flow of complaints and to decrease the number of complaints in the inventory.

A detailed flowchart of the entire case processing system is shown on page 29 [see complaint process]. In brief, the steps can be summed up as follows:

Intake: the receiving and docketing of jurisdictional complaints. In complaints filed directly with the Commission, the individual is assisted by an intake officer in drafting the complaint and in completing the jurisdictional filing process. Complaints received from other agencies undergo jurisdictional review and then proceed directly to docketing.

Administrative Review: review of information submitted by Complainant and Respondent to determine if further investigation is warranted. The parties to the complaint respond to questionnaires from the Commission and have an opportunity to submit any additional information they wish. If the decision is made that further investigation is not warranted, the Complainant can request reconsideration upon submission of additional relevant information. The Complainant is also informed of the option of requesting a Right to Sue to pursue a private action in court.

Investigation: if further investigation is warranted, the case will be assigned to the appropriate investigative unit. The investigator, a neutral fact-finder, interviews Complainant, Respondent and witnesses, and gathers and analyzes relevant documents. The investigator may make an on-site investigation if necessary; otherwise, tape-recorded telephone interviews are completed. The investigator writes a case summary and makes a recommended finding.

Finding by Internal Administrative Law Judge: the administrative law judge reviews the case file and issues a finding of Probable Cause or No Probable Cause. In the case of a No Probable Cause decision, the Complainant has the right to request reconsideration by the Commission upon submission of additional information, or to seek judicial review through the courts.

Conciliation: following a Probable Cause finding, an attempt is made to resolve the complaint with appropriate remedies for the Complainant and the Commission. Upon agreement by the parties and the Commission, a written settlement agreement is completed and the case is closed. The Commission monitors compliance with the settlement terms.


Public Hearing and Final Commission Decision: if conciliation fails, the case is reviewed to determine if it is litigation worthy. If so, the case will proceed to a public hearing. An assistant attorney general represents the Commission and the Complaint at hearing. The external Administrative Law Judge presides at the hearing, and issues a proposed decision. The decision becomes final upon the vote of the seven-member Commission. An adverse decision may be appealed through the courts by either party. If the case is found not to be litigation-worthy, the case is administratively closed and the Complainant has the option to receive a right-to-sue letter and proceed to court.

Case Processing Changes and Innovations: During the fiscal year, the Commission continued to use a streamlined intake system in which complaints which were clearly nonjurisdictional were not accepted by the intake officer. In September 1989, the investigative units were reorganized, with investigative units assigned to work on backlog cases, newly-filed cases, age/ ADEA cases, and housing/HUD cases. Investigators were able to reduce the backlog to fewer than 250 cases by the end of the fiscal year. This is the lowest that the inventory has been in eight years.

A separate work unit was assigned responsibilities for conciliation, public information, educational programs, and staff training. In April 1990, a series of Professional Development Seminars was begun, presenting topics which would enhance the personal and professional skills of
the staff.

A system for monitoring compliance with conciliation and pre-determination settlement agreements was instituted. Each agreement will be tracked to be sure that terms are complied with, and follow-up action to obtain compliance will be taken by a staff conciliator when necessary. If voluntary compliance is not effected, the matter will be referred to an Assistant Attorney General for enforcement action.

The Year's Work

As it has for the last four years, the number of new complaints filed was less than the previous
year. In FY 90 there was a drop of 17%.

Complaint Filing Comparison


Complaints 1,672 1,515 1,474 1,198 991
Year 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990

There were few surprises in the types of complaints filed. Employment continued to be the largest area of complaints; discharge, failure to hire, general harassment and terms and conditions were the most frequently alleged causes of action. Sex, Race, Age and Physical Disability were the most frequently alleged bases. Service Private Employer was the most frequently named Respondent type.

Complaints Filed by Area

Area # %
Employment 856 86.7
Housing 65 6.6
Public Accommodation 59 6.0
Education 3 <1
Retaliation 2 <1
Credit 2 <1


All Alleged Bases Summary

Basis # %
Sex 351 26.7
Race 269 20.5
Age 246 18.7
Physical Disability 214 16.3
Retaliation 60 4.6
National Origin 49 3.7
Mental Disability 35 2.6
Perceived Physical Disability 30 2.3
Religion 28 2.1
Familial Status 18 1.8
Race by Association 7 <1
Color 2 <1
Marital Status 2 <1
Color 1 <1
Perceived Mental Disability 1 <1


Alleged Cause of Action Summary

Cause of Action # %
Benefits 14 <1
Constructive Discharge 62 4.0 (5)
Demotion 36 2.3
Discharge 433 28.0 (1)
Disability 24 1.5
Equal Pay 35 2.2
Eviction 19 1.2
Fail to Accommodate 48 3.1
Fail to Hire 116 7.5 (3)
Fail to Serve 19 1.2
General Harassment 108 6.9 (4)
General Treatment 39 2.5
Impact 1 <1
Layoff 29 1.9
Pregnancy 19 1.2
Probation 9 <1
Promotion 51 3.3
Qualifications 2 <1
Recall 12 <1
Reduction in Hours 19 1.2
Reduction in Pay 9 <1
Refuse to Assign 1 <1
Refuse to Enter Agreement 2 <1
Refuse to Lease 2 <1
Refuse to Rent 14 <1
Refuse to Sell 1 <1
Reprimand 27 1.7
Retaliation 30 1.9
Seniority 2 <1
Sex Harassment 57 3.7
Suspension 35 2.3
Terms & Conditions 192 12.4 (2)
Training 11 <1
Unequal Service 29 1.9
Union 2 <1
Other 43 2.8

() rank


Type of Respondent

Respondent # %
Service Private Employer 661 67.0
Governmental Unit 100 10.1
Manufacturing Private Employer 80 8.1
Owner 49 5.0
Educational Institution 34 3.4
Retailer/Wholesaler 21 2.1
Credit Institution 7 <1
Manager 5 <1
Labor Organization 5 <1
Proprietor 4 <1
Employment Agency 3 <1
Creditor 1 <1
Real Estate Agent 1 <1
Other 16 1.6


Analysis of Determinations

Determination # %
Administrative Closure 190 14.1
Administrative Closure RTS* 117 8.7
Administrative Closure PS ** 550 40.8
No Probable Cause 198 14.7
Probable Cause 35 2.6
No Jurisdiction 2 <1
No Probable Cause/No Jurisdiction 3 <1
Probable Cause/No Probable Cause 13 <1
Withdrawn 117 8.7
Withdrawn/Satisfactorily Adjusted 4 <1
Satisfactorily Adjusted 77 5.7
Successfully Conciliated 25 1.8
Public Hearing (Final Decisions) 5 <1
Closure After Hearing 5 <1
Closure Before Hearing 8 <1
Total Determinations 1,349  

* Right to Sue

** Preliminary Screening, or Administrative Review


1990 Annual Main Page