Introduction to the Commission's Work
The Iowa Civil Rights Commission enforces the
"Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965" which is Iowa's antidiscrimination
law. The Conunission is composed of seven commissioners, a paid staff of
28, and more than 100 volunteers.
Our Vision Statement is "[to] provide the
best possible services to Iowans in the fight against discrimination and
in the promotion of equality throughout Iowa."
In the fight against discrimination, the Commission
currently utilizes a four-pronged approach. (1) We process individual complaints
alleging discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations,
credit, and education; (2) we educate the public regarding antidiscrimination
law and the value of diversity; (3) we conduct tests to determine whether
covered entities are following the law; and (4) we propose legislation and
promulgate rules to clarify and improve the law.
Under the Act, the Commission is responsible
for accepting, investigating, and resolving complaints alleging discrimination.
The number of complaints is up across the board, in all areas (see charts
on page 5. Complaints alleging disability-based discrimination, race discrimination,
and sexual harassment have skyrocketed. In FY 92, 316 complaints alleged
discrimination based on physical disability, 323 alleged discrimination
based on race, and 98 alleged sexual harassment. Ust year, in FY 93, 480
complaints alleged physical disability-based discrimination, 471 alleged
race, and 196 alleged sexual harassment. In one year, physical disability
complaints jumped 52%, race jumped 46%, and sexual harassment doubled.
The publicity and education surrounding the
federal "Americans with Disabilities Act," the explosion of media
coverage on hate crimes and other racial incidents, and the notoriety of
the "Tailhook Scandal," as well as the "Thomas-Hill hearings,"
no doubt contributed to the increased numbers. People are not only becoming
more aware of the law and what constitutes discrimination and discriminatory
practices, but they are also becoming more courageous in speaking up against
discrimination. Instead of just being angry, more people are doing something
about it; they are filing complaints.
The Commission is obligated under the law to
engage in public education. Our purpose is to educate Iowans in the law
so that all unlawful discrirnination may be recognized and rectified. We
increased our educational efforts in FY 93, and will continue doing so.
We also expect to increase our testing program. Testing is the "checking"
of organizations covered by the antidiscrimination law to determine
whether they are following the law.
The Commission has the duty, under the Act,
to make recommendations to the General Assembly for further legislation
when "necessary and desirable." We also have the duty to promulgate
rules when necessary for the enforcement of the Act.
Last year we proposed legislation that passed
the Senate and is now in the House which would correct the definition of
public accommodation, and give the Commission the power to subpoena witnesses
during investigations. We support that bill, Senate File 365, and look forward
to its passage.
This coming year, we are planning to propose
legislation which would make our law more consistent with the Americans
with Disabilities Act. Our rule-making plans also include updating and simplifying
the public hearing procedure and clarifying the Iowa Civil Rights Act regarding
discriminatory practices in education and discriminatory practices based
We are proud of the work that we have
done. We have intensified our efforts in case processing, education, testing,
legislation, and rule-making. We believe that we are making progress. We
have an experienced, welltrained, and committed staff. But we want to do
more. We want to provide even better services to the people of Iowa in the
fight against discrimination and prejudice.
In order to provide better services, to be more
effective in the fight against discrimination, we must maximize our existing
resources and find new resources. We must constantly improve our systems
and processes. We must improve our performance under our federal case processing
contracts so that we can earn more federal "resource" dollars.
We must do more to assist local human/civil rights commissions in their
fight against discrimination. We must build positive relationships with
all of our customers. And we must create a strong network of support for
anti-discrimination law and the work of civil rights agencies across the