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 on pregnancy.

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 state.

1993 Annual Report Main Page