IN THE SUPREME COURT OF IOWA
DIANE HULME, Appellant,
KENNETH BARRETT and REINBECK FOODS, INC.,
Filed December 20,1989
Appeal from the Iowa District
Court for Grundy County, Dennis D. Damsgaard, Senior Judge.
Plaintiff in age discrimination
and retaliatory discharge action seeks reversal of district court's
ruling dismissing her suit. REVERSED AND REMANDED.
Timothy M. Sweet of Beard & Sweet, Reinbeck, for appellant.
Robert W. Thompson, Reinbeck, for appellees.
Considered by McGiverin, C.J., and Harris, Larson, Schultz, and Andreasen, JJ.
This appeal arises out of
the dismissal of an employee's three claims of discrimination
against her employer made pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 601 A,
the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ACT). The two major issues before us
are (1) whether a thirty-nine year old individual can allege a
valid age discrimination claim under the Act, and (2) whether,
after securing a release from the Iowa Civil Rights Commission
(commission) to sue claiming a discriminatory reduction in her
hours, the employee may then allege additional claims arising
from her subsequent discharge without obtaining another administrative
release. The trial court ruled against the employee on both issues.
As we disagree, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.
Plaintiff Diane Hulme is
a high school graduate, born on November 15,1946, who began working
as a checker at Ernie's Super Value grocery store in 1972. In
June 1985 defendant Reinbeck Foods, Inc. purchased the store and
continued doing business under the name of Kenny's Foods. Defendant
Kenneth Barrett is vice president and part-owner of the corporation
and manager of Kenny's Foods.
Kenny's Foods employed seven
part-time checkers during the time period in question. Four of
those checkers were younger than plaintiff. In late 1985 and early
1986, some of the daytime checkers' hours were cut, and their
wages reduced from five dollars to four dollars per hour. The
wages of the younger, newly-hired evening checkers remained the
same at $3.35 per hour. On two separate occasions plaintiff voiced
her concern over the reduction in hours and her willingness to
work additional hours. Barrett told plaintiff that if she brought
up the matter of hours again, she would be fired.
In March 1986 when plaintiff
was thirty-nine years old, she filed a complaint with the commission
alleging age discrimination based upon the reduction in her hours
compared to those of the newer, younger checkers. She also alleged
that defendants threatened to discharge her if she continued to
complain about that situation. In early October 1986 the management
instituted a no-smoking policy; plaintiff was the only employee
who smoked. Following a discussion regarding the implementation
of that policy, Barrett fired plaintiff.
On October 28,1986, plaintiff
received an administrative release from the commission. She filed
an action in district court alleging that (1 ) defendants reduced
her working hours because of her age in violation of Iowa Code
section 601A.6 (1)(a) (1985), (2) defendants discharged her because
of her age in violation of section 601 A.6 (1)(a), and (3) defendants
discharged her because she had filed a complaint with the commission
in violation of Iowa Code 601A.11 (2) (1985). The matter was tried
to the court in August 1988.
Following the trial, the
court dismissed plaintiff's claim based on the reduction of her
hours by ruling that the age discrimination provisions of the
Act only applied to persons forty to seventy years of age. It
also held that it lacked jurisdiction over the claims arising
from plaintiff's discharge which were not specifically filed with
the commission as required by Iowa Code section 601A.15 (1985).
Plaintiff appeals these rulings, as well as the trial court's
refusal to admit evidence of her income and hours worked in 1984
1. Age Discrimination.
The trial court held that in order for plaintiff to recover
damages suffered as a result of defendants discriminatory practices,
she must first demonstrate that she belongs to a group that is
protected by section 601A.6 (1)(a). The court cited Wing v.
Iowa Lutheran Hospital, 426 N.W.2d 175,179 (Iowa App. 1988),
for the proposition that section 601 A.6 (1 )(a) only protects
"females from age 40 through 70." It then concluded
that plaintiff, at age thirty-nine, did not fall within the group
that the statute had meant to protect and therefore did not qualify
for any relief under the Iowa Civil Rights Act.
We have discussed our scope
of review on appeal from the district court's review of civil
rights complaints in Peoples Memorial Hospital v. Iowa Civil
Rights Commission, 322 N.W.2d 87, 90-92 (Iowa 1982). This
court's role is to correct errors of law made by the district
court. Id. at 91; Iowa R. App. P. 4.
Our court has ruled that
civil rights cases brought under chapter 601 A will be "guided
by federal law" and "federal cases." King v.
Iowa Civil Rights Comm'n, 334 N.W.2d 598, 601 (Iowa 1983).
However, we were referring to the analytical framework utilized
by the federal courts in interpreting federal law and not to a
substitution of the language of the federal statutes for the clear
words of the Iowa Civil Rights Act. See, e.g., King, 334 N.W.2d
at 601; Iowa State Fairgrounds Sec. v. Iowa Civil Rights Comm'n,
322 N.W.2d 293, 296 (Iowa 1982).
In Wing the sixty-one
year old plaintiff claimed that her discharge violated the Act's
prohibition against age discrimination. The employer did not contest
that plaintiff's age placed her in a protected class, but claimed
that her discharge was the result of a nondiscriminatory layoff
policy. While the court of appeals in Wing referred to
the federally protected age group of forty to seventy, we do not
believe the court intended to adopt this limited age group as
the protected group in Iowa. The federal Act does not preempt
state age discrimination laws. 29 C.F.R. §1625 (g) (1989);
Fisher v. Quaker Oats Co., 233 N.J. Super. 319, 322- 23,
559 A.2d 1, 2-3 (App. Div. 1989). This action is brought under
our statute. Consequently, we must look to our own Act to determine
if plaintiff is a protected person.
Our statute states that
it is "an unfair or discriminatory practice" for an
employer "to discriminate in employment ... because of the
age" of an employee. §601 A.6 (11 )(a). Thus, our statute
appears to be age-neutral with two exceptions. These exceptions
are found in section 601 A.6 (2)(1985), which exempts persons
under eighteen years of age from coverage if they are not considered
by law to be adults, and in section 601A.6 (4) (1985), which excludes
employees over forty-five years of age in apprenticeship programs.
The trial court therefore erred when it dismissed plaintiff's
claim because she was under forty at the time of the alleged discrimination.
On remand the trial court
should review the record and apply the principles and analytical
framework outlining the burdens and orders of proof in civil rights
actions set out in our prior cases. E.g., King v. Iowa Civil
Rights Comm'n, 334 N.W.2d 598,601-03 (Iowa 1983); Iowa
State Fairgrounds Sec., 322 N.W.2d at 296; Linn Coop. Oil
Co. v. Quigley, 305 N.W.2d 729, 732-33 (Iowa 1981). As indicated
in King, we rely upon principles announced in McDonnell
Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 A. Ct. 1817, 36 L.
Ed. 2d 668 (1973) and refined in Texas Department of Community
Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 101 S. Ct. 1089, 67 L. Ed.
2d 207 (1981). King, 334 N.W.2d at 601-03. This analysis
has been applied in cases involving claims of age discrimination
which have resulted in demotions as well as discharges. See,
e.g., Holley v. Sanyo Mfg., Inc., 771 F.2d 1161, 1165 (8th
Cir. 1985); Dace v. ACF Indus., Inc., 722 F.2d 374, 377
n.7 (8th Cir. 1983); Wing, 426 N.W.2d at 177. Defendants'
reduction of plaintiff's hours can be similarly analyzed.
Plaintiff need not show
that age was defendants' sole or excusive consideration but must
prove that age made a difference or was "a determinative
factor" in the employer's decision. Smithers v. Bailar,
629 F.2d 892, 897 (3d Cir. 1980); accord Jorgensen v. Modern
Woodmen of Am., 761 F.2d 502, 504 (8th Cir. 1985); Wing,
426 N.W.2d at 178. The court in Smithers said that age was a "determing
factor" if it played a part in the decision, even if nondiscriminatory
reasons were more compelling. 629 F.2d at 897.
Recently, the Supreme Court
addressed matters of proof in employment cases where the employee
alleges a discriminatory reason for his or her treatment, and
the employer counters with a legitimate, nondiscriminatory justification
for that action. Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490
U.S. ___, 109 S. Ct. ___, 104 L. Ed. 2d 268 (1989). In
a plurality decision, the Court held that the employer is required
to prove by a preponderance of the evicence that it would have
made the same decision absent consideration of the illegitimate,
discriminatory reason. Id. at ___, 109 S. Ct. at ___, 104
L. Ed. 2d at 289.
On remand the court may
consider that federal courts have held that the economic savings
derived from terminating older and better paid employees cannot
serve as a legitimate reason for that action. see, e.g.,
Leftwich v. Harris-Stowe State College, 702 F. 2d 686,
692 (8th Cir. 1983). The court in Leftwich noted the relationship
between higher salaries and age and concluded that if "higher
salaries can be used to justify discharging older employees, then
the purpose of the ADEA [Age Discrimination in Employment Act]
will be defeated." 702 F.2d at 691. Although Leftwich
involved a claim of disparate impact, this language was quoted
with approval in Dace, where the plaintiff-employee brought a
claim of disparate treatment under the ADEA. 722 F.2d at 378.
In conclusion, we remand
for a determination consistent with this opinion of whether defendants'
reduction of plaintiff's hours constituted age discrimination
in violation of Iowa Code section 601 A.6 (1)(a).
The trial court held that it did not have jurisdiction of plaintiff's
second and third claims which are based on her discharge from
Kenny's Foods. It asserts that it can only hear complaints that
were filed with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission pursuant to Iowa
Code section 60 1A. 15 and that plaintiff only complained to the
commission about the reduction in her hours and not about her
Estabrook v. Iowa Civil
283 N.W.2d 306, 308 (Iowa 1979), we said "that the Iowa Civil
Rights Act of 1965 was designed to correct a broad pattern of
behavior rather than merely affording a procedure to settle a
specific dispute." This court has also stated that "[w]e
construe the procedural requirements of Iowa Code section
601A.15 (12) liberally in view of its beneficial purposes in exposing
unlawful discrimination. "Annear v. State, 419 N.W.2d 377,
380 (Iowa 1988). While we have not specifically addressed the
question of whether a subsequent petition for judicial review
under chapter 601 A is narrowly limited to the exact complaint
submitted to the commission, federal precedent, administrative
economy, and the stated purpose of the Iowa Civil Rights Act compel
a negative reply.
As we discussed in division
I of this opinion, we are guided by federal law in our analysis
of civil rights cases. Plaintiff has cited numerous cases from
different federal circuits in support of her conclusion that the
federal courts have liberally construed the scope of judicial
claims that may be filed following related administrative charges.
We limit our discussion to a recent case from the Eighth Circuit.
In Anderson v. Block, 807
F.2d 145 (8th Cir. 1986), the plaintiff appealed the district
court's dismissal of her employment discrimination action
for,failure to pursue administrative remedies. The district court
had held that the plaintiff, despite pending administrative charges
arising from two suspensions, was required to file a new administrative
charge following her termination. In reversing the district court,
the Eighth Circuit held that the plaintiff need not file a new
charge and exhaust administrative remedies if this new claim was
reasonably related to the pending charges where administrative
remedies had been exhausted. Id. at 148. The court quoted
Oubicohn v. North American Rockwell Corp., 482 F.2d 569,
571 (9th Cir. 1973), for the proposition that "[t]o force
a plaintiff to file a new administrative charge with each continuing
incident of discrimination would create needless procedural barriers."
Id. We agree with this analysis.
When we apply these principles
to plaintiff's claims arising from her discharge, we hold that
the district court had jurisdiction to rule on these claims. The
jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and may be garnered from
the pleadings. In count I of her petition, where plaintiff had
secured a release to file suit, she claimed that because of her
employer's discriminatory practice, her hours were reduced. In
count II she made a nearly identical claim against the same employer,
except that here she claimed that this same discriminatory practice
resulted in her discharge. The claims are reasonably related.
The claim of retaliatory discharge in count III stems from her
original complaint and is necessarily related to her claim in
count I. We hold as a matter of law that she need not file additional
claims for her complaints arising from her discharge nor secure
additional administrative releases in order to give the district
court jurisdiction to hear her claims.
On remand the district court
should apply the analysis outlined in division I to plaintiff's
claim of discharge because of age as alleged in count II.
As to count III, the court
should determine whether plaintiff established a prima facie case
of retaliatory discharge. To do so, plaintiff must prove 1) she
was engaged in statutority protected activity, 2) she suffered
adverse employment action, and 3) a casual connection between
the two. Jackson v. St. Joseph State Hosp., 840 F.2d 1387,
1390 (8th Cir.), cert. denied,
___ U.S. ___, 109 S.Ct.
228 (1988). If plaintiff has made out a prima facie case of retaliatory
discharge, defendants must articulate a legitimate, nonretaliatory
reason for the dismissal. Womack v. Munson, 619 F.2d 1292,
1296 (8th Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 450 U.S. 979
(1981). If defendants produce sufficient evidence of a reason
other than retaliation, plaintiff can still prevail if she can
prove that the reason offered was in fact pretextual. Id
III. Evidentiary Exclusion.
Plaintiff alleges that the trial court erred in excluding evidence
of her hours worked and pay received in 1984 and 1985. The court
sustained defendants' objection as to the relevancy of plaintiff's
income and hours at Ernie's Super Value, her prior employer. We
briefly address this issue.
Relevancy and materiality
are usually matters of trial court discretion. Carter v.
MacMillan Oil Co., 355 N.W.2d 52, 55 (Iowa 1984). The appellate
court will not interfere unless the trail court has clearly abused
its discretion to the prejudice of the complaining party. Henkel
v. R and S Bottling Co., 232 N.W.2d 185, 193 (Iowa 1982).
We do not believe that excluding evidence from employemnt by a
prior employer not named in this suit is an abuse of discretion.
IV. Summary. In summary, we reverse and remand to the district court to make appropriate findings of fact and conclusions of law on plaintiff's claims of age discrimination, based on both the reduction of her hours and her eventual termination, and retaliatory discharge.
REVERSED AND REMANDED.