The power and duty "[t]o receive, investigate, and finally determine the merits of complaints alleging unfair or discriminatory practices" is delegated by the Governor and General Assembly to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission by Iowa Code section 601A.5(2).
Complaints are "received, investigated, and finally determined" in steps.
Chart 1. The Complaint Process
step 1 Intake
step 2 Administrative Review
step 3 Mediation
step 4 Investigation
step 5 Conciliation
step 6 Public Hearing/Final Commission Decision
Intake. Complaints are received at the Intake
step. At Intake, a person calls or visits the Iowa Civil Rights Commission
(ICRC) and asks to speak to someone about a possible civil rights violation.
A Commission intake staff person interviews the person - explores the person's
situation or problem - and determines whether the person has grounds to
file a civil rights complaint. If the person has grounds and wants to file,
then the intake staff person drafts the complaint and prepares the necessary
forms. A complaint is filed when written, signed, and received by the Commission.
In Fiscal Year 1987, almost 3,600 persons called or visited the Commission. All were interviewed by intake staff. 1,082 or 30% actually filed complaints. Many city and county, local human rights commissions in Iowa process civil rights complaints. Local commissions (identified later in the Report) cross-filed 384 complaints with the Commission. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal anti-discrimination agency charged with enforcing Title VII, cross-filed 46 complaints. Total Number of Complaints Filed in Fiscal Year 1987 is 1,512.
|Year||Number Filed||Percentage Change|
Less complaints were filed in
Fiscal Year 1987 because no plant closing generated a mass-filing of age-based
complaints. In FY 1986, there were two such plant closings.
Once filed, the complaint is
reviewed by a compliance manager who determines jurisdiction. If the Commission
lacks jurisdiction to further process the complaint, the complaint is closed.
The closure is simply labeled, "No Jurisdiction." In Fiscal
Year 1987, only two complaints were closed because the Commission lacked
jurisdiction. There were 21 such closures in Fiscal Year 1986.
The numbers decreased because intake staff were instructed not to prepare
complaints clearly nonjurisdictional. For those persons who wanted to file
nonjurisdictional complaints, our regular intake service was denied; instead,
blank complaint forms, with instructions on how to complete, were mailed.
Complaints. 1,312 or 80% of the 1,512 complaints filed in Fiscal Year 1987 alleged discrimination in employment.
|# - % 1984||# - % 1985||# - % 1986||# - % 1987|
|employment||986 - 88||1,263 - 92||1,504 - 90||1,312 - 87|
|public accommodations||73 - 7||46 - 3||93 - 5||145 - 10|
|housing||48 - 4||58 - 4||50 - 3||82 - 5|
|retaliation||?||?||?||77 - 5|
|credit||8 - < 1||6 - < 1||9 - < 1||19 - 1|
|education||?||?||?||9 - < 1|
|aiding & abetting||?||?||16 - 1||4 - < 1|
514 or 34% of the 1,512 complaints filed in Fiscal Year 1987 alleged sex-based discrimination. 467 or 31% alleged race-based discrimination.
|# - % 1984||# - % 1985||# - % 1986||# - % 1987|
|sex||251 - 22||287 - 21||384 - 23||514 - 34|
|race||225 - 20||258 - 19||351 - 21||467 - 31|
|disability||159 - 14||210 - 15||317 - 19||415 - 27|
|age||168 - 15||266 - 19||434 - 26||317 - 21|
|national origin||36 - 3||31 - 2||50 -3||89 - 6|
|retaliation||?||?||?||83 - 5|
|religion||?||?||?||26 - 2|
|color||?||?||?||19 - 1|
|marital status||?||?||?||9 - <1|
|creed||?||?||?||4 - <1|
In Fiscal Year 1987, in 622 complaints, "discharge" or employment termination was the alleged discriminatory incident. In 168 complaints, "failure to hire" was the alleged incident. The number of sex or "sexual harassment" incidents alleged in complaints dramatically increased in Fiscal Year 1987, from 63 to 104. Perhaps, the increased number is due to more awareness among Iowa residents that sexual harassment is actionable sex discrimination.
|# - % 1986||# - % 1987|
|discharge||550 - 33||622 - 41|
|failure to hire||178 - 11||168 - 11|
|harassing conduct||171 - 10||156 - 10|
|harassing conduct (sex)||63 - 4||104 - 7|
|terms & conditions||389 - 23||182 - 12|
|constructive discharge||86 - 5||99 - 7|
|layoff||52 - 3||93 - 6|
|pay difference||51 - 3||66 - 4|
|failure to promote||57 - 3||77 - 6|
|reprimand||74 - 4||62 - 4|
|denied equal service||89 - 5||118 - 8|
|failure to reasonably accommodate||89 - 5||76 - 5|
|eviction||19 - 1||27 - 2|
|failure to rent/lease||21 - 1||22 - 1|
In Fiscal Year 1987, 478 or 32% of the 1,512 complaints filed named (as respondents) persons or organizations or companies located in Polk County. Albeit more complaints were filed in Fiscal Year 1986, less complaints were filed against Polk County persons/organizations.
|# - % 1986||# - % 1987|
|Polk||438 - 26||478 - 32|
|Scott||138 - 8||158 - 10|
|Black Hawk||109 - 7||113 - 7|
|Linn||99 - 6||91 - 6|
|Woodbury||113 - 7||75 - 5|
|Johnson||36 - 2||66 - 4|
|Pottawattamie||47 - 3||43 - 3|
|Hamilton||7 - 1||40 - 3|
|Des Moines||26 - 2||38 - 3|
|Dubuque||36 - 2||38 - 3|
Administrative Review. If the complaint is jurisdictional, then respondent and complainant are notified, by mail, that the complaint is on file and will be processed. In those same mailings, questionnaires are sent. The parties are given thirty days to answer and return the questionnaires. A team of investigators reviews the complaint as well as the answers to the questionnaires and determines whether further processing is warranted. This review is called "administrative review" or complaint screening. Complaints determined not to warrant further processing are screened-out or "administratively closed." Complaints determined to warrant further processing are assigned to investigators. Those complaints which are screened-in are fully investigated. In Fiscal Year 1987, 276 complaints were screened-out. In Fiscal Year 1986, 400 complaints were screened-out. The number is higher for 1986 because there were many more complaints screened. A backlog of complaints pending administrative review had developed by 1986 which no longer existed in 1987. In both years, about 50% of the complaints screened were screened-out.
Mediation. ICRC staff mediators act as neutral
"go-betweens", trying to bring the parties together on settlement
terms. All settlement agreements obtained through mediation contain "no-fault"
clauses. Once the settlement agreement is executed, the complaint is closed
as "satisfactorily adjusted."
Not all complaints are assigned
for mediation. Only those complaints with respondents that have suggested
or initiated settlement talks are assigned. Mailed with the questionnaires,
which trigger Screening, is a one page statement describing the complaint
process. In that statement, the parties are informed about the possibility
of no-fault settlement. In the questionnaire to the respondent, the ICRC
also asks whether the respondent is interested in mediation. If the respondent
is interested and willing to offer settlement terms, then the complaint
is assigned and mediation is attempted. Generally, the mediation process
happens via the telephone. Offers and counteroffers are relayed to the parties
by the mediator. If settlement is reached, then the mediator drafts the
predetermination settlement agreement and collects signatures.
In Fiscal Year 1987, 102
complaints were mediated or "satisfactorily adjusted." The 102 settlements represent 8% of
all 1987 ICRC resolutions. In Fiscal Year 1986, 91 complaints were settled.
|determination||# - % 1985||# - % 1986||# - % 1987|
failure to locate
|112 - 8||104 - 8||131 - 11|
|102 - 7||172 - 13||150 - 12|
|107 - 7||400 - 29||276 - 23|
|no jurisdiction||33 - 2||21 - 2||2 - < 1|
|no probable cause||175 - 12||233 - 17||314 - 26|
|probable cause||29 - 2||229 - 17||85 - 7|
|satisfactorily adjusted||173 - 12||91 - 7||102 - 8|
|successfully conciliated||32 - 2||29 - 2||34 - 3|
|withdrawn||89 - 7||75 - 6||87 - 7|
|withdrawn/satis. adjusted||11 - < 1||1 - < 1||5 - < 1|
|approved for public hearing||?||139 - 11||16 - 1|
|closure after hearing||7 - < 1||1 - < 1||1 - < 1|
Investigation. If the complaint is screened-in and
if mediation produces no settlement agreement, then the complaint is assigned
to an ICRC investigator. The investigation is conducted in various steps.
Parties and witnesses are interviewed; records and charts/lists are gathered.
Most complaints are investigated using the different treatment theory of
discrimination. That theory calls for the resolution of one main issue:
whether the incident doer's (decision-maker's) reasons for the incident
(e.g. complainant's termination) are pretextual for basis (e.g. race) discrimination?
To resolve that issue, the investigator collects four kinds of information
or evidence: (1) comparative, (2) direct or "smoking guns," (3)
pattern, and (4) statistical. The investigator analyzes the information
collected - applies civil rights law to the facts - and then recommends
Probable Cause (PC) or No Probable Cause (NPQ) that discrimination occurred
in violation of the "Iowa Civil Rights Act," Iowa Code Chapter
601A. The internal hearing officer reviews the entire complaint file and
then makes an independent determination of PC or NPC.
In Fiscal Year 1987, 85 complaints
received a Probable Cause finding; 314 received a No Probable Cause finding.
More individual complaints
were fully investigated in Fiscal Year 1987 than in any other year. The
greater PC/NPC determination total for Fiscal Year 1986 is attributable
to two mass-filings of complaints, all receiving PC findings. Fiscal Year
1987 is best compared to Fiscal Year 1986 - 399 full investigations compared
to 204. Changes in technique, analysis, and focus account for the greater
number of determinations.
Conciliation. If the internal hearing officer determines
Probable Cause, then an ICRC conciliator is assigned the complaint to attempt
conciliation. "[T]he staff of the commission shall promptly endeavor
to eliminate the discriminatory or unfair practice by conference, conciliation,
or persuasion." Iowa Code section 601A.15(3)(d). From intake to PC/NPC
determination, the ICRC is impartial, an objective and neutral fact-finder;
however, after a PC finding, the ICRC becomes an advocate. The ICRC's finding
of probable cause requires that the conciliator negotiate the best possible
settlement for the agency, the complainant, and the public. Frequently,
meetings or conferences with the parties are held. If the parties reach
a settlement agreement, then the complaint is closed as "successfully
If, after thirty (30) days,
the respondent is not interested in conciliation or if the parties cannot
agree on settlement terms, then the conciliator recommends whether the complaint
should proceed to public hearing. The executive director and one commissioner
make the decision. "When the director is satisfied that further endeavor
to settle a complaint by conference, conciliation, and persuasion is unworkable
and should be bypassed, and the thirty-day period ... has expired without
agreement, the director with the approval of a commissioner, shall issue
and cause to be served a written notice specifying the charges in the complaint
... and requiring the respondent to answer the charges ... at a hearing
before ... [the external] hearing officer ... at a time and place to be
specified in the notice." Iowa Code section 601A. 15(5).
34 complaints were "successfully
conciliated" in Fiscal Year 1987; 16 PC-found complaints were "approved"
for public hearing.
Decision. The ICRC is
represented by an Assistant Attorney General. "The case in support
of such complaint shall be presented at the hearing by one of the commission's
attorneys or agents." Iowa Code section 601A.15(6). "The hearing
shall be conducted in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 17A for
contested cases." Section 601A.15(7). The external hearing officer
presides at the hearing and issues a proposed decision. Section 17A.15(12).
The commission, comprised of seven (7) commissioners appointed by the governor
and confirmed by the senate, reviews the record - including the "proposed"
decision - and then makes the final ICRC decision. "if upon taking
- into consideration all of the evidence at a hearing, the commission determines
that the respondent has engaged in a discriminatory or unfair practice,
the commission shall state its findings of fact and conclusions of law and
shall issue an order requiring the respondent to cease and desist from the
discriminatory or unfair practice and to take the necessary remedial action
as in the judgment of the commission will carry out the purposes of this
chapter." Section 601A. 15(8).
In Fiscal Year 1987, 16 public
hearings were held. In
Fiscal Year 1986, 17 hearings were held. And in Fiscal Year 1985, 9 were
Judicial Review. "Judicial review of the actions
of the commission may be sought in accordance with the Iowa administrative
procedure Act." Iowa Code section 601A.17(l). The time limit for filing
a petition for judicial review is thirty (30) days from the certified mailing
date of the final agency action, be it NPC, administrative closure following
screening, or a final commission decision in a contested case following
public hearing. The scope of judicial review varies. See Sections 17A.19(7)
ANNUALIZED BENEFITS. Monies collected from respondents by the ICRC either via settlement or final commission decision, and paid to complainants are called "annualized benefits." In Fiscal Year 1987, annualized benefits totaled $589,602.22.
CASE INVENTORY On July 1, 1986, the beginning case inventory - the total number of open cases - was 1,955. The ending inventory on June 30, 1987 was 2,288 open cases.
|beginning||ending||+ or -|
In Fiscal Year 1987, the average case processing time - the average number of months necessary to process a complaint to determination - was 13.5 months, a four-month increase over Fiscal Year 1986.
|months||+ or -|