The Iowa Civil Rights Commission serves more than black people. That statement is quite blunt, but the reverse is a commonly held misconception. The Iowa Civil Rights Act protects whites as well as blacks, men as well as women, people of Anglo-Saxon descent as well as people of Hispanic or Oriental descent, protestants as well as Jews, people who are married and people who were married, people who amble and people who move on wheels, those of us who are spring chickens and those of us who are forever 39, those of us who use half of our mental capacity to do a job and those of us who use all of our mental capacity to do that job. Specifically, the law prohibits discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations and credit. The types of discrimination barred are those based on age, sex, race, creed, color, religion, national origin, physical disability, mental disability and marital status. Coverage for these bases varies. Discrimination because of marital status is illegal only in the area of credit, while discrimination because of mental disability is legal only in the area of credit. Age discrimination is legal in the areas of housing and public accommodations. Many different groups of Iowans are affected by the Civil Rights Commission; it is not synonymous with blacks.
The staff in the Compliance Division comprises the largest portion of our staff. Without the Compliance Division there would be no one to take complaints, no one to investigate them and no one to negotiate settlements, if there is a finding of discrimination.
The director of this, our largest division, is Aaron Carter. Mr. Carter brings eight years of management experience to this challenging position which he started in October, 1978. Mr. Carter has held Personnel Officer positions with three other state agencies, Job Service, Department of Transportation and most recently, Department of Revenue. His deep involvement with civil rights in a professional capacity began while he worked at Job Service as Assistant Director of the Apprenticeship Information Center. While in the Transportation and Revenue organizations, one of his duties was to serve as the person in charge of equal employment opportunity and affirmative action. Mr. Carter has been honored by being invited to Washington, D.C. to train agency heads of the Federal Highway Administration on equal employment opportunity and affirmative action. He now heads a staff of 6 negotiators, 6 intake persons, 8 investigators and 2 supervisors.
DISCRIMINATION: THE ILLEGAL VARIETY
A lot of things that happen in the work place are unfair, but not necessarily illegal. A finding of discrimination would be rooted in the law. And the law defines illegal discrimination as taking two different forms. The first is probably the easier to recognize. Two people are similarly situated and one of them is treated differently because of that person's race, color, creed, religion, national origin, disability, age or sex. What constitutes "similarly situated"? Theoretically, many factors enter into such a comparison. In our experiences some common factors would be: two employees under the same supervisor, two people equally accountable or having the same status under a given policy or two people being equally qualified for a loan. In these examples the supervisor,. the policy and the qualifications all provide the common denominator by which the people involved are considered "similarly situated".
The complaint intake person will try to determine, at least to a limited extent, whether the potential complainant was similarly situated to any other workers who are not members of his/her race, sex, etc. Also, the intake person will be asking for comparative information relative to the treatment of those other workers. If we discover that according to the pertinent factors the complainant was similarly situated and should have received the same treatment, but received different treatment, then we infer that such treatment was due to one of the factors which made two people different - their race, sex, or whatever is the basis for the complaint.
The second form illegal discrimination can take is known as discrimination by effect. A traditional example is height and weight requirements. An employer says one must be at least five feet, ten inches tall and weigh at least one hundred fifty pounds in order to be hired. That requirement has the effect of excluding a higher percentage of women, Hispanics and AsianAmericans than whites or men. Unless the employer can demonstrate that the requirement is job related, there will be a finding of discrimination. There are three elements to discrimination by effect. First, there is a policy that appears to have no direct relation to race, sex, etc., i.e. a neutral policy. Second, the policy is evenly applied. Whites below five foot, ten inches tall and less than one hundred fifty pounds, likewise, do not get hired. But, third, there is an uneven result on one group as compared to the other. This uneven result is called disparate impact. The next question is whether that neutral policy is essential to the safe and efficient operation of the business. Even if it is, the employer is obligated to seek an alternative way of doing things that would not have the same negative impact. However, if we decide that the policy is not essential to the business, then there will be a finding of discrimination by effect.
NIP IT IN THE DOCKET
In years gone by, before any civil rights laws on the state or local level, disputes were handled informally. The person who had been wronged would gather a band of supporters, usually including a minister, and go to the wrongdoer for redress. The process was simple and swift. Without the force of law, however, this method became less and less effective. The law institutionalized the power that was needed. The institutions - the courts, administrative agencies, the legal profession -brought with them additional considerations, such as, due process, equal protection, rules of evidence. As a result, there was paperwork and complexities, albeit, for noble reasons. The year 1979 marks the year in which we have made a special effort to cut through the paperwork and to make the institution reach closer to its ideal. We are going back to a more simple and swift method.
With financial help from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, we have established two procedures which, although new, are reminiscent of those years gone by. The first is Pre-intake Settlements and the second is Rapid Charge Processing. The only difference between the two is that we attempt to negotiate a Pre-intake Settlement before a charge is actually filed. Many times both the complainant and respondent are willing to forego an investigation that would be time-consuming and costly for all parties concerned in favor of ending the matter now. We merely offer that opportunity to the parties and try to facilitate a settlement, if they have both expressed an interest in settling. This is a no-fault settlement, that is, the respondent can expressly deny any violation of the law. Nevertheless, the same remedies are available to the complainant that they would have through the normal process.
A prerequisite for a Pre-intake Settlement is that the person must contact us soon after the alleged violation has occurred. According to the law, a person must file a complaint within six months (180 days) from the date of the alleged violation. Attempting a Pre-intake Settlement on the one hundred seventy-ninth day does not give the complaint much leverage since he/she must file a complaint anyway unless he/she wants to allow his/ her rights to expire.
A matter assigned to the Rapid Charge Process is already a bona fide complaint, signed, notarized and filed as a formal charge. Except for that fact, the procedure for Rapid Charge is identical to that of Pre-intake Settlement. If either party does not want an early settlement, however, we assign the case to an investigator for normal processing. The parties might resume negotiations but only after a full investigation and a finding of discrimination. In any event, the Rapid Charge personnel are given strict instructions to turn any case back to the Compliance Director for assignment to an investigator, if no settlement has been reached within thirty days.
THREE STAGES: INVESTIGATION, CONCILIATION AND PUBLIC HEARING
The Compliance Director does not channel all the complaints to the early settlement project. Nor do all the complaints which do get assigned to the project result in an agreement within thirty days. In fact, the majority of our complaints get assigned to an investigator and go through the regular complaint process. Getting first an overview of the process may help to explain. We can put meat on this skeleton in a moment. The complaint process has three possible stages: investigation, conciliation and public hearing. In the investigative stage we are strictly impartial fact-finders. After we have gathered the facts, an internal hearing officer determines whether or not there was discrimination. This is the first year that anyone has had this function. Previously a commissioner assigned to the case made the determination. A finding of discrimination would lead to the conciliation stage. In conciliation we are not neutral, rather we take on the cloak of an advocate, because we have determined that the complainant was a victim of illegal discrimination. This is the stage in which we attempt to obtain a negotiated settlement. If the conciliator is unable to do this, the commission has the option to take the case to public hearing. Based on the transcript of the hearing and the rationale of a separate hearing officer, the commission makes the final order. When an order is issued, we can enforce it in the district court.
A. Complaint Intake
1. Filed directly
2. Deferral from local or federal agency
3. Commission initiated
B. Investigatory Determination
1. No Probable Cause Finding (Case closed)
2. Other Closings
a. No jurisdiction
c. Administratively closed
d. Satisfactorily adjusted
3. Probable Cause Finding
A. Conciliation Process
1. Successful Conciliation (Agreement signed: Case closed)
2. Unsuccessful Conciliation (No agreement)
A. Public Hearing
1. No Discrimination (Case closed)
a. Cease and desist
b. Affirmative action
i. Compliance (Case closed)
ii. Refusal to Comply (Court Review)
aa. Court Confirmation (Case closed)
bb. Appeal to Higher Court
The flesh of the investigative stage begins with the complaint intake - Anybody can call or write directly to our office or come in person to file a complaint. Or they could contact a local human rights commission and triple file, that is, with the local, state and federal agencies. Alternatively someone may file directly with a federal agency, such as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In that event, the Iowa Commission would have primary jurisdiction for the first sixty days in most cases. Then, too, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission itself has.the power to initiate a complaint.
Once the investigation has begun, a number of different types of findings could ensue. Not all complaints result in a completed investigation. Specifically there are five which do not. A finding of "no jurisdiction" would usually happen earliest in the process. In fact, a review of the complaint to determine jurisdiction is the first step we take with every complaint. A complaint based on political persuasion, for example, we would want to weed out early since there is nothing we could do with it by law anyway. A complainant herself/himself can "withdraw" a complaint at any time in the process.
Closely aligned with a "no jurisdiction" is a finding we call a "hearing officer decision". In fact, it is the same as a "no jurisdiction" except the lack of jurisdiction has been discovered later in the process. Some complaints involve complex issues that we need to investigate to a limited extent before we can say we have no jurisdiction.
Another finding that would short-circuit a completed investigation is an "administrative closure. " The death of a complainant or inability to locate a complainant are some reasons why we might close a case administratively. During the year there were some instances when we closed a case administratively even after a completed investigation. These instances arose after an inability to conciliate a probable cause case, if the commission does not choose to take the case to public hearing. The last type of finding that would interrupt the completion of an investigation is a "satisfactory adjustment. " A "satisfactory adjustment" results when the problem involved in the complaint has been resolved prior to a completed investigation. For example, an employer may have suspended an employee as a disciplinary measure, but through the union grievance procedure the employee recovers the lost wages prior to a finding on the part of the commission. In many other cases the employer simply decides to make whatever adjustments are needed to resolve the matter prior to a finding on our part. Usually these adjustments are committed to a formal written agreement. Settlements obtained through the Rapid Charge Process are also included in "satisfactory adjustments."
There are three other types of findings which come only as a result of a completed investigation. A finding of "no probable cause" is a finding adverse to the complainant. It says that there is no evidence to indicate the complainant's allegations were true. We would close out this case, although the person could appeal our decision through the district court. A finding of "probable cause" would propel the case into the second stage of the process, conciliation.
If conciliation is successful, it will culminate in the signing of a written conciliation agreement and we will close it as a "successful conciliation. " That agreement would embody whatever remedies would be necessary to "make the person whole. " That is, we return to the person or secure for the person all the rights and benefits they would have had - but for the discrimination. In addition we would require the respondent to take affirmative action measures and make corrections in his/her system of operating to prevent any future infringement of rights.
Where the negotiators are at loggerheads or where the respondent refuses conciliation, the commission may take the case to public hearing. There was a revision in the law during FY-78 which allows the Executive Director to by-pass conciliation after 30 days in grievous cases or where he/she deems appropriate. The legislative section of this report will elaborate on other revisions.
The nature and operation of our public hearings closely resemble those of a court of law. A hearing officer presides much like a judge would preside. Tables of opposing attorneys face each other. Witnesses are sworn in and a court reporter busily takes down each word. Unlike a trial, procedures permit hearsay testimony, i.e., secondhand information, plus other procedural changes. Once the commission issues its final order, we are out of the administrative arena and into the judicial realm.
In compiling this report we generated a considerable amount of statistical data. For those readers who would like to know in detail how the information breaks down, we have included all of the numerical tables in the appendix. For example, a reader may be interested in how many cases were filed on the basis of race in the area of housing due to a failure to rent in FY-79. Please feel welcome to analyze all of the information, if you wish. Our purpose in the narrative is to highlight some of the trends and more salient points evidenced by the numerical breakdown.
CASES RECEIVED: PEAK YEAR
The number of people coming to us for help this year topped all previous years. The total number of formal complaints filed was 794. The two previous years, FY-78 and FY-77, saw 707 and 736 complaints filed respectively. On paper FY-76 exceeded FY-79 by 17 cases, but in fact there were more in FY-79, if we take into consideration the Pre-intake Settlements. This year we satisfactorily resolved 53 disputes before they actually became complaints. So, by adding the complaints that we forestalled, we find that people sought help of the Compliance Division in 847 disputes. But there's more. The Compliance Division is not the only division that handles disputes. There is also the Developmental Disabilities Division. And a number of disputes they enter into do not get recorded in the official figure for cases received, because they are handled informally. This year 40 complaints were brought to their attention which they pursued informally. Therefore, by adding these informals plus the Preintake Settlements, to the official cases received we get a grand total of 887 cases received.
a relatively small number involved applicants. In times when the economy is on the upbeat we would expect to see more complaints concerning failure to hire.
Consistent with past years, race and sex were the two most frequently alleged bases for filing a complaint. There were slightly more race complaints than sex: 230 based on race (29%) and 222 based on sex (22%). The number of race and sex complaints in all areas of jurisdiction stayed about the same except in public accommodations where they increased. As compared to FY78, complaints based on sex went from I to I I and those based on race went from 7 to 19 in public accommodations.
Predictably, the largest share of complaints were employment cases. Each year the employment share hovers around 90%. This year it was 91 %. Again, almost half of those complaints (43%) were triggered by a discharge. All tolled, 82% of the complaints in the area of employment involved people who were already in an employer-employee relationship. In other words,
DISABILITY COMPLAINTS DOUBLE
The truly dramatic change and the one that accounts for most of the upswing in the number of cases received is the number of cases filed on the basis of physical disability. Since last year the number has doubled from 80 to 160. Although the numbers are smaller, the number of complaints based on national origin has also doubled over last year from 14 to 27. A look at the number of physical disability cases filed in the last four years shows a definite trend upward: 52, 67, 80, 160. Virtually all of the additional cases in FY-79 came in the area of employment. This trend, especially the recent jump in the number of disability complaints appears to indicate that an increasingly large number of handicapped Iowans are becoming aware of employers' new legal obligation to reasonably accommodate the handicapped.
NEW STAFF MAXIMIZES MEMORY
The IBM System VI is a memory bank. We acquired it in 1978. It has the capacity to store a vast amount of information, produce a print-out of that information, as well as, print out routine form letters. Although we acquired the machine in 1978, we were not able to use it to an extent anywhere near its capacity. Why? Because the machine knew nothing about covering thirteen years of data, information since 1965 when the Commission began. Not even the System VI can recall information it does not store. So one of our agency's big goals this year was to record data from files reaching all the way back to 1965.
One objective toward accomplishing this goal was to get someone who could put the machine through its paces in a speedy manner. Another objective was to find the extra hands that would be needed to manually pull the files and the pertinent information from them. We knew that due to the large amount of data involved, both tasks would have to proceed simultaneously if we were to finish in a reasonable period of time. The first objective was realized in Bambi Kirschner who had the experience needed to command sophisticated office machinery like the system. The second objective was realized in our hiring three new Civil Rights Assistants who would in a sense be the hands of the system.
The new Civil Rights Assistants are Laura Mosby, Henry McCoy and Chris Clarkson. Their task involved pulling each file and specific bits of information fro each file and transmitting them to Bambi in an orderly standardized form from which she could input to t machine. These assistants also help with our bulging intake of complaints and telephone inquiries. In J Mr. Clarkson left the staff and Jennifer Powe aboard. In their versatile positions, the Assistants also been very helpful in preparing for conference in fulfilling a number of other tasks for the agency t a are outside of the complaint process per se.
We are all grateful to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for giving us the financial assistance to run this project as well as the Early Settlement Project and salaries for several investigators. Mr. Leo Karn, Operations Director for the Commission, wrote the proposal for maximizing the System VI and the EEOC responded generously with a grant for $159,000. We are fortunate to have the good working relationship we have had with our federal counterpart. All Iowans have benefited.
CASE CLOSURES: YOUNG STAFF DOING WELL
On the average, each one of our investigators processed 98 cases during FY-79. That's almost two cases per week. Few states can beat that average. What is more, they achieved that record of service with little or no prior experience. The total number of closures for the year was 645. Just like cases received, 9 1 % of the closures were in the area of employment. Also like cases received, sex and race were the two most frequent bases of the closed cases. Specifically, we closed 249 on the basis of sex (39%) and 194 on the basis of race (30%). Those figures do not indicate that we favor female complaints over black complaints. The figures follow a trend that is consistent over the last three years.
The number of closures this year is down from previous years. Turnover, complexity and quality are three words that go into the explanation for the downturn. Turnover of personnel continues to plague us. This year we had 13 people quit and 4 others get promoted out of the investigator ranks. Counting the length of each vacancy and training time for each replacement, we lost a considerable number of work hours in filling that many slots. As proud as we are of our new personnel, the fact of life still remains that experienced people will produce more. We look forward to their gaining experience in the next year.
We are seeing increasingly more complex cases among those that get assigned to investigators. One reason for that complexity is the inevitable fact that as a field of law develops, questions and fact situations that emerge reflect finer and finer nuances in the law. As more and more people file complaints, the population grows in awareness and sophistication. What was once a matter they might have taken up only through the grievance process or might have felt they had no recourse for at all, they now recognize as a potential civil rights violation.
Another reason for the growing number of complex cases that get assigned to investigators is the result of the sifting process that occurs with the Rapid Charge Project. Although several considerations go into the decision to channel a case into the early settlement project, one consideration is the simplicity of the case. Parties tend to settle disputes faster where the facts and the remedy are relatively uncomplicated. What's left are the more difficult and complex cases that, frankly, take longer to do.
Lastly, we must strive for quality. Due to the increased attention civil rights litigation is getting in the courts, respondent attorneys are growing in sophistication - not just in the courtroom, but also in negotiations and even at the investigation stage. Doing battle sharpens the spear. What is more, we find ourselves on the battlefield more these days. Especially since last year, the volume of public hearings and litigation has jumped so we are constantly challenged to produce work that can withstand a growing number of assaults at all stages.
Fortunately, the challenge has two edges. Although it might sharpen their spear, it also sharpens ours. For us the battle has two fronts. Internally, we must minimize turnover. Externally, we must continue to produce quality investigations even though fact patterns and laws become more complex. But we are not alone in this challenge. Each Iowan who reads this report has a role to play. Certainly we will need the help of the legislators and the Governor to give us the resources to meet this challenge. And we need the public to contact these officials and urge them to prioritize our needs high enough, so that available monies will be shifted to them.
PERFORMANCE STANDARDS FOR INVESTIGATORS
The Iowa commission was one of the first state civil rights commissions in the nation to implement a specific minimum performance standard for investigators. Ours is a unit system in which a "unit" is not necessarily a completed investigation. Supervisors require that each investigator obtain seven units per month. The unit value of work performed is listed below:
Withdrawals - 1/4 unit
No Jurisdiction - 1/4 unit
Administrative Closure 1/4 unit
Satisfactory Adjustment 1/2 to 1 unit
(depending on amount of work involved)
Review of an investigation of a local commission - 1/2 to 1 unit
(depending on amount of work involved)
Probable Cause - 1 unit
No Probable Cause - 1 unit
There is a certain amount of flexibility built into the system whereby adjustments are made depending on the complexity of the case and other assignments the investigator might have. However, without these considerations the supervisor will apply progressive disciplinary measures in the event an investigator is not making his/her unit requirements. Ultimately such measures could result in termination.
Due to establishment of the unit system, investigators at the Iowa commission have a minimum per capita output of 7 units per month. Ours is the highest performance standard of any state civil rights commission in the five-state region of Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. Further, it is among the highest in the nation. In fact, many civil rights enforcement agencies in the country have yet to establish performance standards.
The unit system by no means fosters a paper mill of findings without regard for the quality of the work. Quality control is incorporated through supervision The supervisor closely reviews all cases before sending a recommended finding to the internal hearing officer We would not have experienced the increase in case being conciliated and going on to public hearing an litigation without quality investigations.
TYPES OF CLOSURES: SATISFACTORY ADJUSTMENTS SOAR
We have examined several breakdowns for case closed: the total number, their areas of jurisdiction an what they are based on (age, sex, national origin, etc But how are they closed? What types of findings designated for these closures? Appendix page iv graphically displays the answer. The distinction between cases closed and cases processed is - probable cause findings. For any one complainant the "bottom line" of the process is certainly the final disposition of case. But in terms of gauging the total amount of work of the agency, one must consider all cases processed Any two given cases, one a probable cause and one a probable cause, require the same amount of work. B are completed investigations.
We cut the work pie differently in FY-79 compare to the way we cut it in FY-78. (Refer to page iv appendix.) That year the largest single category findings was "no probable cause." It comprised 36 of all findings. This last year its size had shrunk to 20% Instead of "no probable causes", the largest single category in FY-79 was "satisfactory adjustments" a 30% - up thirteen percentage points from 17% i FY-78. Settlements, that is, satisfactory adjustment and successful conciliations, accounted for 39% of the findings. At the start of FY-79 we had a buildup cases at the conciliation and public hearing stage (Cases closed after public hearing are also closed with "successful conciliation" or "satisfactory adjustment. ") The increased activity at those stages result from our corresponding shift in resources to meet t needs at that level. We were assigned an addition Assistant Attorney General and we hired two more Public Hearing Officers. Of course, the swell of Rapid Charge Settlements is also included in the 208 Satisfactory Adjustments.
The figures indicate there has been a drop in the number of completed investigations, in other words "probable cause" and "no probable cause" findings In fact, the number of "no probable cause" finding fell 50% and the number of "probable cause" finding fell 63% between July, 1978 and July, 1979. Completed investigations as a group was lower in FY-79 by 64%. The turnover among investigators has take its%toll in productivity at that stage. We had the services of a group of Volunteers in Service to America (V.I. S. T. A.) during the previous year. Phasing out that program had an effect because all of their work was investigative. We had no volunteers at all in FY-79.
The shaded areas of the pie charts on page iv of the appendix represent outcomes favorable to the complainant. The size of the shaded areas relative to the rest of the pie has become increasingly larger over the last three years: 23% (FY-77), 35% (FY-78) and 45% (FY79). Still there is something to be said for findings in favor of the respondent.
Although a "no probable cause" is a finding in favor of the respondent, a few respondents react negatively to it. They see it as reinforcing their initial belief that the investigation was all a waste of time. In fact, that is not true. Of course, we are proceeding on the premise that a certain amount of conflict is inevitable and good in any organization where there are thinking people. "Where everybody thinks alike, nobody thinks." The question is not whether someone's right to protest is valid. The question is how to handle the protest in a healthy manner. We feel the "no probable cause" finding serves a very useful purpose for the organization as a whole.
Due to the covert nature of much of the discrimination, the complainant has experienced before, the complainant files with us on a reasonable suspicion. He or she does not have access to all the information. That's why they seek help from the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. In cases in which the complainant continues employment with the respondent after filing the complaint, the no probable cause provides a definitive resolution to the employee's protests. The complaint was professionally investigated by a neutral source. In many cases, as a result of the definitive, objective answer, the employee is better able to reconcile what happened. At least in these cases the employee can satisfy him/herself by knowing that they did not allow themselves to be victimized illegally by their employer. Thus, they can conserve their energy that would have been siphoned off by more protests and brooding and, instead, put it to productive uses.
A definitive, objective answer to the protest can also help to stop the spread of unrest among other employees who were sympathetic to the complainant. In cases in which the complainant is terminated, the "no probable cause" finding can help to allay distrust and accusations from sympathizers who continue to be employed by the respondent. Thus, the "no probable cause" finding can help to bring order and equilibrium back to the work place.
INVENTORY GROWS, BUT TURNOVER TIME IS MORE IMPORTANT
The "backlog" or case inventory has been the subject of much discussion stemming from the Civil Rights Commission. Case inventory refers to that group of cases which have been filed, but have not yet reached final disposition. Too often these discussions leave the public and those concerned about discrimination with the impression that the case inventory is a stockpile of cases just sitting there. Quite the contrary, the case inventory is moving. In any given period of time, some cases are moving to final disposition, others are just coming into the agency. When we cite the size of the case inventory, it is a snapshot view. At that point in time we can give a number. At a different point in time, the number might be different. At a still different point in time, the number in the case inventory might even be the same, but not necessarily the same cases and, for the most part, not at the same stage in the process as they were before.
The number of cases in the case inventory is the least important of three performance measures we value most. The three are of course measures of quantity; quality is always important. There are three measures that are lasting: the number of cases in the inventory, the number of closures and the time taken to close any given case, i.e., case turnover time. And the greatest of these is turnover. Case inventory is the least important of the big three because a sizable proportion of that number is cases received. And given our present resources, we have no control over how many people come to us for help. Whether any amount of resources could control the number of those people is questionable.
The most important is the average turnover time per case. Hypothetically, we could have ten thousand cases in the case inventory. What would it matter, if each case were resolved in six months? As for closures, we cannot have closures unless we are turning over cases, the number of closures is simply the direct result of how fast we can turn over cases. For FY-79 the average turnover time per case was sixteen months. Keep in mind that is a broad average; it includes closures at all stages of the process. It includes "no jurisdictions" that might have taken a few days as well as cases that went all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court.
There are a number of factors that affect which cases get investigated or resolved before others. Cases assigned to the early settlement project have a greater chance of being resolved faster than those that are not assigned to the project. With cases to work all over the state, travel time becomes a factor. An investigator might go up to Dubuque to work on the oldest case he has. But there may be others close by that are more recent. As long as he is in the area he will work on those as well, even though he might have one lone case in the southwest comer of the state that has been on file for a longer period of time. Familiarity with a particular respondent organization is another efficiency consideration. The larger an employer happens to be, the more complaints will likely come out of that organization. Also, the larger the employer, the more complex will be its facilities and procedures. If we assigned different investigators to cases involving these organizations, each one would need to educate himself or herself anew about the organization. That would waste a lot of work hours. Therefore, we assign all the cases from larger organizations to one investigator. When she goes to the respondent's facility she works on as many as she can. Some of them might very well be newer cases. As a result of all these factors - the Rapid Charge Project, travel considerations, case assignments and others, the Compliance Division is working on both old cases and new cases simultaneously.
The circular graphs below illustrate the movement of cases for both FY-78 and FY-79.
The graph depicts the movement of cases by way of the arrows and the shading.
Both the inner and the outer circles represent the same group of cases for the respective year. In FY-78, there were a total of 1576 cases alive in the agency: case inventory at start + cases received. Of course, all were not alive at the same time. The intensity of our activity in each case varied and they were all in different stages from new intakes to state Supreme Court. In FY-79, the total was 1695. We are working both ends of the total, i.e., both old cases and new (see arrows). Some are closed out and some are carried over to FY-79. The shading illustrates the group of cases from FY-78 that we carried over into FY-79. Likewise, the portion labeled "Case Inventory at End" is the group of cases we have carried over into FY-80. That group numbered 1050 cases. Although carried over, in other words, not closed, they are still progressing through investigation, conciliation, public hearing or litigation en route to resolution.
Aside from the fact that FY-79 was the peak year for the number of new cases filed, staff turnover and lack of professional, paid staff have been the most important factors contributing to the case inventory. Prior to 1970 our case inventory did not carry over into another year. In 1970 the legislature added sex discrimination to the coverage of our law. Then in 1972 the legislature added physical disability, mental disability and age discrimination to the coverage of the law, again without a corresponding increase in staff to handle the bulging intake. We are certainly grateful for the increases in staff and budget we have received through the years. With those additional resources we were able to speed the turnover of cases considerably. But if there is to be any further appreciable change in that rate of case turnover, more paid professional staff with clerical support is essential.
$322,485 FOR COMPLAINANTS
The term "remedy" refers to the rights and benefits to which the complainant is entitled, if he/she has been the victim of illegal discrimination. The benefits are more often, but not always, monetary in nature. Many are important to the persons involved but difficult to attach to a dollar figure. Turn to appendix page v for the tables showing all the remedies we obtained for people in FY-79. "Back pay" refers to the amount of money complainant would have earned from the date of discriminatory incident until the date the case was resolved. This is, of course, limited to employment cases.
"Settlement" might encompass several things. For example, in a housing case the complainant might have incurred certain out-of-pocket expenses for which they are entitled to reimbursement. In some instances, the commission and the respondent might negotiate within a reasonable range on a lump sum figure that would be acceptable to both in order to resolve the case. Back pay might be a factor affecting their range of negotiation, but there may be a variety of other factors also depending on the case. In some cases in which the complainant gets hired, re-hired, promoted or in any way secures a right to money in the future, we compute for our own records a figure we call "annualized benefits." This figure is what the dollar value of the new wage will be from the date it begins until one year later. One year is a standard period for all such figures we compute. The amount we project is the amount we can attribute to the complaint action. So, the "annualized benefit" in a case involving a promotion would be the difference between the old and new wage which we project one year. The "dollar total" column is a summary column. In other words, for each row, the dollar entries when added should equal the "dollar total." Likewise it is true for column totals at the end of the table. In FY-79 there were 252 cases in which we obtained a remedy. Column totals appear as follows:
Back Pay/Settlements $224,846
Annualized Benefits 96,711
DOLLAR TOTAL $322,420
The tables beginning at appendix v show the variety of the type and size of remedies we have obtained -monetary and non-monetary, large as well as small. Terms of remedies vary. The largest single monetary settlement we obtained for an individual was $36,000.
The dollar total for remedies in FY-79 was less than that for FY-78, however, more people obtained settlements through the Commission in FY-79. Note the comparison of the two. years:
FY-78 / 146 remedies / $389,473 (dollar total)
FY-79 / 255 remedies / $322,420 (dollar total)
The explanation for this difference is simple -faster case turnover. The faster we can investigate and resolve a case, the less it will cost the Respondent . During the time we are investigating and/or negotiating a settlement, the back pay (if Respondent is an employer) still accumulates. So, the less time a case spends in processing, the less will be the employer's liability. One reason for the faster case turnover is the fact that there were fewer old cases to process in FY-79, since our V.I.S.T.A. Project had dispensed with many of them in FY-78. Another reason is that in FY-79 we had more people working on settlements than in the previous year. Finally, faster case turnover resulted from more employers settling before an investigation.
EXPEDITED CASE PROCESSING
One development that has been occurring over the past few years is the increase in satisfactory adjustments. You might recall that a satisfactory adjustment is a resolution that occurs prior to a completed investigation. Respondents are becoming more educated on equal opportunity law. They seem to better recognize when a violation has taken place once a complaint is filed. The fact is that a larger number of respondents are settling early in the process.
We, on our part, have been promoting early settlements by way of the Pre-Intake/Rapid Charge Settlement Project. Our experience with this approach thus far tells us that its prognosis for the future is favorable at the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.
When we first started this project in March of 1979, our goal was to achieve settlements in 25% of the cases that were processed by the project. In just three months - April, May and June - the project personnel had surpassed that goal. They processed 178 cases in those three months and settled 82 of them. That is a settlement rate of 46%.
Any project is only as effective as the people who take the words from the paper and bring them to life day to day. The six people who have pioneered in this administrative venture are Kathleen Homeier, Rose Wilson, JoAnn Montgomery, Joe Ellis, Don Grove and Mike Randolph. They are funded through an EEOC grant and negotiate Pre-intake and Rapid Charge cases full-time. The EEOC grant will last until December, 1979. Joe Ellis, Don Grove and Mike Randolph negotiate both Pre-intake/Rapid Charge cases and cases in which we have found discrimination after a full investigation. Ms. Montgomery, Mr. Grove and Mr. Randolph are attorneys.
Teamwork has developed out of this project. Ellis, Grove and Randolph have begun analyzing, preparing and when possible, negotiating their assigned cases as a team. They no longer work alone on each case. Instead, they share information, talents and research as a unit. This approach has benefits in terms of morale and flexibility as well as production. Flexibility keeps the workflow smoother. For example, if one conciliator is out of the office, the other two are knowledgeable about his cases and can field telephone communications between parties. Talks do not get bogged down with delays.
There are a number of advantages to early settlement. For one thing, it avoids what might be a time consuming investigation that would be costly to both respondent and the government (which ultimately is everyone's expense). Second, if the complainant's coworkers are in turmoil over incidents leading to the complaint, an early settlement helps to bring order and harmony back to the work environment. Third, an early settlement will minimize the respondent's potential monetary liability. For example, if backpay is involved, the sooner there is a settlement, the less backpay will be. It pays to settle early.
Again, the Pre-intake and Rapid Charge process is indicative of our efforts to reach for a better way to do what we do. Both the existence of the project itself and the team approach within the project are examples of our efforts to streamline and be more efficient in doing our job. Complainants and respondents can help us streamline their government by considering this alternative approach to conflict resolution.
In addition to respondents gaining a better knowledge of the law, we believe that our intensified efforts at the public hearing and litigation stages have been strong contributing factor to this early settlement trend. Hearings and litigation have also influenced the settlement rate at the conciliation table. Courts overwhelmingly affirm our "probable cause" investigative determinations, if they get challenged at that level. Over the last three years, the courts have affirmed our " probable causes" 91% of the time. Enforcement of the la engenders greater respect for it. We will take a close look at public hearings and court actions in the next two sections.