Obviously 1972 happened. The history is here, recorded verbally and by chart and graph. But how does one wrap up a year and then lay it to rest?
Do we talk about the Commission's image...tough and serious? Do we speak to a particular body of readers? Do we tell of personal experiences and memorable events, or do we record victories and defeats, weighting it toward the former?
An annual report doesn't capture the frustration of working in the field of human rights. It doesn't show the pain, the disillusionment, the impatience. They were all part of 1972.
However, we do think we've given a few people a bit more hope. Whatever happened through this Commission reached some of the "folks" out there.
That's what really counts. And that's enough for 1972. Let it be.
The Commission in General
The Iowa Civil Rights Commission (ICRC) was created in 1965 by passage of the Iowa Civil Rights Act (the Act). Amendments in 1967, 1969, 1970, and 1972 have increased the Commission' jurisdiction so that it now includes a ban on discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, on the basis of age, disability, religion, creed, national origin, race, color, and sex.
The Commission has been active since its inception, approaching the mandates of the statute cautiously in its first years boldly in the latter three years. Early years found the body of knowledge of civil rights small, the number of substantive court decisions few, and the trust of aggrieved persons in the Commission lacking.
Today, the confidence of aggrieved persons in the ability of the Commission to help them is considerable, court guidelines are becoming more plentiful and substantive, and the general knowledge of civil rights is greater than ever. More cases are being received, processed and closed than ever before. Nearly 25 cases have gone to public hearing in the last three years and many more are scheduled. Several of these cases are being appealed to the district courts and State Supreme Court.
The Commission has also been involved in numerous educational
and tension-reducing activities.
alleviating intergroup tensions: When buildings were taken over on an Iowa college campus, the Commission was there. With the situation at the breaking point, the Commission helped to get negotiations going again. The problem was eventually resolved, with no injuries to any person, no damage to any buildings, and no loss of money to the Iowa taxpayer.
On several other occasions, the Commission has been called to college campuses where tensions were running high. In each situation, the problem was alleviated without major incident.
When a major city in Iowa was near the boiling point, the Commission was there. For several weeks it stayed on, working tirelessly to keep the lines of communication open, helping to facilitate negotiations between the opposing sides. The tension eased, the negotiations are continuing to find solutions, and with the Commission's aid an extremely explosive situation did not erupt.
education: The Commission has implemented a number of EDUCATIONAL programs (and is developing more) to emphasize the "positive" ways it can be of SERVICE in PREVENTING DISCRIMINATION. The Commission wants to go out of business - in that it seeks the elimination of all discrimination in Iowa. By HELPING employers, landlords, and businessmen to understand the law, the Commission is convinced that a great deal of discrimination, caused by ignorance of the law or misunderstanding of it, can be PREVENTED. In so doing, the Commission is in actuality SAVING the employers of this state MILLIONS OF DOLLARS. Voluntary compliance with the law, before a charge of discrimination is filed, will save the employer the trouble of dealing with the Commission. If the employer comes into voluntary compliance with the Iowa law, he will also probably satisfy the federal government and keep them off his doorstep. (A recent suit by the EEOC against A.T. & T. brought an award of $38 million dollars. It pays to comply.)
The Commission also does a number of other things to be of SERVICE TO THE PEOPLE OF IOWA, to help them understand the law and the Commission. Such other activities include: planning and conducting conferences and workshops, giving speeches and disseminating literature, acting as a deferral agency for several federal agencies, etc. These activities have been partially successful in fulfilling the mandates of the statute, to ". . . investigate and pass upon complaints alleging unfair or discriminatory practices," and to " . . . plan and conduct programs designed to eliminate . . . intergroup tensions."
commission philosophy: The general purpose of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission is to help provide equal opportunity to Iowa citizens regardless of what sex they are, what color their skin is, how old they are, where they were born or who their parents were, what church they go to, or what disabilities they have. To use these criteria as reasons to employ or not to employ, to rent or not to rent, to serve or not to serve, is, in most situations, illegal under terms of the Act. The Commission has the duty to monitor these things and to seek out and eliminate the illegal discrimination that occurs.
In the Commission's eye, curing discrimination by helping a person get back a job lost due to a discriminatory act, or getting a promotion previously denied because of discrimination is quite "positive."
However, to many people, especially respondents, doing a good job of case processing is considered "negative", because it often involves unwanted confrontation and bother. And with an ever increasing caseload, greater and greater portions of the Commission's time have necessarily been spent in that "unpopular" area of endeavor.
The huge caseload has meant that somewhat less time has been available, in the last years, for the Commission's programs of education (that aspect of the Commission's activities which more generally is considered "positive"). Nevertheless, these programs have been, and will continue to be, a vital part of the Commission's overall program.
case made: More persons are aware of the law and the Commission than ever before, through public hearings, compliance activities and educational programs. The Commission has, in a certain sense, made its record. The need for the agency to prove itself and its willingness to enforce the law is, therefore, a good deal less than it was two or even one year ago. As such, the Commission is anxious to stress another aspect of its mandate - EDUCATION AND SERVICE.
The Commission has been doing a lot of good, positive things to HELP IOWA. It seems that it has, unfortunately, been stuck with the label of being negative and too tough. We think this is inaccurate as well as unfair. Nevertheless, the Commission is expanding its efforts to be "positive", to really serve the public, especially through programs of education. However, there have been some problems of money, increased jurisdiction, and increased caseload, all of which make it difficult to do the things it should in order to help PREVENT DISCRIMINATION.
money: An extremely important aspect of this attempt by the Commission to EXPAND THE SERVICES it can offer to all Iowans, is the ability to finance such a program. No new money means no new educational programs.
If additional funding is not available this year, not only will the Commission not provide new educational programs, but it will soon be totally overwhelmed by the huge case backlog.
case backlog; The Commission is now 523 cases behind. A 1000% increase in caseload during the last 5 years has been accompanied by only a 12% budget hike. These two facts have made funding for the Commission a critical issue for the 1973 legislature.
The caseload backlog means that unless money for needed investigators is provided, it will take about 2 years to handle the cases presently on file - and new complaints are made daily. The story of the Commission's problems is one of ever-widening scope without the commensurate additional appropriations.
history: When the Iowa Civil Rights Act was passed in 1965, it covered discrimination in employment and public accommodations. By 1967, the Commission budget was $85,000 annually, and housing discrimination was added. In 1968, there was a 300% increase in caseload, but no added funds. In 1969, a slight budget hike to $86,790, was accompanied by a heavier caseload. In 1970, sex discrimination was added to the Act, increasing the caseload by 50%, but no additional money was appropriated. 1971 and 1972 saw appropriations increased by 8% and 4%, respectively. Adding to the crunch, as well, is the trend for cases to advance to public hearing because of growing resistance to conciliation.
age and disability: 1972 saw the addition of two new jurisdictions to the Iowa Civil Rights Act - age and disability (both mental and physical).
These NEW ADDITIONS were certainly welcome in the sense of providing legal recourse to important new segments of the Iowa population. However, NO ADDITIONAL APPROPRIATION WAS PROVIDED for implementation of these new prohibitions. During the six (6) month period in which these provisions were part of the law, they comprised 23% of the caseload, increasing the burden of an already overburdened agency without means to properly handle the new responsibility.
hair length - sex discrimination: Also in 1972, the Commission received jurisdiction from another source - the courts. A young man with long hair filed a suit against the Commission in district court for failure to accept his complaint of sex discrimination. He charged that he had been denied employment due to his hair length, where women with hair of similar length had been hired. The court ruled that the Commission did have jurisdiction over these kinds of complaints and therefore must accept them and process them as it would any complaint. This the Commission now does. However, the Commission feels that there has not yet been a definitive answer by the courts on this question.
public hearings: Two significant public hearings were held by the Commission in 1972 - either of which could have important and long-lasting implications for the Commission. One case dealt with the issue of maternity benefits and leave of absence rights, the other with the issue of the Commission's initiation of patterns and practices complaints. (See section in this report on "Policy Making".)
attorney general's opinions: Four (4) important Attorney General's opinions were also issued in 1972 relative to the Commission. A summary of these four (4) - relating to sick leave benefits for pregnancy, federal guidelines on pregnancy, architectural barriers for the disabled, and seniority in sex bias cases - may be found in the section of this report entitled "Policy Making".
rules and regulations: The Commission promulgated two rules during 1972; one relative to the internal rules of practice of the ICRC the other setting out guidelines in regard to sex discrimination. These rules are aimed at defining more clearly the internal processes of the Commission (to ensure "due process") and at detailing the interpretation the Commission gives to certain unclear or undefined sections of the Act. This allows both those protected by the law, and those subject to the various provisions of it to be aware of their rights, duties and responsibilities under this law.
needed legislation: With the increased caseload, increased jurisdictions, and increased recalcitrance of respondents, more than just additional money is needed to really give the Commission the tools to do an effective job. Methods of reducing the time delays between steps in case processing and of generally increasing the Commission's efficiency are needed.
Subpoena powers are needed as it becomes increasingly difficult to obtain the information necessary to make a fair determination as to the occurrence of discrimination (when information was available, discrimination was found in only 50% of the cases in 1972.) As it is, when a respondent won't provide the necessary information, the Commission is forced to call a public hearing to get it - a real waste at this stage.
Similarly, time limits are needed within which a respondent must reply to Commission questions, or again the process can be drawn out.
Injunctive powers would remove a real roadblock to effective remedies by the Commission, by not allowing an innocent third party to become involved.
TO ALLOW THESE DELAYS IS TO WASTE EVERYBODY'S TIME AND MONEY ON RESPONDENTS WHO HOPE THAT THE COMMISSION WILL "GO AWAY". WELL, IT WON'T. IT CAN'T. THE LAW SAYS IT MUST INVESTIGATE AND CONCILIATE, AND THAT IT WILL DO.
summary: It has been an important year in the life of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission ' a year with much activity, and much change we think for the better. It's been a year of controversy and conciliation, with many problems, but with increased hopes. The law has been subjected to extensive definition and interpretation in the form of statutory changes, court rulings, Attorney General's opinions, and Commission rules and regulations. There has been growth in the law, growth in cases opened and closed, growth in many respects. But with the problems facing the Commission, growth cannot continue unless changes are made, the most important of which is the addition of more personnel to handle the tremendous amounts of work. In addition, growth in the powers of the Commission to allow it to quickly and effectively enforce the law, is essential.