Profiles of Some Successful Cases
Overview: Brief outlines of seven complaints or cases which were settled by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission follow, as a means of illustrating the diverse nature of the cases studied and acted upon by the Commission. These seven complaints or cases represent a cross section of compliance matters resolved by the Commission. In these complaints or cases, the aggrieved party received remedy under the law, and public policy was clarified regarding discriminatory practices in matters of employment, housing, and places of public accommodations.
Negro Fireman on the Job: A Negro applied for a city job as fireman in the fall of 1966. After passing the written examination, he failed the physical, reportedly because of a high albumin content in his blood. Having easily passed physicals in the military service and on his present job, he then went to another doctor where he passed the same type of examination. Charging discrimination in the official physical examination, he filed a formal complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission against the city's Board of Fire Pension Trustees, which certifies the results of physical examinations taken by applicants for firemen slots. Upon the Commission's urging, he applied for a fireman slot at the next application date in the spring of 1967. This time he passed both the written and physical examinations, but failed the oral examination administered by the city Civil Service Commission.
With the issue of the physical examination now moot, he withdrew his earlier complaint and filed a new one -- this time against the city Civil Service Commission. Following an Iowa Commission finding of "probable cause" in the discriminatory charge, numerous attempts at conciliation were made. When all of them failed, a public hearing was convened. A recess in that hearing was called, upon the request of the Civil Service Commission which offered to conciliate further. Later, the Negro's name was certified to the city fire department by the city Civil Service Commission after corroboration of the positive character reference of the applicant. This was made possible through a thorough investigation of the applicant's background by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. He has been on the job as a fireman since August of 1967.
Housing Conciliation Agreement: A Negro was refused an apartment in a suburban community. He later found suitable housing elsewhere and withdrew his formal complaint. Thereupon, a Commission charge was filed. A scheduled public hearing on the matter was halted by a temporary injunction obtained in the district court. The subsequent ruling on the request for a permanent injunction upheld the right of the Commission to hold a public hearing. Last-minute conciliation efforts were successful on the eve of the newly-scheduled public hearing. The terms of that conciliation agreement included a formal statement that the (respondent) corporation's policy unequivocally is "nondiscriminatory with respect to selection of tenants;" and that such statement must be used in "any or all newspaper, radio or television advertisements used or issued by the corporation" during the next year. Moreover, the corporation must report at least monthly to the Commission "on all actions taken by (it) with respect to non-white tenant applicants."
Indirect Employment Benefits: An allegedly discriminatory job order from a manufacturing plant to a local Employment Service office in a large city was referred to the Commission by the Iowa State Employment Service. A Negro applicant was referred on the telephone by the Employment Service interviewer, but her appointment was delayed for several days apparently after the company's personnel off ice became suspicious that the applicant was non- white. Two days later -that is, before the Negro applicant's interview -- the position (as a key-punch operator) was filled by a white.
A Commission charge was filed against the company after the preliminary investigation indicated the possibility of illegal employment policies, viz. the alleged discriminatory job order. Following the Commission's conciliatory efforts, the company hired the woman as a blueprint machine operator,: noting that she has "the qualifications to do a satisfactory job in this capacity." Moreover, the company stated in writing to the Commission: "If and when an opening arises in our key- punch department, we will give (her) first consideration for that position."
Interracial Couple Stay in Hotel: A Negro man and his white wife were not allowed to register at a hotel in a large city. Immediate investigation of the matter indicated that the hotel apparently had a policy of catering to both whites and non-whites, but not to mixed couples. The Commission investigator explained to the manager that the refusal to rent constituted a violation of the law. He pointed out, furthermore, some of the possible consequences for a place of public accommodation. The manager agreed to adopt a new policy in complete compliance with the law, and to give the couple a room. The couple stayed in that hotel that night, and then resumed their trip to California the next day.
Foreign Resident Offered Housing: An African foreign visitor, who was commuting from Ames, experienced considerable difficulty in his attempt during the summer of 1967 to find housing in Des Moines. A native of Nigeria, he went to work for a state agency following the completion of his masters degree at Iowa State University. A formal complaint was brought by the Commission against the owners and manager of an apartment house after the manager there informed the Negro, in the presence of the Commission's compliance director, that he had been instructed by the owners not to show or rent apartments to Negroes. Following a conciliatory meeting with the Commission, the owners stated in writing that their policy is to, rent to any person who is "gainfully employed," and who does not have small children or create a commotion in the building through disorderly conduct. They added that they believed that their manager understood this policy now, and that they would "correct the situation" if he or any future custodian discriminates against prospective renters due to "their race, religion or beliefs." The apartment was then offered to the individual. He decided against taking the apartment, preferring instead to continue to live in Ames, where his future bride was attending the university.
"Weekday-Only" Tavern Visits: On a Saturday evening, two Negroes were denied admittance by the doorman to a tavern in a middle-sized Iowa city. Apparently that establishment had a policy of serving Negroes during the week but not on Friday and Saturday nights. The owner took lightly the two formal complaints and formal Commission investigation until his attorney advised him of the seriousness of the alleged offense. Finally admitting that discrimination based upon race had occurred, the owner took the following action as part of the conciliation agreement. First, he apologized in writing to the two individuals and "cordially" invited them to visit his establishment "any time" they desire. Moreover, he assured the Commission in writing that he had "taken steps to make sure that this does not happen again."
Admittance to a Side Show: A Negro was denied admittance to a go-go girl concession show playing at a county fair in a small city. Following the filing of a formal complaint, the Commission investigation determined that there was no way to resolve the conflicting stories about the incident. However, the respondents (the general manager of the show company and the owner of the side show) jointly signed this statement of future policy: "It is our policy to serve all patrons regardless of race, creed, color, national origin, or religion provided that they conduct themselves in an orderly manner." The respondents play many fairs in Iowa, and the statement of nondiscriminatory policy applies to all future shows in the state. In addition, the complainant was invited to attend the show.