The Commission's primary responsibility is to investigate complaints of alleged discriminatory practices, as defined in the Iowa Civil Rights Act, as amended. No person problems, however complex or trifle in nature, have been ignored or slighted. The Commission is satisfied that it has, within reason, exhausted its resources in providing equitable relief for both parties involved in the various cases.
The Complaint Procedure
Definition of a Complaint: Investigation by Commission personnel of a charge begins following the
filing of a formalized complaint. A complaint is a one-page written statement signed by an individual charging that a specific party has discriminated against him because of his
race, religion, color, creed, or national origin. A complaint must be filed in triplicate, and has to be notarized. The Commission has authority to process complaints in matters
involving housing, employment, public accommodations, and intimidation.
Deadline for Filing a Complaint: A complaint must be filed within 90 days of the alleged discriminatory act.
Who May File a Complaint: Any individual who feels that he has been the victim of discriminatory practices, as defined in the Iowa Civil Rights Act; the Iowa Civil Rights Commission as a body; any of the individual Commissioners; and the Attorney General.
How to File a Complaint: Individuals wishing to file a complaint may do so at the Commission office; may send a signed complaint through the mail; or may request Commission personnel (by mail, telephone or personal contact) to visit them locally to discuss a possible complaint. A supply of Commission complaint forms is available at many local human rights committees and organizations, as a means of expediting the complaint filing process.
Under terms of the law, a complaint on housing must be accompanied by a $500 bond. A district court ruling, however, has made it clear that a complaint filed by the Commission need not be accompanied by the bond.
How a Complaint is Processed: Following the filing of a complaint the Commission sends (by registered mail) a copy of the complaint to the respondents (the party being charged with discriminatory practices) together with a letter stating that the Commission shall conduct an investigation of the charges. A confidential conference is then held with the respondent. If preliminary investigation indicates "probable cause," then voluntary compliance with the law is sought by efforts of conciliation, education, and persuasion. Cases are dismissed in which there is a finding of "no probable cause." If a complaint cannot be resolved satisfactorily through conciliation, then a public hearing on the matter is held by the Commission.
At the public hearing, the Commission has the power to subpoena records and witnesses, as well as to take testimony under oath. The Commission makes findings of fact and law at the conclusion of that hearing. If no discrimination is found, the Commission may dismiss the complaint. If discrimination is found, the Commission may issue a cease and desist order to the respondent to halt the discriminatory practice and to take appropriate affirmative action.
If the Commission order is not obeyed, the Commission may go to district court for a court order enforcing the Commission order. That court proceeding involves a trial de novo, where the whole legal process begins anew. The Commission's ruling also may be appealed by either party to the district court (where a trial de novo is held also). The ultimate court ruling (following possible appeals to higher courts) is final and must be obeyed. Violators of court orders are in contempt of court, an offense punishable by law.