The following is a detailed analysis of the facts, district court decision, and Iowa Supreme Court holdings in the case of Ironworkers Local #67 and William Reed v. John Hart and the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. Earlier in this report a summary of the 17 major issues touched on by the Court was presented.

November 11, 1971 was an important day in the history of the still youthful Iowa Civil Rights Commission, for on that day the Iowa Supreme Court handed down its first decision based upon the Iowa Civil Rights Act, the Act which created the Commission and entrusted it with the task of enforcing the Iowa laws against discrimination. In rendering its decision in the case of Ironworkers Local #67 and William Reed v. John Hart and the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, the Court chose to go somewhat beyond the facts of the case and to comment in a more specific fashion on the Act as a whole and the Commission interpretation thereof. The Court stated, "This is the first appeal to reach our court calling for an interpretation of Chapter 105A (Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965). For this reason a detailed treatment of this law, and the facts, is required." In so saying the Court intended that it might provide more insight and guidance than has been available.

Facts of the Case

The Commission found in a public hearing concluded on April 30, 1970 that on April 23, 1969 the Ironworkers Local 67's business agent (William Reed) issued a work permit to Joseph Roe, a black non-union member -- but that later that same day members of the Ironworkers local union began leaving the job on sick leave after Mr. Reed visited the job site. The sick leave absences increased the next day, whereupon John Hart, the vice-president of the Weitz Construction Company, filed a complaint of discrimination under the Iowa Civil Rights Act. The workers returned to work on April 25, by which time the Weitz Construction Company had suffered damages due to work delays and to the extra expense of hiring security guards after anonymous telephone threats of violence at the work site. The Commission concluded after the hearing that the union and its agent had violated the Iowa Civil Rights Act, and issued certain orders which were the subject of the union's petition for review to the district court for Polk County.

The Commission's order was dated May 13, 1970 and included the following provisions:

Local 67 and Reed petitioned for review to the Polk County District Court. The case was there submitted on the transcribed record made before the Commission. As a result of this de novo review, the district court found Reed had caused union members to walk off the post office project under the subterfuge of illness because the Weitz Company wanted to hire a black person through the union hiring hall on a work permit, he being otherwise qualified. The Court found the union and Reed had violated §105A.7(l)(c) by indicating black persons were not welcome for employment or membership. By decree dated November 16, 1970, the district court adopted the Commission's order with only two changes. The direction to local 67 to admit Roe and all other who had completed six months of satisfactory employment was conditioned that they be "qualified as measured by the usual qualifications for such status applicable to all other applicants." The judgment rendered by the Commission was modified. Reed's obligation to pay was omitted, and the union's obligation was reduced to $1,033.50, to be paid the Weitz Company as damages for expenses incurred by that company as a result of the union's act.

From that decree Local 67 and Reed appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court, asserting as propositions relied on for reversal of the lower court's decision:

The Court initially noted, before dealing with the specific issues, that " . . . our Iowa constitution declares all men are, by nature, free and equal (art. I, para. 1). This freedom and equality must and does extend into the area of facilities, services, goods furnished to the general public, housing and employment practices." The Court continued, "The Iowa legislation [Civil Rights Act] in another manifestation of a national drive to right wrongs prevailing in our social and economic structures for more than a century." Thus the court set the stage for this historic decision.


Henceforth in this discussion: Commission., agency, or administrative agency will refer to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission; Act, statute, law, or Chapter 105A (and sections thereof) will refer to the Iowa Civil Rights Act; Court will refer to the Iowa Supreme Court; complainant will refer to John Hart (for the Weitz Company); respondents will refer to Ironworkers Local #67 and William Reed; Reed will refer to William Reed; Weitz will refer to the Weitz Company, and Hart will refer to John Hart.


The Ironworkers contended that two sections of the Iowa Civil Rights Act were unconstitutional. The Court initially dismissed these challenges advising that, "They do not even allege what provisions of the constitution are offended nor even which constitution is invoked." The Court did, however, go on to analyze and comment on each of the challenges.

Respondents first claimed that section 105A.7(l)(c) attempts to control private actions of individuals. The Court answered by reminding the respondent that it is a labor union and certified bargaining agent for the Ironworkers, " . . . not a social club. * * * Social conduct and feelings manifested in discriminatory employment practices are and have been subject to legislative action." The Court stated further, "The provisions of section 105A.7(l)(c) are not so vague and uncertain as to render that statute unconstitutional." Thus the question is not one of controlling actions of private individuals but of guaranteeing the civil rights of a person when violated by a labor union.

Respondents also alleged that the Iowa Civil Rights Act is an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power (to the Iowa Civil Rights Commissi
0n). The Court said, "On the question of power delegation we recently held the important consideration is . . . whether the procedure established for the exercise of power furnishes adequate safeguards for those affected by the administrative action." The Court continued, "Sections 105A.9 and 105A.10 are replete with safeguards protecting respondent." The Court concluded, "Section 105A.9(12) is not unconstitutional under the doctrine of undue delegation."

Complaint Filing

The Court dismissed the respondents' charge that Hart was not the proper party to file a complaint since he himself was not aggrieved. The Court pointed out that "An employer is specifically empowered to file complaint when its employees refuse or threaten to refuse to comply with the provisions of chapter 105A (105A.9(2))." The Court stressed that the main function of the complaint is to trigger an investigation and if probable cause is found, conference, conciliation and persuasion are to follow. The agency will decide if litigation is necessary. The Court held that "Enough loss and damage was sustained by Weitz as a result of respondents' conduct to permit it to fall within the legal definition of an 'aggrieved person."'

The Court thus upheld the broad definition of who can file a complaint. In so doing it reiterated from the Act that the complaint merely starts an investigation, that when cause is found conciliation is to be held, and that the Iowa Civil Rights Commission has the authority to decide if conciliation has failed and litigation is necessary.

Contents of Complaint

Respondents also claimed that the Commission decision was not in accord with the complaint and the evidence. The Court dismissed this allegation saying that all of the other parts (other than damages) of the order were within the bounds of the complaint and statutory authority of the Commission. The Court reminded the respondents that the manner in which this administrative agency (the Commission) proceeded was " . . . foundationed upon a legislative enactment designed more to implement broad public policy than to adjudicate differences between private parties." The Court held that all that is required (of a complaint) is that it give sufficient information to enable the administrative agency to discern what the grievance is about. The Court stated further, "This type of complaint was not designed for the sophisticated . . . , but to protect equality of opportunity among all employees and prospective employees. This protection must be extended to even the most unsophisticated and inarticulate." The Commission's complaint was thus upheld in its form, contents, and specificity.


Another question raised was in regard to whether the evidence in the case justified the Commission's decision and order. The Court said that Reed's actions and the actions of the Ironworkers' journeymen in staging the sick-out speak . . . with a force which cannot be quieted." It noted further, "Other testimony of 'hostility' and discouragement of [N]egroes is convincing." The Court continued, "In racial discrimination cases, statistics often demonstrate more than the testimony of many witnesses, and should be given proper .effect by the courts. * * * We cannot reasonably believe only one [N]egro would apply for permit or apprentice training in the almost 60 years of this union's history prior to April 1969, unless [B]lacks were being subjected to discrimination, however invidious." On this question the Court concluded, "Therefore, Commission was authorized to enjoin such behavior, which it did, and to order such affirmative action 'as in the judgement of the [C]ommission shall effectuate the purposes of this chapter."'


One of the more far-reaching and important sections of the Ironworkers decision deals with testing. The Commission' order required the suspension of the union's tests, including those used in the apprenticeship program (both for entry and advancement), until the tests had been validated for jobrelatedness and cultural bias. The tests were to be professionally developed. The Commission has contended for some time that tests tend to bear more heavily on minorities because of cultural and societal reasons (which are related to past discrimination).

The Commission has also been very suspicious of the arbitrary and indiscriminate use of such devices as high school diplomas and other degree requirements as essential criteria for getting a job, where there is no proof that these devices provide a more capable employee.

The Court commented on both the use of tests and degree requirements, as it declared, "The inadequacy of broad and general testing devices as well as the infirmity of using diplomas or degrees as fixed measures of capability has been judicially noted [e.g., in the federal courts, Griggs v. Duke Power Co.] together with their capacity for subtle discrimination." In this fashion the Court upheld those portions of the Commission's order relating to testing and test validation. As such it also strengthened the Commission's position with regard to testing and degree requirements, and with regard to the absolute necessity for having tests and other employee selection criteria validated for cultural bias and job-relatedness.

Recruitment to Remedy Past Discrimination

The Court advised the respondents regarding some erroneous assumptions they had made in attacking the affirmative portions of the Commission's order. In so doing the Court offered some additional insights into its interpretation of the Civil Rights Act. It said that the Act must be interpreted as aimed at correcting a broader pattern of behavior, rather than merely remedying a specific dispute. In the case at hand "It was the practice of discrimination, not merely the humiliation of Roe, at which the Commission and trial court took aim in this decree," the Court advised.

In discussing remedies regarding past discrimination the Court turned its attention to apprenticeship programs saying, "A nondiscriminatory inclusion of blacks in union's work permit and apprenticeship programs should provide impact in dislodging rigid patterns of past discrimination. * * * The union's obligation to contact members of minority groups is appropriate to insure the elimination of the effects of the past. * * * These provisions of the decree are reasonable steps to be taken to inform minority community that all persons are now treated equally by Local 67 with respect to race, color or creed."

The Court thus affirms the necessity for corrective action to modify the effects of past discrimination. Such actions should include specific efforts to contact minority group members so that all people have an equal chance to apply for entry into the apprenticeship programs and for obtaining work permits. If this is not done past patterns of discrimination will never be changed.


The Court also held that requiring Local 67 to periodically report on its activities regarding minorities was necessary) when it said, "Mandatory records and reports, authorized by section 105A.9(12), reasonably insure compliance with the decree."


In responding to the charge questioning the Commission's authority to grant compensatory damages the Supreme Court reversed the district court and the Commission's order. The district court had affirmed the Commission's broad authority "to require whatever action is necessary to undo the discriminatory practice and assure the end of it," noting that, "money damages are contemplated (in the law)."

However, the Iowa Supreme Court advised that if viewed as a vehicle to litigate questions of compensatory damages, the nature of the statute creating the Commission and its procedures
is unsatisfactory. The Court stated further, "As it bore on the correction of specific objectionable practice, Commission's order [decreeing both prohibitive and affirmative action with respect
to this problem] was within the statute . . . But Commission also attempted to fix damages in a collateral matter for a corporation which had not been discriminated against because of its
race, creed, color, sex, national origin, or religion. In this, Commission had exceeded its statutory authority. A judgement for the employer does not affirmatively make [Nlegroes more welcome in Local 67." The Court stated further, "We hold Commission has no authority under §105A.9(12) to enter judgement for compensatory damages per se." (emphasis added)

The Court thus affirmed the Commission's broad powers to order both prohibitive and affirmative action. However, compensatory damages could not be awarded: where a corporation was not discriminated against because of its race, creed, color, sex, national origin, or religion; where the action would not have an affirmative effect, as in making Negroes more welcome; or where the damages were granted per se, i.e., unconnected with other matters.

1972 Annual Report Main Page