PROBLEMS OF THE COMMISSION
It's been a big year for the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. We have conducted 11 public hearings, processed 344 complaints, been involved in conferences, workshops, discussions and panels, given dozens of public speeches, and disseminated voluminous quantities of information on civil rights. This is not an exhaustive list of the kinds of duties that we are called upon to perform but it does give a good idea of the day-to-day activities of the Commission.
During a five (5) year period (1967 through 1971) our caseload has increased by over 1000%, while our budget has essentially decreased. In 1967 we had a budget of $85,000. In 1968 the budget remained the same. The appropriations in 1969 and 1970 gave us a 2% increase to $86,790. Considering inflation, this was essentially a decrease in appropriations. In fiscal year 1971 the budget was increased to $95,460. But this increase seems small in light of the 1000% increase in caseload over the past five years.
In 1967 and 1968 the budget was probably adequate to carry out the Commission's work. But ever since it's been an uphill battle to keep even. Housing discrimination was added to the law in 1967, and naturally the work load increased -- but not the budget. A $500 bond provision of the housing law was repealed in 1969, substantially increasing housing complaints. Still there was only a 2% budget increase. 1970 saw the addition of sex discrimination to the law, and a caseload that had already been doubling each year was increased again by one third. The few staff members the Commission has are carrying the overburdening load of up to 100 cases apiece. But, cases are not all that is involved in the work of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. There are speeches, panels, discussion groups, community relations work, and a lot of listening -- to people who may want to file a complaint, but more than anything to people who just want to tell someone of their problems and frustrations. This too is very important. However, the statute calls upon the Commission to pursue a much wider scope of activities aimed at ending discrimination. The Commission is attempting to do so, but there is a limit to human capabilities.
As the federal and state law in the area of discrimination develops and the Commission grows in terms of experience we will be better able to serve the people of the state of Iowa. The Commission takes heart at the growing consciousness that the people of Iowa are showing in their concern for the protection of their personal rights and liberties. The Commission daily receives office and phone calls from people all around the state who feel that they have been wronged in some way by either another individual or an organization, be it private or public.
Many of these cases never progress beyond a friendly telephone conversation and referral to an appropriate agency. But what is important in each and every instance is that there is someone who is willing to listen. Statistics cannot record the amount of time the Commission spends in this type of service to the public or the amount of good it does -- but we feel this is vital to our work as a civil rights agency.
The Iowa Civil Rights Commission is intent on carrying out its duties under the Iowa Civil Rights Act. Those duties essentially boil down to aiding the people of Iowa, be they poor or rich, privileged or underprivileged. However, inadequate funding to hire staff greatly inhibits the Commission in the scope of relief it can bring to aggrieved parties. This is the Commission's major problem.
Employment Jurisdiction: The Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965 as amended forbids discrimination in hiring, accepting, registering, classifying, referring for employment, discharging, and membership in labor organizations. The Act also forbids advertising or indicating in any manner that minorities are not welcome for employment or membership. The Act covers employers, employment agencies, labor organizations (and employees, agents, or members thereof). The Act exempts employers with fewer than four employees, religious institutions with bona fide religious qualifications, and employment in an employer's home or for personal services. In addition, sex discrimination is not illegal where it is based "upon the nature of the occupation," that is, where sex is a bona fide occupational qualification for the particular position in question.
Housing Jurisdiction: The Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965 as amended in 1967 forbids discrimination in the sale, rental, leasing, assignment, or subleasing of housing accommodations and in the terms, conditions, or privileges under which the above transactions are carried out. The Act also forbids advertising or indicating in any way that minorities are discouraged from seeking any of the above transactions. Parties covered include: owners and such persons acting for owners as real estate brokers or salesmen, attorneys, auctioneers, agents or representatives by power of attorney or appointment, and persons acting under court order, deed of trust, or will. The Act exempts religious institutions with bona fide religious qualifications, owner-occupied duplexes, and owner- occupied boarding houses with less than 6 rooms.
Because of an oversight in legislative draftsmanship, sex discrimination in housing is not outlawed by the Iowa Civil Rights Act. The sex discrimination amendment in 1970 (although entitled "An Act relating to sex discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations") does not include in the Act's text the necessary wording to add jurisdiction over sex discrimination in housing.
Public Accommodations Jurisdiction: The Act forbids discrimination in accommodations, advantages, facilities, services, or privileges of any place of public accommodation. The Act also forbids advertising or publicizing in any way to discourage minorities from taking advantage of public accommodations. Parties covered include: owners, lessees, sublessees, proprietors, managers, or superintendents. The Act exempts religious institutions with bona fide religious qualifications, and rental or leasing of transient housing of less than 6 rooms if the owner or occupant resides therein.
Aiding & Abetting Jurisdiction:
The Act forbids any person to intentionally aid, abet, compel, or coerce
another person to commit an illegal discriminatory practice. This section
also makes it unlawful for any person to discriminate against a person
who has resisted or opposed illegal discrimination.
CASE FILING AND PROCESSING PROCEDURE
Iowa employs the general procedure used by similar agencies in other jurisdictions. Charges must be in writing and verified and may be filed by any person. The Commission may also initiate complaints on its own.
Upon the acceptance or initiation of a charge the respondent is notified of the violation with which he is charged. A staff person conducts an in-depth investigation and reports the findings, with recommendations, to the Commission. The Commission then acts upon these cases with direction to the staff in terms of final disposition.
Where substantial evidence warrants support of the allegation a record of "probable cause" is entered. Compliance is then attempted by conciliation agreements which usually require compliance reviews and/or reports. Failure of the respondent to accept this procedure leads to the issuance of a formal notice of public hearing.
The procedure on public hearing is similar to that of civil cases in court. The commissioners (one or more members) are empowered to sit as hearing examiners. Frequently they have elected to employ persons outside of the Commission to function in this essential capacity. At the hearing the respondent may be represented by private counsel and the Commission is represented by the Attorney General's Office. The examiner submits a report based upon the transcript of the hearing. The examiner is not bound by the rules of evidence that prevail in courts of law or equity.
The Commission may issue and cause to be served upon the respondent, found to have engaged in any unlawful discriminatory practice, an order requiring such respondent to cease and desist from such unlawful discriminatory practice.
Any complainant or respondent claiming to be aggrieved by a final order of the Commission may obtain judicial review thereof. The Commission may obtain an order of the court for the enforcement of its final orders.
In those instances where insufficient evidence precludes the establishment of guilt an entry of "no probable cause" and "dismissal" goes into the record. The burden lies with the Commission.
COMPLAINTS AND FILE MATTERS
As a matter of practice, the compliance activities take one of two forms, either a complaint or a file matter. A complaint is a written allegation of a violation of a specific section of the Iowa Civil Rights Act. It is a formal charge which requires that certain procedural steps be followed, including a formal disposition.
On the other hand, the Commission has classified as file matters those situations in which the disputes are settled preliminarily without the undertaking of a formal charge or a formal investigation. Many times these file matters can be resolved satisfactorily upon consultation with one or both parties, following preliminary investigation of the facts. In other words, the Commission as an objective third party acts unofficially as a mediator. Of course, however, if such efforts prove unsuccessful, a complaint can follow (if the aggrieved party so chooses).