Discrimination Issues


Over twenty different issues were listed as reasons for the filing of a complaint of employment discrimination. The most common issue cited was firing. Close behind this in numbers of complaints was failure to be hired. Another oft cited reason for claiming discrimination was because of harassment, sometimes by fellow workers, other times by management. Reasons centering around promotion and demotion were also given several times. Other issues which were occasionally listed as reasons for filing the complaint are: underutilization of minorities, unequal pay, suspension from a job, failure to give recommendation for future job, and discriminatory testing.

Employment Service: Several of the complaints were brought to the attention of Commission by the Iowa State Employment Service when it received a job order calling for a person of a particular racial or sexual group (thus violating the Iowa Civil Rights Act).

Craft Unions: This year also brought a large increase in the number of complaints filed against unions, both industrial and craft. Craft unions, such as in the construction trades, have for most of their histories been almost totally white in their membership. New members were usually relatives or friends of present members, and since there was little contact between the races few Blacks,, Spanish- Surnamed Americans, or American Indians were ever invited to join the membership of the union or even the apprenticeship program. In the Ironworkers case the Iowa Supreme Court ruled definitively that such practices are in violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act and must be stopped. Furthermore, positive steps must be taken to remedy the effects of the past discrimination. It also ruled that tests used in apprenticeship programs must be validated for cultural bias, and that unions must affirmatively recruit minorities for membership. The Commission thus has a solid base for processing the many complaints being received against these craft unions.

Industrial Unions: Industrial unions are being charged more and more in the complaints received by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. These complaints are not usually in regard to any inability of minorities to gain membership, but rather because the minority feels that once he/she becomes a member that the union fails to represent him/her. Many of the complaints against industrial unions also list the company in which the union is located because the company has taken some action against the person (i.e., harassment, demotion, lack of promotion, etc.) and the person feels that the union did not defend his/her rights as well as it should have. This has happened in the case of Blacks and Mexican-Americans. But the most frequent of the Commission's complaints of this kind are filed by females who feel that the union supports the interests of the male workers more than it does the interests of the females. The major industry cited in this type of complaint is the meat packing industry.

Discrimination Against Whites: Most complaints of racial discrimination are filed by Blacks'. However, a number of complaints have been filed by inter-racial couples claiming discrimination. There have also been some complaints filed by whites alleging discrimination by a Black. A complaint was filed this year by a white woman claiming she was demoted by her boss who was Black. She was subsequently fired and filed another complaint, alleging discrimination because she was white and also because she was a woman. The investigation disclosed that there was reasonable cause to believe that the reasons for her demotion and firing were because of her race and sex. The matter was conciliated with the woman being reinstated in her job with back pay.

Sex Discrimination Against Males: Sex discrimination complaints are largely filed by women. Some of these are filed by Black women who often claim race discrimination additionally. However, the Commission does receive a number of complaints by men who claim that they were discriminated against because of their sex. Frequently the situation involves the males' desire for entry into a previously all female department. Also common are complaints by men of being excluded from a position because the company wanted a female (such as for a receptionist or clerical job).

The law on sex discrimination is a two-edged sword because it applies equally to males as well as females, even though it was designed more specifically for females because they are far more the objects of discrimination in this society. Thus, previously all male jobs are being opened more and more to females, and they are beginning to take advantage of this newly found job mobility. On the other hand some previously all female jobs are also being opened up and some males are applying for them -- and they must be given equal consideration. The final decision must not be based on considerations of sex unless there is a valid reason for making such a decision. The Iowa Civil Rights Commission, consistent with the federal court decisions, has found that the number of jobs on which a bona fide sex preference can be made is small. While the law does allow for discrimination based on sex, the reasons for such action must be substantial.

Publication Available: [The Iowa Civil Rights Commission has a supply of reprints of an excellent article relating to sex discrimination. This article was co-authored by Eliot Landau, Professor of Law at Drake University and a consultant for the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, and by Kermit Dunahoo, Criminal Justice Coordinator (LEAA), Polk County, Iowa, and former research and education director for the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. This article surveys remedies in the field of sex discrimination and should be of value to anyone interested in this area of the law. Copies may be obtained from the Commission office for $2.00 apiece.]


Eviction from an apartment or house, and denial of the rental of an apartment, were the most common reasons listed for the filing of charges of discrimination in housing during the past year. Refusal to sell or rent houses or mobile homes were also listed as reasons for complaints.

Instances of a direct refusal on the part of a landlord to rent or sell a property because of a person's race or national origin are becoming less frequent, however more subtle forms of discrimination are now appearing.

Lists in mobile home courts on which are listed the names of persons wanting to rent a space, supposedly by order of the day they applied, are used to discriminate against minorities because their names never manage to reach the top of the list.

Refusal to answer the door when a minority knocks, rather than having to tell the person directly that there is no housing available (even though there may be), is another technique used to discriminate.

Use of devices such as "Choose Your Neighbor" cards are also used to discriminate because they are only given to whites, thus denying minorities an equal chance at renting or buying the property. (See case study relating to this under section on "Policy Making" entitled "Public Hearing" later in this report.)

Another technique being used is to tell minorities that the only apartments available are in the basement (when apartments on other floors actually are available). Minorities are allowed to rent the basement apartments, but never have a chance at accommodations on other floors and since these are often considered more lucrative, many minorities go elsewhere hoping to find the desired apartment.

A case such as the one mentioned above was conciliated by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission in 1971 with the minority obtaining the apartment of his choice on the second floor.


No one issue stands out as being the most common for filing a charge of discrimination in public accommodations. There are a myriad of reasons given for complaints of this type with seldom more than 4 or 5 being the same.

Some of the reasons listed in 1971 were: harassment
or brutality by police or other law enforcement officials, failure to be served in taverns and restaurants, denial of charge
accounts to females where good credit had been established, poor service by a dry cleaning establishment, unequal treatment by courts, harassment by a state agency, and many many others.

Two cases alleging discrimination for failure to be served in a tavern went to public hearing -- one involving Mexican Americans, the other involving Blacks. Both were denied service at bars because of their national origin and race. (See "Public Hearings" under the heading of "Policy Making" later in this report.)

1972 Annual Report Main Page