There are countless factors which influence the progress of the work performed by the agency. The overriding problem, of course., is the complex, pervasive way in which discrimination is enmeshed in every aspect of society. Discriminatory elements are ingrained in each tiny strand of each thread woven into the fabric of society- the traditions, systems and organizational structures of the culture.
Detail and Scope of Power
In terms of specific factors, the tools provided to the agency along with the task thrust upon it, have profound impact on the work output, or services rendered to the people of the state. The scope of the assignment, in terms of the kinds of discrimination which are to be eradicated, is important. In 1965, when the original law was passed establishing the Commission, it was empowered to combat discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, religion and national origin in Employment and Public Accommodations, and to study discrimination in housing. In 1967, discrimination in housing was added to the law. The first two years of housing jurisdiction resulted in very little work, however, because the law contained a peculiar provision which required the posting of a $500 bond with a complaint. In 1969, the bond requirement was repealed and the Housing statute became meaningful in terms of the aggrieved having easy access to the power which was extended to the agency.
In 1970, sex discrimination in Employment
and Public Accommodations, but not housing was added. In 1972, discrimination
on the basis of age and disability were added to the agency task. Thus the
steadily expanding jurisdiction of the agency has steadily increased
the workload and that expansion is reflected in the number of complaints filed.
July 1965 - November 1965 = 2
December 1965 - November
1966 = 19
December 1966 - November 1967 = 17
December 1967 - November 1968 = 33
December 1968 - November 1969 = 69
December 1969 - November 1970 = 169
December 1970 - November 1971 = 344
December 1971 - November 1972 = 511
December 1972 - June 30, 1974 = 1142
While the legal jurisdiction extended to the Commission and the stated spirit of the law proclaim the purpose of eradicating discrimination, the letter of the law which is the details that control due process may instead serve as serious barriers to implementation of the law. What the exact details of 'due process' should be is a debatable question and the General Assembly possesses the authority to adopt and prescribe these details. However, the Commission has the power and duty to make recommendations for change to the General Assembly because the Commission has experience as a functioning entity. A glaring example of a defect in the law was repealed in the next session which met after it was adopted -- the Bonding requirement mentioned previously. In succeeding years, the Commission has recommended to the Legislature a number of other changes, some of which have been adopted. Further changes in detail may be recommended in the law as time, Court Decisions, and experience dictate.
Money is an overwhelmingly important
factor which influences the work of the agency. A "Model", (in
the abstract sense), law can be adopted which contains perfect details of
authority, responsibility as well as adequate protection of the rights of
all parties but if no resources are allocated for its enforcement it is
as meaningless as a blank piece of paper. The level of funding is
determined by the General Assembly and the Governor in the course of funding the total state governmental system.
In addition to the funds provided in the regular state budget, the Commission has been the recipient of other funds as well, particularly grants from the EEOC. The reality of the funds allocated may be seen in the charts on the following two pages which show the budget alongside the scope of jurisdiction and the cases filed.
1965 Race, Creed, Color, National Origin, Religion in employment and Public Accommodations
1967 Housing added
1970 Sex added
1972 Age and Disability added
July '65 - Nov. '65 2
Dec. '65 - Nov. '66 19
Dec. '66 - Nov. '67 17
Dec. '67 - Nov. '68 33
Dec. '68 - Nov. '69 69
Dec. '69 - Nov. '70 169
Dec. '70 - Nov. '71 344
Dec. ' 71 - Nov. ' 72 511
Dec. ' 72 - June '74 1142
Interrelated with the enormity of the task and the funds available, a
third crucial factor influences the services provided. That factor is people.
The ability of the persons selected to serve on the Commission and the persons
hired to perform the work on a day-to-day
basis are fundamental to the effectiveness of the agency.
In terms of the overall functions of state government, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission is a relatively new organization, less than a decade old. Furthermore, across the nation most other similar agencies have been in existence about the same length of time, including the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission which was established by the 1964 U. S. Civil Rights Act. Thus, people who have gained experience in other jurisdictions have gained it in agencies which are similarly new.
There is no educational institution or specific curriculum offered which has been designed as a "Degree Program" to train personnel in this field of activity although many fields, including law, are closely allied to it. The details and procedures of how the work is to be done and indeed, the exact meanings of the very root word - discrimination - have been developing gradually and change almost daily. To date, most training of personnel in Civil Rights law enforcement has been on a piece-meal, brief workshop basis. Nevertheless, the personal and educational qualifications needed by people who work in this field of activity are formidable indeed. People who work to eradicate discrimination must be committed in an absolute sense to the duty. That dedication must include equal dedication to eradication of each and every kind of discrimination which the law prohibits. For example, it would be most unfitting for an official to be enthusiastic about eliminating race discrimination and indifferent to the eradication of sex discrimination or unfair treatment of the handicapped.
The commitment to the eradication of discrimination must be balanced by an equal dedication to carrying out the task in accordance with the principles and practices of "due process" for all concerned. If the agency does not process complaints in the correct way, a remedy for victims of discrimination may become unavailable. Large organizations which are charged with discrimination are often able to allocate extensive resources to defend themselves against a charge by an uneducated, poor person. Large organizations are likely to attack any small technical error in the process as a part of the defense, and will carry that attack to the highest Court available. Conceivably, the amount of money spent by one corporation on one case can be as large as the annual budget of the Commission.. The obligation to do the job carefully and correctly falls on every person who participates in agency activity. In summary, the need to obtain and retain committed, competent staff members to handle a large, complex workload is a continued concern of the agency.
There are other factors which influence
progress of the work on a day-by-day basis. A lack of understanding of the
law by the people who complain or who are complained against contributes
to the length of time which processing a complaint may require. Some of
the procedures in the law, such as the right to "amend complaints"
help to make up for the lack of Complainant understanding of the details
of the law. It is, of course, difficult for the victims of discrimination
to accept the lengthy delays of the process. If Respondents do not cooperate
with investigation, further delay results. The addition of subpoena power
in the investigatory process may help on that difficulty. The size
of the workload, the scope of the investigations often required, and other
factors which cause delay may prompt Complainants to harass the Commission
staff, or to become discouraged. The length of time required to process
complaints may cause some of the most serious violations to go unreported.
Delays can also occur in the Judicial Review Process. Judicial Review of Civil Rights Cases is not an isolated function of the Judicial system and cases arising under Civil Rights laws eventually become a part of the overall court system workload. The time required for completion of Judicial Review was demonstrated in the prior discussion of the various cases which have gone all the way through Commission processes to the Iowa Supreme Court.
Further, because the Court system handles only those issues brought before it, important questions of law which need interpretation continue to remain unresolved and constitute additional barriers to the progress. One simple example of the unresolved issues in the law is a section (Footnote 601A.15) which provides that "retirement plans or benefit systems" of employers are exempt from discrimination on the basis of age and sex regulations. So long as that section is not repealed or challenged as being in possible conflict with Federal law, discriminatory practices involving those issues are difficult to resolve, and in fact, may need to be referred to the Federal agency for disposition.