Illegal employment practices can happen in a number of different ways. Unfortunately, employees often do not know when their employers are engaging in conduct that violates the law. That’s where we come in. If you need our help with an employment law or civil rights matter, call our office or fill out this form and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
|Discrimination||Sexual Harassment||Other Protected Characteristic Harassment|
|Retaliation||Wrongful Termination and Whistleblowing||Drug Testing|
|Unequal Pay||Unpaid Wages||FMLA Violations|
|Civil Rights Violations|
Below are some examples of the types of cases we handle:
Discrimination. Iowa and federal laws forbid discrimination on the basis of age, national origin, religion, sex, pregnancy, race, and disability. Uniquely, Iowa law also makes it illegal to discriminate against someone because of their gender preference or sexual orientation. These are all known as “protected classes.” If you believe you are being treated differently because of one of these protected classes, you may have a claim.
Sexual Harassment. Both state and federal laws also prohibit employers from allowing sexual harassment to occur at work. This includes harassment by co-workers, supervisors, owners, and even customers or clients. Sexual harassment itself can take many forms, such as inappropriate comments or jokes, touching, emails, images, and demands of a sexual nature. Employees have the absolute right to work in a workplace in which sexual harassment does not occur.
Other Protected Characteristic Harassment. Just like state and federal laws prohibit employers from allowing sexual harassment to occur at work, those laws also prohibit harassment based on other protected characteristics, like age, national origin, religion, pregnancy, race, and disability. Under Iowa law, the same is true for gender preference or sexual orientation.
Retaliation. The law protects employees who complain about discrimination and harassment, including on behalf of others. Even if the conduct does not end up being illegal, so long as an employee has a good faith belief that discrimination or harassment has occurred, the employee is protected from retaliation. Complaining about or reporting violations of state or federal employment laws (or perceived violations) is called engaging in “protected activity.” If you have engaged in protected activity and are being treated differently as a result, your employer may be retaliating against you.
Wrongful Termination and Whistleblowing. “Protected activity” also includes exercising a statutory right or privilege (i.e. filing a work comp claim, reporting child abuse, or seeking unemployment compensation), refusing to commit an unlawful act (i.e. perjury or understaffing a child care center), performing a statutory obligation (i.e. providing truthful testimony), or reporting a violation of the law (i.e. OSHA or IOSHA). People often think of this as “whistleblowing.” Employers may not fire employees who engage in this type of whistleblowing protected activity.
State, county, city, and public school employees have additional whistleblower protections when they report violation of laws or regulations, mismanagement, gross abuse of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.
Drug Testing. Iowa’s drug testing law is complicated and many employers violate the law in implementing their own drug testing programs. Workers have rights regarding when and how they can be tested for alcohol or drugs. Employers must have detailed drug/alcohol testing policies and cannot single out workers for testing except under very limited circumstances. If you have been fired because you failed a drug/alcohol test, or because you refused to take what you think was an illegal drug/alcohol test, we may be able to help.
Unequal Pay. Iowa and federal laws forbid employers from paying employees differently based on their age, national origin, religion, sex, pregnancy, race, and disability. Uniquely, Iowa law also makes it illegal to pay employees differently based on their gender preference or sexual orientation.
Unpaid Wages. Under Iowa law, wages include compensation owed by an employer for work or services performed by an employee, including bonuses and other performance incentives. Under certain circumstances, vacation, paid time off, and sick leave are also considered wages. Employers are legally obligated to pay their employees in regular intervals and Iowa’s Wage Payment Collection Act provides employees relief and damages when their employers fail to pay wages as required under the law. If your employer failed to pay your wages or a bonus, we may be able to help.
FMLA Violations. In general, the FMLA is a federal law that requires covered employers (those with at least 50 employees in a 100-mile radius) to give eligible employees (those who have worked full-time for at least a year) up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave:
- following the birth (or adoption or foster care) of a child and to care for the child within one year of birth or placement;
- to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
- to care for him/herself due to a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
- or any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty.”
Families of injured servicemembers can receive additional time to care for injured servicemembers. An employee must be returned to his or her job (or an equivalent job) after returning from leave. In addition, employers may not interfere with an employee’s exercise of FMLA leave and may not treat employees differently for taking FMLA leave.
Civil Rights Violations. Both the Iowa and federal Constitutions restrict the government’s (including state and federal agencies and state universities, counties, cities, and public schools) power to detain, search, arrest, or use force against individuals, and prohibit the government from violating your freedoms of speech, expression, and religion, among others. If any of these rights are violated, individuals may be entitled to damages. We may be able to help if you or a family member have been retaliated against by the government for exercising your rights, if the government illegally arrested or used excessive force against you or a family member, or if the government is interfering with your ability to exercise your rights.
If you need our help with an employment law or civil rights matter, call our office or fill out this form and we will get back to you as soon as we can.