Employees in Iowa are protected from workplace discrimination based on certain traits, such as ethnicity or disability. Congress and the Iowa legislature have decided that these traits, called protected characteristics, are not a fair and legal basis for employment decisions—including who to hire, who to fire, and how much to pay employees.
Below, we explain your rights under the state and federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination, including which employers must comply with the laws and which employees are protected. (For more on this topic, see our employment discrimination and harassment page.)
Federal Laws Prohibiting Employment Discrimination
Federal laws—including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act—protect employees in all 50 states against discrimination based on:
- national origin
- age (applies only to employees who are 40 years of age or older)
- genetic information, or
- physical or mental disability.
These federal laws make it illegal for employers of a certain size to discriminate in all aspects of employment, including hiring, benefits, promotions, pay, discipline, and termination. You are protected from discrimination if you work for a private employer with at least 15 employees (or 20 employees, for age discrimination).
Government employees are protected from discrimination, too. All employees of the federal government are covered, and all employees of state and local governments are covered by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. For other types of discrimination, state and local government employees are protected if they work for an agency with at least 15 employees.
Iowa Laws Prohibiting Employment Discrimination
The Iowa Civil Rights Act bans discrimination by private employers with four or more employees. The law also applies to the state of Iowa and all of its political departments, boards, subdivisions, commissions, institutions, and school districts. Employers may not make job decisions based on:
- race or color
- ethnicity or national origin
- sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions)
- age (18 or older)
- HIV/AIDS status
- sexual orientation, and
- gender identity
A separate law prohibits all employers from discriminating based on genetic information.
Agencies That Enforce Discrimination Laws
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the government agency that enforces federal laws prohibiting workplace discrimination. The EEOC website provides details on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the primary federal law that prohibits employment discrimination, as well as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and other federal laws. See Laws Enforced by EEOC for details. See our article on how to file an EEOC claim or visit the EEOC’s website for more information.
Finding an Employment Law Attorney in Iowa
If you believe you have been discriminated against at work, you should talk to an experienced Iowa employment lawyer. A lawyer can assess your situation, explain the laws that might apply, and evaluate the strength of your claims. A lawyer can also advise you on how to proceed, including filing a complaint or lawsuit, and what damages might be available if you win.