How to Recognize Employment Discrimination


In Iowa, most workers are "at the will" of the boss. This means the boss can fire workers at any time. The only time a worker is not at-will is if they have a contract with the boss. There are only a few protections for workers who are "at-will." These protections keep the boss from firing a worker for an illegal reason.

  • A boss fires an at-will worker for no reason. This is legal.
  • A boss fires an at-will worker for misconduct. This is legal.
  • A boss fires an at-will worker for a reason that doesn't make sense. This is legal.
  • A boss fires an at-will worker because of the worker's religion. This is illegal.

The law says a boss cannot fire a worker because of a bias they have against the worker. Illegal bias is discrimination. Discrimination is illegal when based on:

  • Race or color
  • Gender
  • Religion or creed
  • Sexual orientation or gender identity (Iowa only)
  • Disability
  • Age, or
  • Ethnic or national origin.

If a boss fires a worker for one of these reasons, here are ways the worker can get help:

1) Make a complaint to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission (ICRC):

If you want to make a complaint, you can file one with the ICRC: 1-800-457-4416 or online at

  • The ICRC investigates discrimination.
  • You have 300 days from the discriminatory act to make a complaint.
  • You need to complete and return papers the ICRC mails out.
  • File a complaint with the local civil rights agency. You can find a list of local agencies on the ICRC website.

2) Make a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC).

  • If you want to make a charge, you can file one with the EEOC:The EEOC investigates discrimination on the federal level.
  • The EEOC has an online assessment tool to determine whether your situation would be considered discrimination at
  • You can file a charge of discrimination by:
    • Calling 1-800-669-4000 to submit basic information and the field office will call you back to talk to you about your situation, or
    • Sending the EEOC a letter with this information:
      • Your name, address, and telephone number
      • The name, address and telephone number of the employer (or employment agency or union) you want to file your charge against
      • The number of employees employed there (if known)
      • A short description of the events you believe were discriminatory (like if you were fired, demoted, harassed)
      • When the events took place
      • Why you believe you were discriminated against (for example, because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information)
      • Your signature is required for the EEOC to investigate.

3) Talk to a private attorney about a lawsuit against the employer. A private attorney is an attorney who does not work for Iowa Legal Aid.

  • Iowa Legal Aid cannot sue the employer for money.
  • If you cannot find an attorney in your area, ask private attorneys in larger cities about your case.
  • Most private attorneys could give a free first consultation.
  • Some private attorneys may take your case on a contingent fee basis. This means you do not pay money up front.

4) Apply for unemployment benefits. File at your local Iowa Workforce Development Office or online at:

Last Review and Update: Aug 17, 2011

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