The League of Iowa Human & Civil Rights Agencies is an informal statewide organization comprised of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission (ICRC), the Iowa Department of Human Rights (DHR) and local civil and human rights commissions throughout the state of Iowa. This blog provides information about federal and state civil rights laws impacting Iowans. To learn more about the League, please visit

Friday, June 3, 2011

Are There Any Exemptions Regarding Religious Discrimination?

Religious Exemptions to the Iowa Civil Rights Act

The Iowa Civil Rights Act does grant an exemption for religious institutions. Chapter 216:12 mentions the following exemption:

a. Any bona fide religious institution with respect to any qualifications it may impose based on religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity, when the qualifications are related to a bona fide religious purpose unless the religious institution owns or operates property for a commercial purpose or membership in the religion is restricted on account of race, color, or national origin.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Do Employers Need to Make Reasonable Accommodations Based on Religion?

Religious Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation

The law requires an employer or other covered entity to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations of the employer's business. This means an employer may be required to make reasonable adjustments to the work environment that will allow an employee to practice his or her religion.  Examples of some common religious accommodations include flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, and modifications to workplace policies or practices.

Religious Accommodation/Dress and Grooming Policies
Unless it would be an undue hardship on the employer's operation of its business, an employer must reasonably accommodate an employee's religious beliefs or practices. This applies not only to schedule changes or leave for religious observances, but also to such things as dress or grooming practices that an employee has for religious reasons. These might include, for example, wearing particular head coverings or other religious dress (such as a Jewish yarmulke or a Muslim headscarf), or wearing certain hairstyles or facial hair (such as Rastafarian dreadlocks or Sikh uncut hair and beard). It also includes an employee's observance of a religious prohibition against wearing certain garments (such as pants or miniskirts).

When an employee or applicant needs a dress or grooming accommodation for religious reasons, he should notify the employer that he needs such an accommodation for religious reasons. If the employer reasonably needs more information, the employer and the employee should engage in an interactive process to discuss the request. If it would not pose an undue hardship, the employer must grant the accommodation.

Religious Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship
An employer does not have to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices if doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer. An accommodation may cause undue hardship if it is costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases workplace efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work.

Religious Discrimination And Employment Policies/Practices
An employee cannot be forced to participate (or not participate) in a religious activity as a condition of employment.

Information courtesy of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Monday, May 30, 2011

Does the Law Protect Against Discrimination Based on Religion?

Definition of Religious Discrimination
Religious discrimination involves treating a person unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs. The law protects not only people who belong to traditional, organized religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, but also others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs. Religious discrimination can also involve treating someone differently because that person is married to (or associated with) an individual of a particular religion or because of his or her connection with a religious organization or group.

Types of Protections from Religious Discrimination
State and federal law forbid discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment. State and federal law also prohibit discrimination in the area of housing, including rental units, purchase of property, housing loans, and property insurance. Iowa law also protects people from discrimination and harassment in the areas of public accommodation (public buildings and services), credit, and education.

Information courtesy of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Are There Protections Based on Immigration or Citizenship Status?

Citizenship Discrimination and Workplace Laws

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate with respect to hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee, based upon an individual's citizenship or immigration status. The law prohibits employers from hiring only U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents unless required to do so by law, regulation or government contract.  Employers may not refuse to accept lawful documentation that establishes the employment eligibility of an employee, or demand additional documentation beyond what is legally required, when verifying employment eligibility (i.e., completing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Form I-9), based on the employee's national origin or citizenship status. It is the employee's choice which of the acceptable Form I-9 documents to show to verify employment eligibility.

IRCA also prohibits retaliation against individuals for asserting their rights under the Act, or for filing a charge or assisting in an investigation or proceeding under IRCA.

IRCA’s nondiscrimination requirements are enforced by the Department of Justice’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC), Civil Rights Division. OSC may be reached at:

1-800-255-7688 (voice for employees/applicants),
1-800-237-2515 (TTY for employees/applicants),
1-800-255-8155 (voice for employers), or
1-800-362-2735 (TTY for employers), or

Information courtesy of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What are the Three Main Types of Lending Discrimination?

1) Disparate Treatment: Mortgage application is denied because of consideration of the applicant’s race or other protected characteristic.

Rejected Applicant (Plaintiff) must show:
   (1) Membership in a protected class
   (2) He or she applied for and was qualified for a loan with a lending institution;
   (3) The loan was rejected despite his or her qualifications; and
   (4) The lending institution continued to approve loans for applicants with similar qualifications.

Testers (similarly situated applicant, not a member of plaintiff’s protected class) are often utilized to prove disparate treatment.

2) Disparate Impact: A lending institution’s facially neutral policy has a significant and adverse affect on a group of people made up of one or more protected characteristics. There must be a causal connection between policy and adverse affect.

Criteria for evaluating disparate impact claims:
   (1) The strength of the plaintiff's statistical showing;
   (2) The legitimacy of the defendant's interest in taking the action complained of;
   (3) Some indication-which might be suggestive rather than conclusive-of discriminatory intent; and
   (4) The extent to which relief could be obtained by limiting interference by, rather than requiring positive remedial measures of, the defendant.

3) Redlining: The practice of using certain, protected neighborhood characteristics as a basis for declining to lend to a borrower who wishes to purchase a home in that neighborhood. Can be very difficult to prove as companies are allowed to make smart business decisions in declining loans. Deference is typically given to the lender.

Reverse Redlining: The practice of approving loan applications for homebuyers in a protected class in a predatory manner. This practice is attributed as a major cause of the recent housing market collapse.