Filing a Civil Rights Complaint – First Steps
Q: “I think my employer discriminated against me. Now what? Can I sue them right away?”
A: Not quite. The Iowa Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment because of race, color, creed, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, and physical or mental disability. However, before you may file a civil rights lawsuit, you must file a civil rights complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, or ICRC.
The ICRC is the agency in charge of enforcing the Iowa Civil Rights Act. The ICRC cannot provide legal advice. Be aware that any complaint must be filed within 300 days of the discrimination (or the most recent incident of harassment). Within a couple weeks of you filing, your employer will receive notice of your complaint and has to respond in writing. A few weeks after your complaint, the ICRC will send you a questionnaire to gather more information about your situation.
You can file a lawsuit in district court only after requesting a “right to sue” letter from the ICRC. You can request this letter either (1) after your complaint has been with the ICRC for 60 days or (2) after the ICRC has issued its initial “screening decision” on your complaint. Complaint forms can be found by clicking here. More information on the complaint process in general can be found by clicking here. The complaint process can be confusing, and it is extremely important that you fully and correctly fill out your complaint. If you fill out the form incorrectly, you may be barred from later bringing a lawsuit. If you have any questions or believe your civil rights have been violated, please visit the Fiedler Law Firm’s website by filling out an intake form here.