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IN THE IOWA DISTRICT COURT IN AND FOR POLK COUNTY
Case No.: CVCV058834
IOWA CIVIL RIGHTS COMMISSION,
Ruling on Petition for Judicial Review
On January 24, 2020, this matter came before the Court on Petitioner’s Application for Judicial Review. Petitioner appeared by and through her attorney, Roxanne Conlin. Assistant Attorney General Katie Fiala appeared and argued on behalf of Respondent. Having considered the arguments and authority from the parties, and after studying the underlying record herein, the Court enters the following ruling.
A. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
In April 2018, Petitioner became pregnant. As with many pregnancies, Petitioner suffered through morning sickness and frequent headaches. Petitioner claims that in December2018,hersymptomstookaturnfortheworse.OnDecember20,2018,Petitioner was transported to Iowa SpecialtyHospital.
During her hospitalization, Petitioner complained to the doctors and nurses responsible for her care about the pain she was enduring. In Petitioner’s estimation, her complaints were largely ignored. On December 29, 2018, following the birth of her son, Petitioner was released from Iowa Specialty Hospital.
On December 30, 2018, Petitioner suffered a seizure at home, and was transported back to Iowa Specialty Hospital. While there, she was diagnosed with preeclampsia and anemia.
Based on the forgoing facts, on July 25, 2019, Petitioner filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. On August 5, 2019, Respondent dismissed Petitioner’s complaint. Respondent contended the information that Petitioner submitted did not
indicateorexplainhowtheHospital’sactionswerediscriminatory,basedonherpregnancy. In Respondent’s opinion, “[t]his appears to be a medical malpracticesituation.”
B. STANDARD OFREVIEW
Iowa Code Chapter 17A governs judicial review of an agency action. The district court acts in an appellate capacity and reviews agency action to correct errors at law.1 The Court “may grant relief if the agency action has prejudiced the substantial rights of the petitioner,andtheagencyactionmeetsoneoftheenumeratedcriteriacontainedinsection 17A.19(10)(a) through (n).”2 “The burden of demonstrating the required prejudice and the invalidity of agency action is on the party assertinginvalidity.”3
When, as here, “the claim of error lies with the ultimate conclusion reached, then the challenge is to the agency’s application of the law to the facts, and the question on review is whether the agency abused its discretion...”4 Discretion is abused when it is exercised on clearly untenable grounds or to a clearly unreasonable extent.5
Iowa Code Section 216.15(1) provides “[a]ny person claiming to be aggrieved by a discriminatoryorunfairpracticemay,inpersonorbyanattorney,make,sign,andfilewith thecommissionaverified,writtencomplaintwhichshallstatethenameandaddressofthe person, employer, employment agency or other organization alleged to have committed the discriminatory or unfair practice of which complaint, shall set forth the particulars thereof, and shall contain such other information as may be required by the commission.” Awrittencomplaintshouldcontain“[a]clearandconcisestatementofthefacts,including pertinent dates, if known, constituting each alleged unfair or discriminatory practice ”6
2 Burton v. Hilltop Care Cntr., 813 N.W.2d 250, 256 (Iowa 2012) (quoting Evercom Sys., Inc., v. Iowa Utilities Bd., 805 N.W.2d 758, 762 (Iowa 2011)).
3 Iowa Code §17A.19(8)(a).
4 Meyer, 710 N.W.2d at 219 (citing Iowa Code §17A.19(10)(i), (j)).
5 See Equal Access Corp. v. Utils. Bd., 510 N.W.2d 147, 151 (Iowa 1993).
6 Iowa Administrative Code 161-3.4(2)(c).
IowaAdministrativeCode161-3.4(3)providesthat“[n]otwithstandingtheprovisionsofsub rule3.4(2),acomplaintissufficientwhenthecommissionreceivesfromthecomplainanta written statement sufficiently precise to identify the parties and to describe generally the action or practice complained of.” Once these conditions are satisfied, the Commission may initiate aninvestigation.
Here, Respondent declined to investigate Petitioner’s claim. The basis for Respondent’s declination was that the information Petitioner submitted failed to explain how the Hospital’s actions were discriminatory, based on her pregnancy or disability.
Petitioner,whowasaproselitigantwhenhercomplaintwasfiled,failedtoprovide sufficient information from which Respondent could have initiated an investigation. Petitioner asserts that her treating nurse and Dr. Diamond, her treating OBGYN, discriminated against her in a public accommodation because of her gender; vis-à-vis, her pregnancy. However, at the heart of Petitioner’s complaint is her belief that her treating nurseandDr.Diamondfailedtotakehercomplaintsseriously.Thereareatleasttwoflaws in Petitioner’slogic.
First, Petitioner is pursuing the wrong cause of action. As the argument goes, becausePetitionerwas“madetofeellike[she]wascrazy”andthemedicalstaffdidnottake her complaints seriously, Petitioner received sub-standard medical care. Because of that sub-standard care, Petitioner endured pain, suffering, and, ostensibly, lost wages.7 As Respondent correctly noted, those allegations are the hallmarks of a medical negligence claim.
Second,inordertotransformthisfromamedicalnegligenceclaimtoafaciallyvalid civil rights complaint, Petitioner needed to identify facts that would support even an inference of gender discrimination. Petitioner’s logic goes something like this: the Iowa Civil Rights Commission investigates alleged violations of the Iowa Civil Rights Act; the Iowa Civil rights Act recognizes pregnant women as a protected class; Dr. Diamond is an OBGYN; by the very nature of her profession, Dr. Diamond provides medical carefor
7 In her Civil Rights Commission Complaint Form, Petitioner asserts that because she was in and out of the hospital for “almost the entirety of December,” she and her husband “both missed a lot of work.”
women, because only women are capable of becoming pregnant; Petitioner was pregnant whenDr.Diamondmistreatedherbymakingher“feellike[she]wascrazy”anddismissing her complaints; because Petitioner was a member of a protected class when she was allegedly mistreated, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission must investigate Dr. Diamond’s actions as a potential violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act. This Court is simply unwilling to accept the kind of “House That Jack Built” reasoning Petitioner employshere.
Assuming without deciding that Dr. Diamond and the medical staff’s bedside mannerwaspoor,Petitionerfailedtoarticulatehowthatpoorbedsidemannerwascausally related to her protected class membership. Without that nexus, Petitioner’s complaint failed to meet the requirements of Iowa Administrative Code161-3.4(2)(c).
For all of the foregoing reasons, Petitioner’s Application for Judicial Review should be and is hereby DENIED.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED, Petitioner’s Application for Judicial Review should be and is hereby DENIED and DISMISSED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that costs shall be assessed to Petitioner.
State of Iowa Courts
Type: OTHER ORDER
CVCV058834 MIKAYLA WALKER VS IOWA CIVIL RIGHTS COMMISSION
Electronically signed on 2020-03-17 13:40:32 page 5 of 5