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The Commission’s primary duty is to enforce state and federal laws that prohibit discrimination in employment, public accommodations, housing, education and credit by investigating and litigating civil rights complaints. In addition, the Commission provides conflict resolution services including mediation and conciliation for civil rights matters. In addition to its role as a law enforcement agency, the Commission works to prevent discrimination by providing training and education to the public.
Please note the following process describes handling employment, public accommodation, credit, or education cases. The process for housing complaints differs, from timelines to opportunities to seek judicial remedies.
A. All non-housing complaints are “do-it-yourself” filings. ICRC staffers explain the process verbally and in writing to potential complainants. The complainants, with or without the assistance of counsel, draft the complaint themselves. Complaint form is available on line at icrc.iowa.gov, at local civil rights agencies, or through request through 1-800-457-4416 (toll free in Iowa only) or 515-281-4121 for ICRC.
B. Complaint form is “filed” when received by ICRC. When filed, it goes to intake unit to determine jurisdiction and timeliness
3. Must be filed within 300 days of incident (note: different timelines for EEOC
And HUD; for example HUD must be within 1 year)
6. To begin, the evidence provided is reviewed to determine whether the collected information indicates a reasonable possibility of a probable cause determination and warrants further processing. Iowa Administrative Code 161-3.12(1)(f). When evaluating evidence, we provide legitimate inferences that can be reasonably deduced from the evidence to the Complainant. An inference is legitimate if it is “rational, reasonable, and otherwise permissible under the governing substantive law.” Manning v. Wells Fargo Financial, Inc. 756 NW2d 480 (Iowa App.,2008) citing Butler v. Hoover Nature Trail, Inc., 530 N.W.2d 85, 88 (Iowa Ct.App.1994). Additionally, we do not make credibility determinations at this stage. Instead, we focus on whether the material facts collected indicate a reasonable possibility of a probable cause determination. We are mindful that “employment discrimination cases frequently turn on inferences rather than direct evidence” and that direct evidence of intent is often difficult or impossible to obtain. See Peterson v. Scott County, 406 F.3d 515, 520 (8th Cir.2005); Haas v. Kelly Services, Inc., 409 F.3d 1030, 1034-35 (8th Cir.2005).
10. Probable cause exists if there are reasonable grounds for believing [discrimination has occurred]. Wilson v. Hayes, 464 N.W.2d 250, 261-62 (Iowa 1990) (citing 52 Am.Jur.2d Malicious Prosecution §51, at 219) A determination of probable cause is made after an investigation and is based on “facts and circumstances that would be sufficient to induce a reasonable belief in the truth of the [claim].” In re Det. of Mead, 790 N.W.2d 104, 111 (Iowa 2010), reh'g denied (Dec. 10, 2010). See also Shaul v. Brown, 28 Iowa 37, 47, 4 Am.Rep. 151. (“Without entering at length into the discussion, we may remark that the question of probable cause in every case involves first the ascertainment of the facts from the evidence, and then the application of the law to the facts ascertained.”) The test for probable cause is whether there are reasonable grounds to believe the assertion and does not require “absolute certainty” of the assertion. Children v. Burton, 331 N.W.2d 673, 679 (Iowa 1983). In other words, a finding of probable cause means we have determined based on our investigation that there is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable belief that the Iowa Civil Rights Act has been violated.
F. Right-to-Sue (RTS)
A right-to-sue (also referred to as an “administrative release” in the Code) allows the complainant to bring suit in state district court. The complainant may request a right-to-sue:
1. After 60 days from the date the complaint is filed.
2. Any time a case is open (and not closed).
3. Less than two years of an “administrative closure”.
The complainant cannot obtain a right-to-sue:
1. If the case is withdrawn.
2. More than two years after an “administrative closure” has been issued.
3. Where the case was closed as a “no probable cause”, “no jurisdiction” or “not timely filed”.
4. Where the notice for public hearing has issued.
G. Access to files
1. The filing of a complaint or that a complaint has been filed is confidential.
2. Only after a RTS is issued can the ICRC release the complete file to the parties.
3. While a case is open, ICRC does not release documents provided by one party to the
4. ICRC is never allowed to release information from a file to a third party.
5. Where a decision is appealed or a public hearing is set, the parties have access to the
file through the discovery process.
6. Volunteers and student interns are required to sign general confidentiality
agreements, in addition to the mediation confidentiality agreements
H. Judicial Review
After an Administrative Closure, No Probable Cause, or No Jurisdiction findings, the Complainant may request an appeal of the Commission’s decision by filing a petition in district court.
I. Contacting the Iowa Civil Rights Commission:
Iowa Civil Rights Commission
Grimes State Office Building, First Floor
400 East 14th Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319
FAX: (515) 242-5840
1(800) 457-4416 (in Iowa, only)