Iowa Whistleblower Laws

Whistleblower laws in Iowa at the state level

A Summary of Iowa Whistleblower Laws

Employers in Iowa can fire their employees for any reason or no reason under what is known as the employment-at-will doctrine. However, the state has two exceptions to this rule that are used to protect employees. These include statutory protections and common law protections. Statutory protections are laws that are enacted by the state’s legislature to cover specific subject areas such as discrimination, whereas common law protections are laws created by courts to address subject areas that are not covered by enacted laws.

This is a summary of Iowa Whistleblower Laws, make sure to check out the Federal Whistleblower Laws as well.

Whistleblower Rights in Iowa

Common Law Whistleblower Protections

Iowa has a public policy that is normally used as an exception to the employment-at-will doctrine. Employees can file a wrongful discharge suit if they believe they were discharged for reasons that violate the state’s public policy. To determine if an employee is eligible for protection under public policy, the courts usually look at statutes and constitutional provisions to determine if certain practices are prohibited. So, for example, if a statute prohibits perjury, an employer who forces an employee to commit perjury by threats of discharge may be found guilty of violating the state’s public policy. Generally, Iowa considers the following activities as protected activities under its public policy:

  • Reporting outlawed activities to the relevant authority.
  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim.
  • Refusing to take part in outlawed activities.
  • Disclosing child abuse.
  • Filing for unemployment benefits.

Statutory Whistleblower Protections in Iowa

Public Employees

Under this statute, persons who serve in a supervisory capacity or as head of a state department are not allowed to discharge, alter terms of employment or take any form of adverse action against an employee with regards to the employee’s appointment or promotion in retaliation for:

  • Failing to inform the person that he or she disclosed information permitted by this statute.
  • Disclosing information to a person providing human resource management for the state or to any other public official or law enforcement agency.

Employees are required to disclose the information only if they reasonably believe that it evidences a violation of law or rule, mismanagement, gross abuse of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial danger to public health or safety. Iowa Code § 70A.28.

Discrimination

Under this statute, no person is allowed to in any way discriminate against an individual in retaliation for:

  • Opposing discriminatory practices.
  • Obeying the laws of this statute.
  • Filing a complaint under this statute.
  • Testifying or assisting in a proceeding under this statute.

It is unlawful to discriminate against anyone in employment based on his or her age, race, creed, color, sex, national origin, religion, or disability. Iowa Code § 216.11.

Genetic Testing

Employees may not be discharged, disciplined, or in any way be discriminated against in retaliation for filing a complaint or testifying in a proceeding related to this statute. This statute prohibits employers from requiring genetic testing as a condition for employment. Iowa Code § 729.6.

Occupational Safety and Health

No person is allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint under this statute.
  • Instituting a proceeding under this statute.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding under this statute.
  • Exercising a right endorsed by this statute on behalf of himself, herself, or others.
  • Refusing to work in conditions that may pose a safety risk to the employee, as long as the employee has no alternative motive for refusing to work. Also, a reasonable person should be able to agree that the conditions are dangerous. In addition, employees are required to try to resolve the issue through official enforcement channels before refusing to work unless there is insufficient time due to the urgency of the situation or if the condition has not been corrected even after seeking help from the enforcement channels.

Iowa Code § 88.9.

Wage Payment Collection

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint under this statute.
  • Assigning a claim under this statute.
  • Bringing an action under this statute.
  • Participating in bringing an action against the employer.

Iowa Code § 91A.10.

Whistleblower Hotlines in Iowa

To file a complaint under the discrimination statute, call the Iowa Civil Rights Commission (ICRC) at 1-800-457-4416.

To file a complaint under the Occupational Safety and Health and Wage Payment Collection statutes, call the Iowa Workforce Development at 515-725-5660 for Occupational Safety and Health complaints and 515-725-5619 for wage complaints.

To file a complaint under the public employees statute, call the public employment relations board at (515) 247-7050.

Whistleblower Retaliation Claims in Iowa

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, retaliation claims in Iowa should be filed within 5 years of the retaliatory action.

Public Employees

Claims under this statute should be filed with the public employment relations board within 30 days of the retaliation or within 30 days of receiving a ruling from the ombudsman office.

Discrimination

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission (ICRC) within 180 days of the retaliation.

Occupational Safety and Health

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Iowa Workforce Development within 30 days of the retaliatory action.

Wage Payment Collection

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Iowa Workforce Development within 30 days of the retaliatory action.

Violation and Retaliation Penalties in Iowa

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, individuals or employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to an aggrieved employee for a combination or any of the following types of relief:

  • Reinstatement to the previous job position.
  • Injunction
  • Back pay.
  • Civil damages
  • Litigation costs
  • Any other relief the court deems appropriate.

Public employees

Individuals who carry out unlawful retaliation under this act may be found guilty of a simple misdemeanor. They may also be liable to an aggrieved employee for affirmative relief including but not limited to:

  • Reinstatement to the previous job position.
  • Back pay.
  • Civil damages capped at 3 times the employee’s annual wages and benefits.

Click for an overview of Federal Whistleblower Laws .

More Iowa Laws

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