Iowa Employment Law Blog

Iowa Employment Law Blog

Alert and inform about legal issues, risks, and solutions relating to employees

Published By Patrick D. Smith

Category Archives: Litigation and Trials

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Don’t Forget About the Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies Defense: Eighth Circuit Holds that it Still Applies to Retaliation Claims, Overruling Precedent to the Contrary

Posted in Litigation and Trials, Title VII
Title VII requires an employee alleging unlawful discrimination or retaliation to file an administrative charge with the EEOC (or a similar a state or local agency with authority to seek relief) before bringing a suit in court.   EEOC is charged with investigating claims and pursuing conciliation between the employee and employer where appropriate. The purpose of the… Continue Reading

Court Applies “Cat’s Paw” Theory to Liquidated Damages under FMLA

Posted in FMLA, Litigation and Trials
Under the FMLA, liquidated damages are a form of “extra” damage a court may award over and above other damages an employee is awarded.   The employer can avoid liquidated damages, however, if it proves the FMLA violation was in good faith, that is, the employer reasonably believed its action did not violate the FMLA. Marez v. Saint Gobain… Continue Reading

Similarly Situated in All Relevant Aspects

Posted in Litigation and Trials, Race Discrimination, Title VII
Very seldom is there overt evidence an employer discriminated on the basis of race, sex, disability, etc.   Most of the time plaintiff employees have to prove their claim by showing they were treated less favorably than similarly situated employees who were not in the protected class.   For example, if there is evidence the employer imposed… Continue Reading

Implicit Bias, Disparate Impact, and Class Actions: Iowa District Court Rules in Favor of the State, but Employers Should Remain Wary.

Posted in Iowa Appellate Courts, Litigation and Trials, Race Discrimination, Title VII
Earlier this week Iowa District Court Judge Robert Blink granted judgment for the State of Iowa in a high profile class action race discrimination lawsuit.   (Pippen v. State of Iowa, link here). The plaintiffs alleged that 37 departments in the State’s executive branch maintained hiring and promotion practices that had an adverse disparate impact on African… Continue Reading

Eighth Circuit Reverses $4.5 Million Sanction Against EEOC

Posted in Litigation and Trials, Sex Discrimination, Title VII
Two years ago, Judge Linda Reade of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa made headlines when she dismissed an EEOC lawsuit on behalf of 270 current and former female long haul drivers of Cedar Rapids based CRST Van Expedited.   What was notable about the decision was not so much the dismissal itself as the… Continue Reading

NAACP’s Criticism of Iowa Civil Rights Commission is Misplaced

Posted in Human Resources Compliance, Litigation and Trials, Race Discrimination
Two local branches of the NAACP recently issued a report criticizing the Iowa Civil Rights Commission because of the low percentage of “probable cause” findings in discrimination complaints filed with the agency.   Although the report was issued December 31, it was recently publicized in a series of three stories appearing over the course of one… Continue Reading

Political Discrimination Case Involving UI Law School is Making Waves

Posted in Eighth Circuit, Litigation and Trials
In my practice I frequently represent counties, municipalities, school districts and other public entities.   Just like their counterparts in the private sector, public employees are protected against discrimination because of race, sex, age, religion, disability, and other protected statuses. However, public employees have one important right their private sector brethren do not share: the right under… Continue Reading

Iowa Supreme Court Stems the Tide of Public Policy Wrongful Discharge Claims (At Least for Now)

Posted in Iowa Appellate Courts, Litigation and Trials
Almost twenty-five years ago, the Iowa Supreme Court recognized a new cause of action for the benefit of terminated employees: wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. (See Springer v. Weeks & Leo Co.).   What it means is that an employee cannot be terminated if the employer is motivated by reasons that would frustrate a well-recognized… Continue Reading

Judge’s Pregnancy Discrimination Ruling Prompts Debate About Work-Life Balance

Posted in Human Resources Compliance, Litigation and Trials, Sex Discrimination, Title VII
Last week a federal judge in the Southern District of New York Judge dismissed the EEOC’s long running sex and pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against financial media company Bloomberg, LP.    EEOC claimed Bloomberg engaged in a “pattern and practice” of discrimination against pregnant women and mothers returning from maternity leave by reducing their pay, demoting them in title, removing… Continue Reading

Wal-Mart v. Dukes May Bar Class Action Race Discrimination Suit Against the State of Iowa

Posted in Litigation and Trials, Race Discrimination, U.S. Supreme Court
Wal-Mart v. Dukes, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in June, could derail a class action race discrimination case against the State of Iowa that has been pending since 2007 (See our posts here and here on the Wal-Mart case).    The Iowa case involves 32 named plaintiffs who claim the State maintained hiring and promotion… Continue Reading

Supreme Court Expands (Again) the Universe of Employees Protected From Retaliation

Posted in Human Resources Compliance, Litigation and Trials, Title VII, U.S. Supreme Court
In a unanimous decision yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court expanded the universe of employees who might be protected from retaliation under Title VII and other federal employment laws. A retaliation claim is based upon an employer’s adverse action taken in response to an employee’s “protected activity”. Typically, protected activity includes things such as making a complaint… Continue Reading

Should the Decision to Terminate an Employee Who Uses the “N-word” Depend Upon the Employee’s Race?

Posted in Human Resources Compliance, Litigation and Trials, Race Discrimination
A federal judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently waded into this thorny subject. The case is Burlington v. News Corp., in which a white television reporter for the Fox affiliate in Philadelphia alleges he was terminated for using the “n-word”.  The suit claims black employees who also had uttered the word were not even disciplined. It all started… Continue Reading

Recent 8th Circuit Case Likely to Encourage Continued Migration of Age Discrimination Claims to State Court

Posted in Age Discrimination, Litigation and Trials
We have discussed in this blog before the migration of discrimination claims to Iowa state courts rather than federal courts.   The trend is driven by a number of factors, including the recognition in 2005 of the right to a jury trial under the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA) and the greater propensity of federal courts… Continue Reading

Whatever Happened to…Jack Gross?

Posted in Age Discrimination, Litigation and Trials, U.S. Supreme Court
Remember Jack Gross? Back in 2003 he claimed a demotion from his management job at West Des Moines based FBL Financial Services constituted age discrimination.   A federal jury in the Southern District of Iowa agreed and awarded him $47,000 in damages. From there his case had a remarkable journey: first stopping in St. Louis at the Eighth Circuit,… Continue Reading

What’s Ahead in Discrimination Litigation for 2011?

Posted in Human Resources Compliance, Litigation and Trials
One of the best ways to predict this year’s trends in discrimination litigation is to examine last year’s charge statistics from the EEOC and the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.    Any person who claims a violation of the state or federal anti-discrimination laws must first file an administrative charge with one or the other of these agencies.   … Continue Reading

The DOL’s Lawyer Referral Arrangement with ABA Not Likely to Help Employers or Employees

Posted in FMLA, Human Resources Compliance, Litigation and Trials, Wage and Hour
On the Friday before Thanksgiving, Vice-President Biden announced at a Middle Class Task Force event the creation of a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Labor and the American Bar Association.   According to the press release associated with the event, the purpose the collaboration is to “help workers resolve complaints received by DOL’s wage and… Continue Reading

Iowa Jury Finds for Plaintiff in Gender Sterotyping Case

Posted in Litigation and Trials, Sex Discrimination, Title VII
A jury in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Iowa recently returned a verdict in excess of $50,000 to a female plaintiff alleging sex discrimination based upon gender stereotypes.   The plaintiff, who was a night auditor at a hotel, claimed she was terminated because she was more masculine than a typical female employee. She described herself… Continue Reading

Supreme Court to Hear Three Employment Cases This Term.

Posted in Litigation and Trials, Title VII, U.S. Supreme Court
Last week the U.S. Supreme Court kicked off its 2010-2011 term.   There are at least three cases this term of interest to employment lawyers. The Delaware Employment Law Blog had three excellent postings (here, here, and here) analyzing the cases in some detail. All three cases address important questions concerning the scope of an employer’s liability under… Continue Reading

Eighth Circuit Once Again Reviews Age Discrimination Burden of Proof–This Time Under ICRA

Posted in Age Discrimination, Litigation and Trials
Age discrimination cases tried in the Southern District of Iowa continue to generate controversy over how juries should be instructed about the plaintiff’s burden of proof.   First it was Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc., tried in the Southern District and ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2009.  Then it was the… Continue Reading