June 5, 2014. When you face an employee who has “lawyered up” and signaled to you that she is planning to sue for discrimination unless you settle, the first question to ask is what are her potential claims?

An employer in Iowa may be subject to federal and state liability for discrimination based on an individual’s membership in a protected class. The following list includes the “protected classes” in employment in Iowa:

- Age

- Color

- Creed

- Gender Identity

- Mental or Physical Disability

- National Origin

- Race

- Religion

- Retaliation

- Sex Sexual Orientation

Is the employee in a protected class or perceived to be in a protected class? For instance, if she is perceived to have a disability, even if she does not have one, discrimination on that basis would be actionable.

Is an investigation warranted? When an employee has filed a complaint or has indicated she was subject to discrimination at her work, it may be prudent for the employer to show it is taking her claim seriously. The employer can do that by launching a formal investigation into the situation. Our firm is then enlisted to investigate such situations in order to determine what happened. We interview the employee, co-workers, supervisors, and managers to make a determination and recommendations. Each investigation is fact-specific. An early and decisive response to an employee’s allegation can help an employer head off further claims, facilitate settlement, if warranted, change policies and procedures when necessary. Some courts have signaled immediate responsive action can also help to limit an employer’s liability, reducing possible punitive damages, should an employee’s claims be proved in court. A discrimination claim is complicated and fact-specific, but immediate action can make a big difference for employers.

For additional information on employment law or what's a protected class in Iowa, contact the Goosmann Law Firm at info@goosmannlaw.com or call 712-226-4000.

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