(Iowa Civil Rights Commission; 10/14/97; 0800)

Civil Rights Mediators resolve 61 complaints in three month period

From July 1 to September 30, 1997, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, with the help of 22 local human rights commissions and more than 70 volunteer mediators, resolved 61 complaints via mediation. Last year during the same three-month period, the Commission mediated 46 complaints.

Civil Rights Mediators work to resolve discrimination disputes amicably, through a voluntary, no-fault settlement process called mediation. Most of the mediators working for the Commission are volunteers. Many are attorneys. All have donated their time to help the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and the people of Iowa fight discrimination.

In many of the cases settled through mediation, no money exchanges hands. The dispute is resolved when the parties communicate their positions and negotiate a compromise. Sometimes the employee is brought back to work with a clearer understanding of job expectations. Sometimes, in housing cases, the landlord and tenant are able to work out their problems just by talking it over with the help of a neutral mediator.

But in some cases, money does become a necessary term of settlement. For example, in one case recently settled via mediation, the complaining employee alleged that her employer had failed to reasonably accommodate her disability and then terminated her employment because of disability and age. In order to settle the dispute and resolve the complaint, the employer agreed to pay the complainant $35,000 in back pay.

In a case alleging sexual harassment and constructive discharge (forced to quit) because of the harassment, the parties agreed on $17,500 in back pay and emotional distress damages. The respondent employer also agreed to develop a company-wide anti-harassment policy. In a case alleging termination because of race, the employer agreed to settle the complaint for $22,000 to cover lost earnings, pain and humiliation.

In a case alleging unequal pay and termination because of race and sex, the parties agreed on $45,000 in back pay and emotional distress. In a case alleging termination because of pregnancy, the parties agreed that the fired employee would be reinstated and paid $20,000 in back pay.

And, finally, in a case alleging different terms and conditions of rental because of disability, the landlord agreed to install a new furnace and a new hot water heater in the rental house for the complaining tenant.

The Iowa Civil Rights Commission enforces Iowa's anti-discrimination law, the "Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965." The law prohibits discrimination in employment, public accommodations, housing, credit, and education.

The mission of the ICRC is to eliminate discrimination in Iowa. Currently, the ICRC fights discrimination five ways: (1) investigating and resolving discrimination complaints, (2) conducting a multifaceted public education program, (3) testing entities covered by the law to determine the nature and extent of discrimination in Iowa, (4) helping communities form diversity appreciation teams to identify and resolve discrimination issues locally, and (5) promoting the use of study circles (small democratic discussion groups) on racism and race relations.


(Contact: Don Grove 515-281-8084)