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How Does Iowa Law Protect LGBT People from Employment Discrimination?

Recent events have made some LGBT people and employers confused and concerned about their rights. Iowa law protects the rights of LGBT people while they look for a job or work. Iowa Code 216.6 makes it an unfair employment practice to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This law applies to employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, or the employees or members of these groups. Some employers, like family businesses with four or fewer non-family employees, are exempt from discrimination laws.


Proving discrimination is not easy. Not every microaggression is going to create a claim for employment discrimination, even if it is highly offensive. To be employment discrimination, there must be an adverse employment action. This might be a demotion, a pay decrease, or some other significant change in employment. Discriminatory and offensive statements can amount to an adverse employment action when they create a hostile work environment. There is no formula for what constitutes a hostile work environment, but, generally, a hostile work environment is an environment that a reasonable person should not be expected to withstand.


Although most employment is at will, meaning an employer can fire an employee for almost any reason, they cannot fire an employee for prohibited discriminatory reasons. Employers cannot violate state law just because your employment is at will. Furthermore, they cannot retaliate against you for making a complaint based upon your protected class. You cannot be fired because you are in a relationship with a member of the same sex or because you are transgender.

Every case is different, and discrimination law is complicated. If you believe your employer is discriminating against you because you are a member of the LGBT community, you should contact an attorney. An attorney can assess your case and help you understand the law surrounding discrimination.


This is the current law. There has been a bill proposed in the Iowa House of Representatives that would remove gender identity from the law against employment discrimination. Under the proposed legislation, the law would only recognize discrimination based upon an individual’s gender assigned at birth. However, under current state law, transgender people have a right against discrimination in the workplace.



If you have experienced a hostile work environment or an adverse employment action because you are a member of the LGBT community, Gehling Osborn Law Firm’s experienced attorneys can help you assess your options moving forward and defend your rights under the law.


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