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Iowa Civil Rights Laws

When most people think of “civil rights,” they naturally cast their memories back to the social justice movements in the 1960’s and iconic leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. Since then, civil rights statutes have been used to protect people from racial and gender discrimination in housing and hiring. Most recently, prior civil rights arguments have been applied to overturn prohibitions on gay marriage and adoption.

So to what situations and citizens do the Hawkeye State’s civil rights laws apply? This is an introduction to civil rights laws in Iowa.

Civil Rights Laws

Civil rights are the collective rights of citizens to be treated fairly and equally under the law. The majority of our civil rights are derived from the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and exist at the federal level. States are required to enforce these federal protections, and are free to create their own civil rights laws that mirror federal regulations and, in some cases, provide even greater protections against discrimination.

Civil Rights Laws in Iowa

The chart below lists the details of Iowa’s civil rights statutes.

Code Section

Generally: Iowa Code 216.1, et seq. (Civil Rights Commission)

Employment: Iowa Code 729.4 (Fair Employment Practices)


Generally: Civil Rights Commission; 729.4: None

Administrative Preemption

Generally: Yes; 729.4: No

Private Action Permitted?

Generally: Yes; 729.4: No

Attorney Fees Recoverable by Plaintiff?

Generally: Yes; 729.4: No

Statute of Limitations

Generally: 300 days (216.15); 729.4: Not specified

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Filing Civil Rights Claims

In order to enforce civil rights protections, most states have created a state civil rights office that can file lawsuits on behalf of citizens to punish cases of discrimination under the state’s civil rights statutes. These lawsuits can cover racial, sexual, or gender discrimination in employment, housing, elder care, and more.

Here in Iowa, the Civil Rights Commission can provide answers to questions relating to discrimination in employment, education, and public accommodations, and can assist you with forms and resources for filing civil rights claims. If you or someone you know may have had his or her civil rights violated, you should know the legal requirements of filing a civil rights claim.

Iowa Civil Rights Laws: Related Resources

Distinguishing state and federal civil rights laws and determining the kinds of violations they cover can be confusing. You can find additional articles and resources in FindLaw’s section on Civil Rights. You can also consult with an Iowa civil rights attorney if you would like legal advice with a civil rights issue.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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