State of Iowa Faces Employment Bias Lawsuit

September 30, 2010 ( - Litigation filed against Iowa's state government for discriminatory hiring practices was certified as a class-action this week by a Polk County district judge.

The Des Moines Register reports that the lawsuit was filed in October 2007 by 14 people who said they were not hired, were fired, or were denied promotions in state jobs because of their race. The lawsuit alleges that the state has, since at least 1995, engaged in “a pattern and practice of racial discrimination and retaliation” to deny black people jobs and promotions. It claims the state’s practices are specifically designed to limit the number of blacks to the minimum required by affirmative action plans, according to the news report. 

The ruling allows black people who after July 1, 2003, applied for a job or who held a position with the state government’s executive branch to become part of the lawsuit if they believe they were discriminated against. The ruling excludes the Iowa Board of Regents. Thirty-two plaintiffs are named in the case.  

A review of public records by The Des Moines Register in 2006 showed the state had paid about $850,000 between 2000 and 2006 to nine people who claimed discrimination at Iowa Workforce Development, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Human Services. The potential cost to taxpayers from the current litigation could be “millions upon millions of dollars,” said Thomas Newkirk, the attorney for the group, according to the Register.   

A trial in the case is tentatively scheduled for September 12, 2011.