Employment Law | Understanding Your Rights | Newkirk Zwagerman

Understanding Your Rights

In Iowa, as in most states, employment is normally “employment at will.”  This generally means that unless you have an employment contract or union protections, your employer has the power to fire you or treat you badly for any reason or for no reason whatsoever.  However, an employer can’t fire you for a reason that violates the law.  These rights are sometimes called exceptions to employment at will.
In general, an employer cannot allow an employee’s inherent characteristics or the fact that the employee complained about discrimination or harassment to affect decision-making about that employee.

Exceptions to employment at will include:

  • Discrimination based on your age, sex, race, color, national origin, disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity
  • Harassment based on any of the above characteristics
  • Discrimination or harassment based on your association with someone of a different race (such as having a spouse, boyfriend, or child of another race)
  • Retaliation because you have opposed or made a complaint about illegal discrimination or harassment
  • Retaliation because you have done something that you are legally obligated or entitled to do

If we are able to help you, we will fight for your right to be free from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.




DEADLINES: Employees cannot protect their rights unless they take some kind of action, like filing a civil rights complaint or a lawsuit, within a reasonable time frame after something bad happens at work.  Deadlines for taking action on employment law cases vary by the type of case.  They can be as short as 45 days in some cases.  You should act as soon as possible to make sure you are not left without a remedy.

Lawyers sometimes use legal terms that do not mean much to the average person. When we say “discrimination,” we normally mean that you have been specifically disciplined, fired, demoted, or not hired based on some aspect of your skin, gender, age, etc.  When we say “harassment,” we mean work experiences other than discipline or being fired that make your work experience extremely difficult.  Again, those experiences need to be tied to your race, gender, age, or some other characteristic protected by law.  “Retaliation” simply means an act of the employer designed to punish an employee for exercising her rights.  It can be retaliation if you complain of discrimination and, in response, your employer disciplines you, threatens you, or makes your life miserable.
All information on our website is meant to be generally informative.  To find out whether it applies to your situation in particular, you should consult a lawyer of your choice.



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