Legal Memorandum: ICRA Preemption on Employment Discrimination Claims

Issue: Does the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA) preempt or restrict a potential claimant’s claims regarding discrimination in employment?

Area of Law: Constitutional Law, Employee Law
Keywords: Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA); Discrimination; Preemption
Jurisdiction: Federal, Iowa
Cited Cases: 437 F. Supp. 2d 974; 629 N.W.2d 835; 473 N.W.2d 31; 695 N.W.2d 9; 436 N.W.2d 336
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 06/01/2015

The statutory language of the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA) plainly restricts a plaintiff’s ability to pursue remedies for violations of the ICRA.  However, it appears that a common law claim may not be subject to such restrictions.  In Waterman v. Nashua Plainfield Cmty. Sch. Dist., the plaintiff, Waterman, served a complaint on the defendant, Nashua Plainfield Community School District, with five counts: breach of contract, promissory estoppel, denial of equal protection, failure to pay wages, and denial of due process.  446 F. Supp. 2d 1018, 1021 (N.D. Iowa 2006).  Her equal protection and due process claims were brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.  Id.  Waterman alleged that she was a teacher with a written contract from 1963 to 2002.  Id.  On January 28, 2002, the school board passed a new “One Year Early Retirement Program” where eligible employees could elect to retire early and receive a lump-sum of eighty percent of their 2001-02 school year or apply that money to future health insurance costs up to age sixty-five.  Id.  Waterman timely elected to participate, but the superintendent informed her she did not qualify for the program because she turned sixty before June 1, 2002. That same day, the school board accepted her resignation.  Id.

Nashua argued that Waterman was required to exhaust administrative remedies under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Iowa Civil Rights Act.  Id. at 1023.  The court observed that under the ICRA, “[a] person claiming to be aggrieved by an […]

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