The Role Of Civil Rights Investigators

Yesterday the Associated Press reported that Iowa had fired three civil rights investigators for inappropriate e-mails:

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20110823/NEWS10/308230027/Iowa-fires-3-civil-rights-investigators-for-emails

It’s a shame that this conduct happened while these employees were supposed to be doing their jobs as civil rights investigators.  But what exactly are those jobs?  Where do the investigators fit in the civil rights process?

A civil rights claim begins with the filing of a civil rights complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.  You cannot sue in court for employment discrimination unless you first go through the civil rights complaint process with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or a local civil rights agency.

The Commission will preliminarily screen your complaint for jurisdictional purposes.   Assuming your complaint passes preliminary screening, you’ll be sent a packet of questionnaires to be completed and returned to the Commission.   The questionnaires will ask for basic background information and also for specifics on how you believe you were discriminated against.  The Commission will dismiss your civil rights complaint if you don’t answer the questionnaires.  You might still be able to file suit for discrimination in court, but your failure to cooperate with the civil rights complaint process by answering the questionnaires may cause the court to dismiss your lawsuit.

The Commission will review your questionnaire answers, and anything submitted by the target of your complaint, to determine whether your complaint should be assigned for further investigation or whether it should be dropped.  If your complaint is closed by the Commission at this point you’ll have the right to file suit for discrimination.  If the Commission decides that your complaint warrants further investigation, you have the right to allow that investigation or file suit for investigation.

The civil rights investigators mentioned in yesterday’s AP article conduct a further investigation if that’s the route you choose to go.  The further investigation is a more in-depth look at the allegations and evidence you have.  In essence, the civil rights investigators almost act like private investigators.  A major part of their job, which only occurs during the investigation process, is interviews, including one of you.

I can help you with any employment law or labor law questions that you might have.  Please feel free to contact me for a free initial consultation about employment law or labor law.

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