Wrongful termination laws can exist at the state or federal level, and they dictate what is and is not lawful in terms of terminating employees. The concept of at-will employment is the basis for many wrongful termination laws, so it is essential that modern business owners fully comprehend both areas to avoid breaking the law and becoming the subject of a lawsuit.
At-Will Employment in Iowa
Iowa is considered an at-will employment state, which means its employers can terminate employee relationships at any time and for any reason, or for no good reason at all. Likewise, most of Iowa’s employees may quit a position at any time and for any reason, or for no good reason at all.
Wrongful Termination in Iowa
While Iowa is considered an at-will employment state, there are a number of existing exceptions to the doctrine. For example, Iowa’s employers are not permitted to terminate employees for reasons that violate state or federal laws. They also cannot terminate employees who are currently under written or oral working contracts. It is critical that Iowa business owners become proficient in these areas of law to avoid being sued for discrimination or another type of wrongful termination.
Breach of Contract: Iowa employees who are under an oral or written contract to perform work cannot be terminated and may not quit the position while still under the terms of the contract. An employer that terminates this type of relationship can be charged with breach of contract, as can an employee who fails to complete the terms of the oral or written agreement. Many Iowa business owners don’t know they are also bound by any employment terms or guarantees that appear in an employee handbook or similar publication. For example, if an employee handbook states that an employee will receive two warnings before he or she can be fired and the employee receives only one warning, the employer can in turn be sued for breach of contract. Iowa’s breach of contract laws also hold true for collective bargaining contracts in unions.
Discrimination: The vast majority of wrongful termination lawsuits deal with charges of discrimination. Under federal law, employers are not allowed to terminate employees due to race, color, national origin, religion, sex or disability. They also cannot fire employees based on age, citizenship status or genetics. Iowa’s discrimination laws also protect employees from being terminated due to sexual orientation or wage discrimination or because they have AIDS or HIV. Any employer who violates these rules in terminating employee relationships can be charged with wrongful termination.
Retaliation: Iowa employers are also prohibited by law from firing employees in what are considered retaliatory acts. For example, an employee cannot be fired from a position for refusing to commit crimes for his or her employer, or for filing a complaint about unfair, unsafe or unsanitary working conditions. Employees also cannot be fired for complaining or testifying about being required to undergo genetic testing as a condition of employment, or for engaging in other “whistleblowing” efforts.
Public Policy: Like many states, Iowa observes what is known as a public policy exemption from the at-will employment concept. Essentially, this exception stipulates that state employers are not legally allowed to fire employees for reasons the general public would view as unethical or unjust. For example, because Iowa law protects employees who try and seek worker’s compensation, firing an employee who attempts to do so is unlawful because it violates an existing public policy. In order to show that an employer violated public policy, the employee must prove that the policy exists in the first place, that it was undermined in the employee’s firing, that it was the protected activity that led to termination and that there was no other valid reason for the employee’s termination.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.