Legal

Black Workers, Applicants Allege Discrimination by Iowa

By Staff Report

Sep. 30, 2010

A state judge has granted class-action status to a lawsuit in which Iowa is accused of discriminating against black state workers and applicants.


The plaintiffs and the state both sought class-action certification.


In an order issued September 29, Judge Robert J. Blink ruled that the lawsuit brought by 32 current or former black state employees qualifies as a class action.


“The court finds that joint or common interest exists among members of this class, that common questions of law and/or fact predominate over any question affecting only individual members, that certification of this class offers the most appropriate means of adjudicating the class claim and defenses and that management of this class does not pose unusual difficulties,” Blink said in his order.


The lawsuit alleges disparate-impact or adverse-impact discrimination in hiring and promotions in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and state law.


Included in the class are blacks who applied for or were hired by the state since July 1, 2003. Plaintiff attorney Thomas Newkirk, of the Des Moines, Iowa-based Newkirk Law Offices, said the class could include several thousand individuals.


Plaintiffs allege in court papers that “racial bias in the state’s hiring and promotion system—stemming in part from the state abandoning its affirmative-action obligations—creates hurdles in the form of shifting, subjective standards and known discriminatory selection criteria.” It says blacks “face astronomical odds of obtaining equal employment opportunities” that can result only from racial bias throughout Iowa’s workforce.


The lawsuit seeks lost past and future wages, compensatory damages and attorney fees as well as efforts to prevent future discrimination.


A spokesman for the Iowa attorney general’s office, which has denied the allegations, said the class action “allows us to focus on the merits of the case” as opposed to defending numerous individual lawsuits.  


Filed by Judy Greenwald of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.


 


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