«For more information: E-mail: legal.program (strongly preferred) Phone: 515-243-3576 Submit a request for legal assistance ...»
by Joe Fraioli
With support from Amanda Goad and John Knight,
National ACLU LGBT & HIV Project
And Rita Bettis, ACLU of Iowa
For more information:
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (strongly preferred)
Submit a request for legal assistance
Table of Contents
1. Discrimination & Harassment: The Iowa Civil Rights Act
C. Public Accommodations
D. Education E. Credit Practices
2. Name Change & Identity Documentation A. Legal Name Change in Iowa B. Name & Gender Change on Birth Certificate C. Name & Gender Change on an Iowa Driver’s License or State ID Card D. Name & Gender Change on Social Security Records E. Name & Gender Change on U.S. Passports and Immigration Documents F. Other
3. Family Matters A. Marriage & Divorce B. Parenting C. Adoption & Foster Care
4. Health Care A. Care Unrelated to Gender B. Gender-Conforming Treatments C. Gender Incongruent Care
5. Criminal Law, Police, & Prison A. Dealing With Police B. Prisoners’ Rights C. Hate Crimes
6. Additional Resources Please note: This document provides general information about some of the legal issues that impact transgender people in Iowa. It does not contain legal advice. If you need individualized advice about a specific legal issue, we encourage you to consult an attorney promptly.
1. Discrimination and Harassment:
The Iowa Civil Rights Act and the Iowa Civil Rights Commission Chapter 216 of the Iowa Code is known as the Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965 (ICRA). ICRA provides protection against various forms of discrimination.
Among other things, ICRA prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, which were added as protected classes in 2007. ICRA defines “gender identity” as “a gender-related identity of a person, regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth.” ICRA also prohibits discrimination based on the perception that someone possesses a characteristic. This means that you cannot be discriminated against even if someone merely thinks you are transgender, or thinks you are gay; a mistake as to exactly how you identify is not a defense.
ICRA applies in both the public and private sectors. It specifically addresses discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, education, public accommodations & services, and credit practices. The next few sections of this guide explain the law on each issue in more detail.
ICRA also established the Iowa Civil Rights Commission (ICRC), the body tasked with receiving and resolving complaints arising under ICRA.
After a discrimination complaint is filed, ICRC can investigate and arrange free mediation between the parties. If mediation does not successfully resolve the matter but ICRC finds enough evidence to believe that the law may have been broken, ICRC can assign the case to an administrative law judge for a hearing on whether illegal discrimination occurred and will represent the interests of the victim of discrimination as well as the public’s interest in stopping discrimination. If the administrative law judge finds that illegal discrimination occurred, the discriminating party can be ordered to fix it for the victim of discrimination (such as by rehiring an employee or admitting a student to a school) and for others who might be harmed by the discrimination (such as through policy changes or training), as well as to pay the victim damages for any harm resulting from the discrimination and attorneys’ fees. More details about the ICRC complaint process are available here.
The ICRC’s website offers extensive information about discrimination on the basis of gender identity and other civil rights issues in Iowa.
Local Protections There may be local civil rights or human rights ordinances in your area that provide additional protections.
If you believe you have been discriminated against, the time limit for filing a complaint with the ICRC is within 300 days of when you became aware of the discrimination. For more information or to file a complaint, visit the ICRC’s website: https://icrc.iowa.gov/file-complaint or call them at (515) 281-4121.
If you believe you have been discriminated against, you may also wish to contact us at the ACLU of Iowa at email@example.com or by phone at (515) 243-3576. Although we cannot provide legal representation to everyone who contacts us, we may be able to provide you additional useful information and help you understand your options.
Finally, we suggest that in any situation where you believe you may have been discriminated against, you do your best to remain calm, get contact information for any witnesses, and keep a written or photographic record of what happened and how it affected you. This might include saving copies of emails or text messages; sending a follow-up email to the other person to “confirm” what happened in a phone conversation; or taking your own dated notes as soon as possible after an incident to record the who, what, where, when, etc. of the incident and any emotional or physical injuries or monetary losses caused by the incident.
Retaliating against someone for filing a complaint under ICRA is illegal.
A. Employment Iowa Code section 216.6 makes it illegal for any employer to “refuse to hire, accept, register, classify, or refer for employment, to discharge any employee, or to otherwise discriminate in employment against any applicant for employment or any employee” on the basis of gender identity (as well as on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, pregnancy, disability, or age). This law applies to employers, labor organizations, and employment agencies.
Of course, transgender employees are not immune from termination for legitimate reasons, such as poor performance or violation of employment policies or contracts. ICRA simply prohibits employers from making employment decisions based on your gender identity.
- ICRA does not apply to employers with fewer than four employees, or to employees who work at their employer’s current residence.
- In addition, bona fide (genuine) religious institutions are exempt in certain circumstances.
Question: Does ICRA cover harassment based on gender identity in the workplace?
- Yes, an employer must address harassment based on gender identity if it is serious enough to create an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment, or to unreasonably interfere with your work performance, or to affect your employment opportunities or compensation. This applies to harassment either by coworkers or third parties, such as customers or vendors if the employer is aware of the problem or should have known about it. It also applies to supervisors, unless the employer can prove that it exercised reasonable care to prevent and remedy harassment and the victim failed to take advantage of available means to prevent or stop the harassment, through complaining, for example.
- If, therefore, you are the target of harassment, notify your employer immediately and keep a written record of your communications with the employer and any measures your employer takes to address the problem.
ICRC guidance affirms that harassment of transgender workers can take many forms, including deliberate ongoing use of the wrong gender pronouns to refer to someone.
Question: What about the restrooms at work?
- The ICRC has published guidance stating that an employer must allow transgender employees to access the restrooms corresponding to their gender identity, rather than their assigned sex at birth. Iowa courts have not yet addressed this question, though we are hopeful they would agree.
Question: Can my employer restrict me to certain positions because I am transgender?
- No. ICRC guidance confirms that Iowa law prohibits gender identity discrimination in “job assignments.” We believe this means it is illegal for an employer to, for example, transfer an employee to a position where they have no customer contact, because they think customers will not want to work with a transgender person. We also think that in the very rare instances where gender is a bona fide (genuine) occupational qualification for a particular job, transgender men must be eligible for “men’s” positions and
Iowa Code section 216.8 prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of gender identity (as well as sex, sexual orientation, and other grounds). This makes it illegal for any person, or the
owner of any rental property, to do any of the following:
To refuse to sell, rent, lease, assign, sublease, refuse to negotiate, or to otherwise make unavailable any real property, or deny an interest in any real property, on the basis of gender identity.
To discriminate on the basis of gender identity with respect to the terms, conditions, or privileges of a sale, rental, lease assignment, or sublease of any real property, or the provision of services related to such property.
To discriminate on the basis of gender identity with respect to the advertisement of such property.
This applies to landlords, apartment agents, nursing homes, public shelters for homeless people or survivors of domestic violence, condo associations, real estate agents and brokers, builders, architects, developers, advertising media, sellers of property and housing services, and insurance companies and agents.
Exceptions and Exemptions:
- Religious institutions may be permitted to discriminate on the basis of gender identity in housing, if they can explain a reason for doing so related to an actual religious purpose.
- If the owner resides in a multi-unit dwelling that can house no more than two families, or in a single dwelling in which fewer than four rooms are available for rent, then the owner has the right to discriminate as to individuals renting and moving into the other parts of his home.
- People who appraise property may consider factors protected under ICRA when assessing real estate value.
C. Public Accommodations Iowa Code section 216.7 makes it illegal for any owner, lessee, sublessee, proprietor, manager, or superintendent of any public accommodation from denying access to or otherwise discriminating in providing such accommodations on the basis of gender identity. This includes advertising that persons of a particular gender identity are not allowed to use such accommodations.
Question: What about harassment? Is harassment in public accommodations illegal?
- Yes. Similar to maintaining a hostile work environment in the employment context, a provider of a public accommodation may be responsible for the actions of its employees, and even other patrons. As with employers, public
Question: Are transgender people also protected against discrimination in public accommodations under federal law?
- Generally, no. The federal civil rights laws don’t currently prohibit “sex” discrimination by public accommodations, so the “sex stereotyping” and other arguments people have successfully made as to housing and employment discrimination don’t work here.
- However, a few kinds of public accommodations are covered by other federal laws. For example, because homeless shelters count as “housing” under the Fair Housing Act, HUD has told homeless shelters around the country that where shelter housing is segregated by gender, they must allow transgender people access based on their gender identity. In addition, transgender people can’t be discriminated against in shelters or other programs for survivors of violence that receive federal funding under the Violence Against Women Act.
Iowa Code section 216.9 makes it illegal for “any educational institution” to discriminate “in any program or activity” on the basis of gender identity. This includes, but is not limited to: “any academic, extracurricular, research, occupational training, or other program;” denial of comparable opportunities in intramural and interscholastic athletic programs; and employment 9 in educational institutions. The protections apply to students, teachers, other school employees, and volunteers.
Question: What counts as an “educational institution?”
- ICRA covers both public and private institutions, including: preschools, elementary and secondary schools; community colleges; colleges and universities; governing boards; and education agencies.
- Exception: Religious institutions may impose qualifications based on gender identity if the qualifications are related to a specific religious purpose.
Question: As a transgender boy, can I legally be excluded from an all-boys’ school?
- We don’t think so. ICRA allows an institution to admit members of only one “sex,” but if a school tried to enforce this in a way that excluded transgender students, that would likely be gender identity discrimination in violation of ICRA. There haven’t been court decisions on this subject yet in Iowa.
In addition to the Iowa Civil Rights Act, The Iowa Safe Schools Law requires both public and private schools to institute anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies against students by school employees and other students. Iowa Code section 280.28 defines “harassment” and “bullying” as verbal or physical conduct towards a student “based on any actual or perceived trait or characteristic,” including gender identity.
Section 280.28 requires educational institutions to create an official anti-harassment and antibullying policy which must include, among other things:
- A statement declaring bullying and harassment to be against state and school policy;
- Definitions and descriptions of the types of prohibited behaviors;
- The consequences of such behavior and appropriate remedial action;