Iowa Supreme Court Clears Up Standards for Employment Discrimination Under Iowa Civil Rights Act

Employment Discrimination Lawyer

On June 9, 2019, the Iowa Supreme Court issued an anticipated ruling in the case of Hawkins v. Grinnell Regional Medical Center. For you legal junkies, you can read the opinion here. Gregory Hawkins, who was represented by my friend and fierce advocate for employees, Brooke Timmer, sued his former employer, Grinnell Regional Medical Center, after he was fired following years of dedicated service. Hawkins claimed he was a victim of disability discrimination and retaliation and a jury agreed, awarding Hawkins over $4 million in damages.

Many issues were presented on appeal, but the Iowa Supreme Court focused on just two. Unfortunately, the Court overturned the verdict and sent the case back for a new trial because of certain evidence that was admitted at trial. But in addition to that, the Court addressed the standards of proof that apply in most cases of employment discrimination.

The Court confirmed its long standing, but often challenged, holding that an employee can prove an employer violated the Iowa Civil Rights Act by showing that a discriminatory or retaliatory motive was a motivating factor or played a part in the employer’s action taken against the employee. Discrimination does not need to be the only reason for the employer’s action for it to violate the ICRA, it just needs to be one of the reasons. This reasoning has always made perfect sense to me because I think it is pretty clear that the legislature intended to prohibit racism, sexism, retaliation, etc. in its entirety and did not intend to allow employers to be just a little racist or a little sexist.

The Court also eliminated the application of the federal rules for proving that an employer discriminated against an employee, which were often confusing for juries . . . and judges and attorneys. Finally, the Court announced that employers are entitled to a “same decision” defense. This means that if an employee proves that discrimination or retaliation was a motivating factor or played a part in the employer’s decision, the employer is liable under the ICRA unless the employer proves that it would have made the same decision even without the discriminatory or retaliatory motive.

As an employment discrimination lawyer, I am looking forward to advocating for my clients under these clearer standards.

Empowered Women, Empower Women: The Importance of Supporting Women-Owned Businesses

Cedar Rapids Women Lawyer

Forbes just published a great article detailing how women who support other women professionally are more successful themselves. The article focuses on research from the Harvard Business Review that shows that women in particular benefit from having relationships with women peers. The article was great, but this “news” is not at all surprising to me or my women colleagues and friends who know that their tribe has been a big reason for their success.

When I was growing up, girls were often taught to compete with one another; when I started practicing law, that message was reinforced by the idea that there was only room for a few women at the top. Because of this, women professionals felt like they had to compete to get the one seat at the table, the one partnership, the one spot on the Court reserved for women. But that idea was a lie because THERE IS ROOM AT THE TOP FOR ALL WOMEN! This brings me to one of my favorite Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG for the hipsters) quotes. When asked when she believed the Supreme Court would have enough women, she responded with “When there are 9!”

I love celebrating the success of other women. I love helping other women work through professional issues, and I seek out other women when I need help and support. Earlier this year I tried a case against a woman lawyer. When my client and I came out on top, she called to congratulate me, and I had the chance to compliment her trial advocacy skills. Last month when settling a tough case, the woman defense lawyer and I were able to have meaningful, honest conversations about the case that led to its resolution. After it was concluded, I made sure to tell her what I believed she did well in handling the case. Developing these relationships has made me much more successful, better able to represent my clients and . . . happier.

One big way that women can support other women is by supporting women-owned businesses. As of 2018, there are 12.3 women-owned businesses in the U.S. that employ 9.2 million people and generate $1.8 trillion in annual revenue. I had tremendous support from other women when I opened my firm and it meant the world to me. Another way to connect with local women professionals and women-owned business is the Professional Women’s Network. Check out their website here.

One way that I am hoping to pass on the support that has been given to me is to feature local women-owned businesses on our social media. We are calling it “Women Wednesday” and will feature local women-owned businesses to help spread the word. Check it out starting next Wednesday.

Iowa at the forefront of LGBTQ civil rights? How this little state in the middle of the country has led the way towards equality.

June is LGBTQ Pride Month!

Iowa Employment Law

Most Iowans know that Iowa was one of the earliest states to legalize gay marriage. 2019 marks the 10-year anniversary of the Iowa Supreme Court’s Varnum v. Brien decision in which the Court ruled that Iowa’s law prohibiting same sex couples from getting a marriage license violated the Iowa Constitution. This ruling made Iowa only the 3rd state in the nation to establish marriage equality and was six years before the US Supreme Court reached the same conclusion.

But a lesser known fact is that Iowa was also at the forefront of protecting the LGBTQ community from other types of discrimination. In 2007, the Iowa legislature amended the Iowa Civil Rights Act to extend its prohibition against discrimination to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Iowa Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment, public accommodations, credit, housing and education. Iowa was the 19th state to include civil rights protections for gay people and only the 10th state to include protections for transgender people.

At Ann Brown Legal we are proud of Iowa’s history in standing up for the rights of LGBTQ individuals. All people deserve the right to work and support themselves and their families free from discrimination.

If you believe your employer (or a potential employer) has discriminated against you because of your sexual orientation or gender identity, please call us to discuss your rights at (319) 826-2250.

Happy Pride Month to all!

Crash with UBER or Lyft Driver? What happens if you are in an accident with a driver using one of the popular rideshare apps? Should you contact a personal injury law firm?

car accident injury attorney

Since 2009, when Uber launched in San Francisco, ride share apps have become extremely popular and are available to take people from Point A to Point B almost everywhere in the world. Uber and Lyft are the two largest ride sharing apps in the world. In 2017, Uber had over 7 million drivers.

No doubt the ride sharing apps have provided a much-needed convenience, but what has their impact been on safety on the roads? On the one hand, Uber and Lyft provide a safe way home for people after a night of drinking, and there is some evidence that these ride share apps have reduced drunk driving. But there is also evidence that links the increased popularity of ride share services to an increase in fatal car crashes. This evidence largely concludes that the increase in cars on the road as a result of Uber and Lyft has increased the number of traffic related deaths.

A more relevant question for many users of these ride share apps is what happens if they get injured in a crash while riding with an Uber or Lyft driver? Or similarly, what happens if they are travelling in another car and are hit by an Uber or Lyft driver? The answer is that these crashes are the same as any other crash as far as determining who is at fault and responsible, but the insurance company that pays the claim may be different.

In any car accident, the person who causes the accident or is to blame is responsible for any injury suffered by other parties. In some states, like Iowa, the owner of the vehicle may also be responsible, and if the driver was working at the time of the crash the driver’s employer may also be responsible. But Uber and Lyft don’t own the vehicles used for the service and they have repeatedly argued that the drivers are not their employees and so it is probably difficult to sue Uber or Lyft for an accident caused by one of their drivers. But that also likely doesn’t matter.

In almost all car accidents, the insurance company for the negligent driver pays any damages caused by the driver. Uber requires all of their drivers to carry car insurance. The driver’s personal auto insurance applies when the driver does not have their app on and is not taking riders. If an Uber driver has the app on and is simply available to drive or waiting for a driver, Uber provides insurance to that driver for injuries in the amount of $50,000 per person or a total of $100,000 per accident. If an Uber driver is traveling to pick up a passenger or has a passenger in the car, Uber provides $1,000,000 in liability insurance.

If you have been injured in an accident involving an Uber or Lyft driver, there are a few things you may want to do:

  1. Get a copy of the police report;

  2. Get any medical care that you need;

  3. Make sure you have the contact information for all of the drivers involved; and

  4. Decide if you want to speak with a car accident injury attorney.

Personal injury claims involving Uber or Lyft drivers can present somewhat complicated insurance coverage questions. It may be beneficial to speak with a car accident injury attorney before deciding how best to pursue your claim for injuries.

If you have questions about an Iowa car accident, please call our office at (319) 826-2250.

A sexual harassment policy is not enough. How can we make meaningful progress towards ending sexual harassment?

For years most employers have had a basic sexual harassment policy that goes something like: sexual harassment is bad, and we don’t allow it. Have these policies helped to to reduce sexual harassment? NOPE!

For many employers these policies were adopted in the hopes of avoiding liability in sexual harassment lawsuits, but not for the purpose of eliminating sexual harassment…and that is the problem. Employers cannot simply add a few paragraphs to their employee handbook and call it good, essentially declaring sexual harassment as an inevitable problem in every workplace. But that is NOT TRUE. Sexual harassment is not inevitable, it is preventable. And it is time for actions, not just words.

What are a few things that Forbes has identified that employers should be doing?

  1. The message needs to come from the very top. That means the CEO, not managers, not human resources. The CEO. The message is important, and it needs to come from the most powerful person in the company. It needs to be said clearly, and it needs to be said often—zero tolerance for sexual harassment. If the CEO doesn’t believe in a zero tolerance policy or has their own history of harassment, there is a simple solution for that—get a new CEO.

  2. Evaluate managers on complaints of sexual harassment. Performance evaluations drive promotions and compensation. Any person in an organization who supervises other employees should be evaluated on both whether there are complaints of sexual harassment within their group and on how they effectively deal with those complaints. Enforcement of a company’s sexual harassment policy needs to be a priority and linking compensation to that is a good way to start.

  3. Make the reporting process known and safe. Every employee in a company should know how to report sexual harassment. Every employee should know they will not be retaliated against. This means that when retaliation happens the person who retaliated is fired. Employees will not report sexual harassment if they see their co-workers who have reported being retaliated against without consequence.

Researchers in 2017 found that the typical employer approach of including language in the employee handbook and a training by human resources not only doesn’t help, but may make things worse. Many sexual harassment training programs portray men as natural sexual harassers and women as victims. These portrayals may make women feel less empowered to report sexual harassment. Also, these types of training programs have the least impact on men who are likely to harass. This research shows the bystander training and training on civility in the workplace are more effective than traditional sexual harassment training. This training helps employees to act when they witness harassment not just when they are being subjected to harassment. It also helps employees learn what to do in the workplace instead of just what they should not be doing.

What is one critically important step that companies can take to reduce sexual harassment? Put women in leadership and key positions! Putting women in leadership positions helps change the culture of a workplace and makes it more likely that sexual harassment policies will actually be enforced and that women will feel empowered to report sexual harassment. There has recently been some exciting news on this issue. General Motors has just announced that for the first time in its history there will be more women on the Board of Directors than men. GM is not alone. Other Fortune 500 companies have boards with a majority made up of women including Viacom, Bed Bath and Beyond, CBS, Omnicorp and Iowa-based Casey’s General Stores. Hopefully, with an increase in women in leadership positions, we will start to see a decrease in sexual harassment.

The first step to ending sexual harassment is accepting that it is not an inevitable part of any workplace. It is preventable. Employers are responsible for preventing sexual harassment. Sexual harassment not only hurts the victim, it hurts the company as a whole.

If you have been subjected to sexual harassment and would like to know if a sexual harassment attorney can help you, please call us at (319) 826-2250 for a confidential and free consultation.

It’s Motorcycle Safety Month - A Motorcycle Injury Attorney's Tips for Staying Safe

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. The weather in Iowa is finally getting warmer and bikers can get back on the road. As a motorcycle injury attorney, I have learned a lot about motorcycles and motorcyclists. The number one thing I have learned is that bikers are passionate about getting around on two wheels. Motorcyclists deserve to stay safe on the roads just as much as people travelling on four wheels, but unfortunately, that does not always happen. I have represented motorcycle riders with catastrophic injuries because while many riders love being on their bike more than anything, if they are hit their injuries can be severe. Motorcyclists are 28 times more likely to die from injuries in a crash than people who were travelling in a car during a crash. Here are some tips from NHTSA’s Get Up to Speed on Motorcycles Campaign:

  1. Look carefully for motorcycles at intersections with obstructions like trees or hills;

  2. Be careful checking your blind spots for motorcycles; and

  3. Be aware that it is often safer for motorcycles to slow without using their brakes so do not follow too closely and rely on the back-brake light to know when a motorcycle is slowing.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a motorcycle crash, we are here to help. Please call us at (319) 826-2250.

Accidents and Brain Injuries - When to Call a Personal Injury Law Firm

According the CDC, traumatic brain injury is a major cause of death and disability in the United States, but often can be the last injury diagnosed when someone has been in an accident because of other, more obvious physical injuries.

But the statistics about brain injuries are staggering:

Iowa personal injury lawyer personal injury law firm personal injury claims
  1. There are nearly 3 million hospital visits and deaths in the US each year;

  2. Nearly 330,000 children are treated for brain injuries each year; and

  3. Car accidents are the third leading cause of brain injuries in the US.

Because car accidents are a major cause of brain injuries, in fact car accidents are the leading cause of brain injury in people age 15-44, many people who have suffered a brain injury have a personal injury claim. Oftentimes, a brain injury is not immediately obvious, and a brain injury can occur from a sudden jolt to the head or body even if you didn’t strike your head. The Mayo Clinic lists physical symptoms as including headaches, dizziness, sleep problems and difficulty with speech. Mental symptoms include memory and concentration problems, changes in mood and feeling depressed or anxious.

As a personal injury law firm, we have represented numerous victims of head injury, and their families often describe them as completely changed people.

Personal injury claims for persons with a brain injury require different types of evidence than claims where the injury is easy to see on an x-ray. It’s often necessary to obtain expert opinions from multiple physicians and psychiatrists specializing in brain injury. Equally important are getting as many witnesses as possible who have observed changes in the person because of the brain injury.

Oftentimes, insurance companies do not place a high enough value on what has been taken from someone who has suffered a brain injury. An experienced personal injury law firm can help gather the necessary evidence to help a jury understand just how devastating this injury is.

If you or someone you love has suffered a brain injury through the fault of another and you would like more information about your options, please call our office at (319) 826-2250.

The above information is meant to be helpful but does not replace advice you may receive from an attorney you have an attorney-client relationship with.

What to Know about Defective Children’s Toys and Liability


If your child was harmed by a defective children's toy, the manufacturer, inventor or distributor of that toy may be held legally liable. We see child injury claims where a child unknowingly used a defective toy and was hurt in the process. These cases range in severity. If your child has been seriously injured and you believe it was because of a defective children’s toy, you should contact a child injury attorney. You can reach our office at (319) 826-2250.

What is Defective?

A defective toy is one that can cause harm to a child playing with it because of something wrong with the toy. Children can not be expected to know how to play with a toy in a certain way as to avoid danger. Children are naturally curious and may explore a toy in ways that it may not have been intended. Toys should be created in such a way that even through curiosity and rough play, children are not harmed.

Defective Examples

There are many ways that a toy could be defective. Anything with small parts such as a battery or small pieces that could break off or that are too easily accessible to a child and could be defective. A toy with a string or cord that could cause strangulation may be defective.  Many toys manufactured outside the United States may contain lead paint that is dangerous to children if they put the toy in their mouth. The list of possibilities is endless, but any toy that seriously harms a child could be an example of a defective toy.

Factoring In Age

Children's ability to interact safely with a toy, and with the world around them, grows as they do. Products marketed to and for quite young children should be safe for that age range. Products that inherently may have a dangerous feature such as a cord or sharp pieces should be marketed to and clearly labeled for an older and appropriately aged child. The potential hazards should also be clearly labeled on the product packaging.

How Long Do I Have To Make a Case?

The statutes for making child injury claims in the case of defective toys is dependent on the state, but may be broad. The defective toy does not necessarily have to be one that was new or recently made. Furthermore, if your child is still a minor (or in some cases under 21), you may still have a case, even if the injury occurred years ago. A child injury attorney should be able to give you specific answers about the statute of limitations for your child injury claim.

Who is Liable?

The toy manufacturer or designer may be liable for an injury caused by a defective toy.  While a toy creator or seller may not maliciously nor purposefully sell a product that is harmful to children, he is still responsible for ensuring that the toy is safe for those children it was intended for.

Play is a critical part of a child’s development. The toys he or she interacts with should nurture and aid in healthy growth. If your child has been harmed or injured by a defective toy, please contact us at (319) 826-2250.

The above information is meant to be helpful, but is not meant to replace the legal advice of an attorney with whom you have an attorney-client relationship.

My Rights as a Tenant to a Safe Home

tenant rights

As a tenant, your rights to a safe home are determined by the laws in your state that set out the  landlord’s responsibility to provide a livable home. Iowa has adopted the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant act, which generally provides that your landlord is responsible for providing a home that is generally safe and within the housing code guidelines of your city or county.

If your landlord has failed to provide you with a safe and habitable home, the landlord may be held liable.

Personal Injury Claims on a Property

We see cases of personal injury claims from accidents that happened around a home or rented property. Slips and falls are among the most common personal injury claims we see in these cases. When a landlord is negligent in maintaining a safe environment around the home, including stairways, he or she may be responsible for any injuries that occur as a result. When a tenant is injured because of such negligence, a landlord may be found liable for not maintaining that area properly or reasonably.

We also see a lot of lead poisoning cases, in which the landlord either failed to disclose his or her knowledge of lead on the property or failed to have it removed in accordance with local housing codes. In these cases, when a child or adult is injured due to exposure to lead, we seek to find out whether the landlord can be held liable for not maintaining a safe home. Most landlords know about the dangers of lead paint and know what lead paint looks like, even if they have not had their property tested for lead paint.

Within the Home

Many personal injury claims relate to a tenant’s safety in common areas, such as the walkway to the house or structural components of the property. This may include items within the home. However, a tenant’s rights to a safe home may include the appliances provided by the landlord. This could be determined in the rental agreement signed by the landlord and tenant. An Iowa personal injury lawyer should be able to tell you about your landlord’s duties and if the landlord neglected those duties.

When the Landlord is Liable

A landlord has the same obligations as any property owner – to keep their property safe – but also has additional obligations set in the Iowa Code. Some of the landlords duties can be found here.

It is up to the tenant, and his or her lawyer, to prove that the landlord was negligent or violated the Iowa Code. We work for our clients in personal injury claims to uncover that information.

Your rights as a tenant include a safe home. If you or someone you love has been injured as the tenant of a property, you should speak with an Iowa personal injury lawyer. Feel free to contact our office at (319) 826-2250.

The above information is meant to be helpful, but is not meant to replace the legal advice of an attorney with whom you have an attorney-client relationship.