Labor and Employment Law Overview: Iowa

Labor and Employment Law Overview requirements for other states

Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.

Author: XpertHR Editorial Team

Summary

  • State law prohibits an employer from discriminating against employees in a variety of protected classes. See EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations.
  • Iowa prohibits preemployment polygraph, AIDS/HIV and genetic testing, but allows drug and alcohol testing under specific conditions. See Recruiting and Hiring.
  • In Iowa, there are requirements related to the minimum wage and child labor. See Wage and Hour.
  • Iowa has a number of laws related to employee pay and benefits, including health care continuation coverage, paydays, pay statements and wage deductions. See Pay and Benefits.
  • Under Iowa law, employees are entitled to a number of leaves, including pregnancy disability leave, jury and witness duty leave, emergency responder leave and voting leave. See Attendance and Leave.
  • Iowa law provides employees with a smoke-free workplace and with the right to know about hazardous chemicals in the workplace. See Health and Safety.
  • Iowa employers must be aware of final pay and shutdown/mass layoff notification requirements. See Organizational Exit.

Introduction to Employment Law in Iowa

Iowa is generally considered both an employer-friendly and employee-friendly state.

Select Iowa employment requirements are summarized below to help an employer understand the range of employment laws affecting the employer-employee relationship in the state. An employer must comply with both federal and state law.

An employer must also comply with applicable municipal law obligations affecting the employment relationship, in addition to complying with state and federal requirements.

EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations

Key Iowa requirements impacting EEO, diversity and employee relations are:

Iowa Civil Rights Act

The Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA) recognizes certain protected classes not recognized under federal law. The ICRA prohibits employers with four or more employees from discriminating in employment on the basis of the following:

  • Race;
  • Creed;
  • Color;
  • Sex;
  • Pregnancy;
  • Religion;
  • Age (18 years and older);
  • National origin;
  • Gender identity;
  • Sexual orientation; and
  • Disability.

Harassment is a form of illegal discrimination and is prohibited under the ICRA.

Wage Discrimination

The Iowa Civil Rights Act prohibits wage discrimination between similarly situated employees who do the same or comparable work or perform the same tasks under similar working conditions, based upon a protected characteristic.

Non-English-Speaking Employees

If an employer has 100 or more employees and more than 10 percent of the employees are non-English speaking (unable to read, write or speak English to the degree necessary to understand the terms, conditions and daily responsibilities of employment) and they speak the same language, then the employer must provide an interpreter at the work site during any shift non-English-speaking employees are working. The employer must also employ an individual whose primary responsibility is to serve as a referral agent to community services.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on EEO, diversity and employee relations practices in Iowa can be found in the Iowa Employee Handbook Table of Contents, EEO - Discrimination: Iowa, EEO - Harassment: Iowa, Disabilities (ADA): Iowa, Iowa Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Iowa? Federal requirements can be found in EEO - Discrimination: Federal, EEO - Harassment: Federal and Disabilities (ADA): Federal.

Recruiting and Hiring

Key Iowa requirements impacting recruiting and hiring are:

Drug and Alcohol Testing

Under state law, an employer may require job applicants to submit to drug or alcohol testing as a condition of employment. An employer may refuse to hire an applicant based on a confirmed positive test result or on a refusal to provide a testing sample. The law requires an employer to:

  • Establish a written testing policy that contains specific mandatory content;
  • Conduct testing in accordance with the policy;
  • Train supervisory personnel who are involved with the testing; and
  • Provide written notice to applicants of a confirmed positive test result.

Criminal History Background Checks

An employer may inquire about applicants' prior criminal history and conduct criminal background checks. An employer must pay the cost of a criminal background check that it requires.

Iowa requires that background checks be conducted on applicants for certain positions, including, for example, school bus drivers and some positions concerning health care, schools, child services, juvenile facilities, elders and law enforcement. In addition, background checks are required for certain jobs with public entities and as part of the licensing procedure for certain positions in many industries, including pharmacy, education, insurance, financial institutions, mortgage licensing and real estate.

Lie Detector Tests

Iowa law prohibits private employers from requesting or requiring applicants to take a lie detector test and from administering or causing, threatening or attempting to administer a lie detector test.

AIDS/HIV Testing

Iowa prohibits an employer from asking or requiring job applicants to test for HIV and from refusing to hire or otherwise affecting the terms of employment because of such a test. Similarly, the law prohibits any agreement between an employer and job applicants in which the applicants agree to take such a test in exchange for employment, pay or benefits.

Genetic Testing

Iowa makes it unlawful for an employer to:

  • Ask or require a job applicant to take a genetic test as a condition of preemployment application or employment;
  • Administer a genetic test as a condition of preemployment application or employment;
  • Refuse to hire or otherwise affect the conditions, terms or privileges of preemployment application or employment because of a genetic test; or
  • Retaliate against a job applicant for filing a complaint or participating in proceedings against the employer for violating the genetic testing law.

Recruiting Non-English-Speaking Employees

An Iowa employer with 100 or more employees that recruits non-English-speaking employees of other states more than 500 miles from the place of employment for jobs paid on an hourly basis must provide the employees with a written notice containing the following information:

  • The minimum number of hours the employee should expect to work on a weekly basis;
  • The hourly wages, including the starting hourly wage;
  • A description of the position's responsibilities and tasks;
  • The known health risks associated with the position; and
  • That using a forged document to work or stay in the US is a class "D" felony.

The notice must be signed by the employee and the employer.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on recruiting and hiring practices in Iowa can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Iowa and Recruiting: Iowa Federal requirements can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Federal and Recruiting: Federal.

Wage and Hour

Key Iowa requirements impacting wages and hours are:

Minimum Wage

The hourly minimum wage in Iowa is $7.25, with certain exceptions with respect to tipped employees and employees within their first 90 calendar days of employment.

In general, employers grossing $300,000 or more annually must pay the state minimum wage. The threshold for an employer to be covered by the federal minimum wage is $500,000.

Child Labor

Child labor laws in Iowa restrict the occupations in which minors may be employed and the number of hours and times during which they may work.

Minors under 18 years of age generally may not be employed in the following occupations:

  • Occupations in or about plants or establishments manufacturing or storing explosives or articles containing explosive components;
  • Occupations of motor vehicle driver and helper;
  • Logging occupations and occupations in the operation of any sawmill, lath mill, shingle mill or cooperage-stock mill;
  • Occupations involved in the operation of power-driven woodworking machines;
  • Occupations involving exposure to radioactive substances and to ionizing radiations;
  • Occupations involved in the operation of elevators and other power-driven hoisting apparatus;
  • Occupations involved in the operation of power-driven metal forming, punching and shearing machines;
  • Occupations in connection with mining;
  • Occupations in or about slaughtering and meat packing establishments and rendering plants;
  • Occupations involved in the operation of certain power-driven bakery machines;
  • Occupations involved in the operation of certain power-driven paper products machines;
  • Occupations involved in the manufacture of brick, tile and related products;
  • Occupations involved in the operation of circular saws, band saws and guillotine shears;
  • Occupations involved in wrecking, demolition and shipbreaking operations;
  • Occupations involved in roofing operations;
  • Excavation occupations;
  • In or about foundries, except that office, shipping and assembly area employment is not prohibited;
  • Occupations involving the operation of laundry, dry cleaning or dyeing machinery;
  • Occupations involving exposure to lead fumes or its compounds, or to dangerous or poisonous dyes or chemicals;
  • Occupations involving the transmission, distribution or delivery of goods or messages between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m.; and
  • Occupations prohibited by rules adopted by the Labor Commissioner.

In addition, minors who are under 16 years of age are further prohibited from working in certain occupations.

Minors under 16 generally may not work:

  • During regular school hours;
  • Before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m. (after 9 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day);
  • More than four hours per day and 28 hours per week during school times; and
  • More than eight hours per day and 40 hours per week during nonschool times.

Minors under 16 years of age who work for five hours or more must receive a break of at least 30 minutes.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on wage and hour practices in Iowa can be found in the Iowa Employee Handbook Table of ContentsMinimum Wage: IowaChild Labor: Iowa and Iowa Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters. Federal requirements can be found in Minimum Wage: Federal and Child Labor: Federal.

Pay and Benefits

Key Iowa requirements impacting pay and benefits are:

Health Care Continuation Coverage

Under Iowa law, employees have the right to continue, for up to a maximum of nine months, their accident or health insurance under a group policy issued by their employer for themselves and their eligible dependents when such insurance would otherwise end upon the termination of their employment (e.g., permanent layoff, temporary layoff, approved leave of absence). In addition, an employee's eligible dependents have the right to continue coverage upon the death of the employee or upon dissolution or annulment of marriage. The employer must provide written notice to a terminated employee and his or her dependents of the right to elect to continue insurance coverage within 10 days of the termination.

Paydays

An Iowa employer must pay employees on a monthly, semimonthly or biweekly basis on regular paydays at consistent intervals designated in advance. Wages must be paid within 12 days after the end of the pay period. An employee who is absent on payday must be paid within seven days after he or she demands payment.

Pay Statements

An Iowa employer must provide a pay statement to each employee on each regular payday, or within 10 working days of an employee's request. Pay statements for nonexempt employees must contain the following information:

  • Hours worked;
  • Wages earned; and
  • Deductions made from the paycheck.

Pay statements reflecting hours worked must also be provided to exempt employees for whom the employer has a policy or practice of paying overtime, bonuses or payments based on hours worked.

Wage Deductions

An Iowa employer generally may not deduct any of the following from employees' wages:

  • Cash shortages in common money till;
  • Losses due to breakage, damage, acceptance of bad checks and default of customer credit;
  • Lost or stolen property;
  • Tips;
  • Personal protective equipment;
  • Moving costs greater than $20; and
  • Uniforms that identify the business through a logo or the employer's colors.

Wage deductions are permitted for the following:

  • Federal and state taxes;
  • Child support;
  • Creditor garnishments;
  • Any lawful purpose that benefits the employee, if the employee has given written authorization for the deduction; and
  • Losses that are attributable to the employee's willful or intentional disregard of the employer's interests.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on pay and benefits practices in Iowa can be found in Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Iowa, Payment of Wages: Iowa, Involuntary and Voluntary Pay Deductions: Iowa and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Iowa? Federal requirements can be found in Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Federal, Payment of Wages: Federal and Involuntary and Voluntary Pay Deductions: Federal.

Attendance and Leave

An Iowa employer must comply with the following leave laws:

  • Pregnancy disability leave (covering employers with four or more employees);
  • Jury and witness duty leave;
  • Elected official leave (covering employers with 20 or more employees);
  • Volunteer Emergency Services Providers Job Protection Act;
  • Voting leave;
  • Leave to attend drinking and driving class;
  • Military leave; and
  • Veterans Day leave.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on attendance and leave practices in Iowa can be found in the Iowa Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Jury Duty: Iowa, Other Leaves: Iowa, USERRA: Iowa and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Iowa? Federal requirements can be found in Jury Duty: Federal, Other Leaves: Federal and USERRA: Federal.

Health and Safety

Key Iowa requirements impacting health and safety are:

Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Act

Iowa is a State Plan state. The Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Act (IOSHA) generally follows federal regulations, but there are some differences.

Hazardous Chemicals Risks Right to Know Act

Iowa's Hazardous Chemicals Risks Right to Know Act provides that employees must be informed about hazardous chemicals to which they may have exposure in the workplace, potential health hazards and proper handling techniques. The law also imposes training, labeling, posting, warning, maintenance and notification requirements on employers. There is also an anti-retaliation provision.

Smoking in the Workplace

Iowa's Smokefree Air Act generally prohibits smoking in public places and all enclosed areas within places of employment, including:

  • Work areas;
  • Private offices;
  • Conference and meeting rooms;
  • Classrooms;
  • Lounges and cafeterias;
  • Restrooms; and
  • Vehicles owned, leased or provided by the employer.

An employer must communicate to employees that smoking is prohibited in the workplace and must post conspicuous signs that the place of employment is a no-smoking area.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on health and safety requirements in Iowa can be found in the Iowa Employee Handbook Table of Contents, HR and Workplace Safety: Iowa, Employee Health: Iowa, Iowa Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Iowa? Federal requirements can be found in HR and Workplace Safety (OSHA Compliance): Federal and Employee Health: Federal.

Organizational Exit

Key Iowa requirements impacting organizational exit are:

Final Paycheck

Employees who quit or are fired must be paid by the next regular payday.

Iowa Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act

The Iowa Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act applies to employers with 25 or more full-time employees. A covered employer must provide 30 days' notice if:

  • A business closing results in employment loss of 25 or more full-time employees; or
  • A mass layoff results in an employment loss of 25 or more full-time employees at a single employment site during any 30-day period.

A business closing means the permanent or temporary shutdown of a single employment site of one or more facilities or operating units. An employment loss includes a termination, a layoff exceeding six months and a reduction in hours of more than 50 percent of work during each month of a six-month period.

The notice must include information regarding the affected employment site, affected employees, a company contact, whether the closure will be permanent or temporary and the anticipated schedule of employment losses.

An employer may pay an employee's regular wages in lieu of providing notice.

References

Under Iowa law, employers acting reasonably and in good faith are immune from civil liability for providing work-related information about a current or former employee to prospective employers.

An employer does not act reasonably, and there is no immunity, if:

  • The information violates the employee's civil rights;
  • The information is knowingly provided to someone who has no legitimate interest in receiving the information; or
  • The information is not relevant to the inquiry being made, is provided with malice or is provided with no good-faith belief that it is true.

Blacklisting

An employer that terminates an employee and prevents or attempts to prevent the employee from obtaining employment is guilty of a serious misdemeanor and is liable for all damages sustained by the employee.

However, an employer may, on request, furnish a truthful statement regarding the cause of an employee's termination.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on organizational exit practices in Iowa can be found in Payment of Wages: Iowa, Involuntary Terminations: Iowa, Performance Appraisals: Iowa and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Iowa? Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal, Involuntary Terminations: Federal and Performance Appraisals: Federal.