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Employer Liability: Iowa

Employer Liability requirements for other states

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

Authors: Stuart R. Buttrick, Rozlyn Fulgoni-Britton and Susan W. Kline, Faegre Baker Daniels LLP


  • For most private employers, employer liability for unfair labor practices is governed by the National Labor Relations Act. See Unfair Labor Practices.
  • Employers must tread carefully in Iowa - some actions regarding unions can result in criminal liability. See Criminal Liability.

Unfair Labor Practices

For private employers that satisfy the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) jurisdictional requirements, the NLRB investigates unfair labor practices. If the NLRB determines that the employer committed an unfair labor practice, it can seek remedies that are designed to put the employee and union in the same standing as if the unfair labor practice had not occurred. These remedies can include, but are not limited to:

  • Ordering the employer to stop the actions that led to the unfair labor practice through a cease and desist order;
  • Reinstating discharged employees;
  • Paying backpay to discharged employees; and
  • Posting a notice to all employees explaining that the NLRB determined the employer committed an unfair labor practice.

Criminal Liability

Right to Work Violations

In addition to being a prohibited practice, violating Iowa's Right to Work law is a criminal violation. An employer could be subject to criminal liability if it refuses to hire employees because of their membership in, affiliation with, withdrawal or expulsion from or refusal to join any labor union, or if it requires employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

These crimes are "serious" misdemeanors, with penalties including a fine between $315 and $1,875 and imprisonment for up to one year. See +Iowa Code § 731.2. Employees could also be entitled to injunctive relief.

Hiring Employees During Labor Dispute

It is unlawful for employers to recruit or hire professional strikebreakers and to advertise for employees to replace existing employees involved in a labor dispute without a notice in the advertisement that a labor dispute is in progress. If an employer engages in these acts, it is guilty of a "simple" misdemeanor, with penalties including a fine between $65 and $625 and imprisonment for up to 30 days. See +Iowa Code § 732.4.

Future Developments

There are no developments to report at this time. Continue to check XpertHR regularly for the latest information on this and other topics.

Additional Resources

Employer Liability: Federal

Labor Rights and Enforcement: Federal

The Unionization Process: Federal

Unfair Labor Practices: Federal