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

  • Iowa law prohibits an employer from discriminating and retaliating against employees in a variety of protected classes. Employers must also allow employees access to their personnel files. See EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations.
  • Iowa permits preemployment drug and alcohol testing and criminal history checks. See Recruiting and Hiring.
  • In Iowa, there are requirements relating to the minimum wage and child labor. See Wage and Hour.
  • Iowa has laws that relate to employee pay and benefits, including health care continuation, payment of wages, pay frequency, pay statements and wage deductions. See Pay and Benefits.
  • Under Iowa law, employees are entitled to certain leaves or time off, including pregnancy disability leave, jury and witness duty leave, elected officials leave, emergency responder leave and time off on Veterans Day. See Time Off and Leaves of Absence.
  • Iowa prohibits smoking in the workplace and texting while driving. See Health and Safety.
  • When employment ends, Iowa employers must comply with applicable final pay, job reference and mass layoff notification requirements. See Organizational Exit.

Introduction to Employment Law in Iowa

Iowa has laws that provide greater protections to employees than federal law, including prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and health care continuation coverage obligations for smaller employers, but generally follows federal law with respect to topics such as the minimum wage and occupational safety and health.

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:

Fair Employment Practices

The Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA) prohibits employers with four or more employees from discriminating on the basis of protected characteristics, such as:

  • 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.

An employer may not retaliate against an individual who has:

  • Lawfully opposed a practice prohibited by the ICRA;
  • Followed the provisions of the ICRA;
  • Filed a complaint under the ICRA; or
  • Testified or assisted in any proceeding under the ICRA.

Under the Non-English Speaking Employees Act, if an employer has 100 or more employees and more than 10 percent of the employees are non-English speaking and speak the same language, then the employer must provide an interpreter at the work site during any shift the employees are working. The employer must also employ an individual whose primary responsibility is to serve as a referral agent to community services.

Access to Personnel Files

Employees may access and obtain a copy of their personnel records, including performance evaluations and disciplinary records, but not employment references. The employer may have a representative present and may charge a reasonable copying fee. The employer and employee must agree on the time the employee may access the records.

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, EEO - Retaliation: Iowa, Disabilities (ADA): Iowa, HR Management: 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, EEO - Retaliation: Federal, Disabilities (ADA): Federal and HR Management: Federal.

Recruiting and Hiring

Key Iowa requirements impacting recruiting and hiring are:

Drug 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. An employer that chooses to conduct preemployment drug or alcohol testing must follow the law's requirements, including, but not limited to:

  • Establishing a written testing policy that contains specific mandatory content;
  • Conducting testing in accordance with the policy;
  • Training supervisory personnel who are involved with the testing; and
  • Providing written notice to applicants of a confirmed positive test result.

Criminal Checks

Iowa law permits access to criminal history data. However, certain criminal history records are off-limits (e.g., arrest, disposition, custody or adjudication records that resulted in acquittal or dismissal) or require a signed release (e.g., deferred judgments after probation has successfully been completed).

Employers that require a criminal history check of job applicants are required under Iowa law to pay the cost of the background check.

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 Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Iowa?. Federal requirements can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: 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.

All minors are prohibited from working in hazardous occupations, and minors under the age of 16 are prohibited from working in a variety of other occupations, such as manufacturing and mining. Child labor laws also list many occupations in which minors are actively permitted to engage, such as office and clerical work.

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 Contents, Minimum Wage: Iowa, Child Labor: Iowa, Iowa Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Iowa? 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

Under Iowa law, employees have the right to continue health care coverageif their group health coverage 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 employee's death or upon dissolution or annulment of marriage. Continuation coverage may last for up to nine months.

Payment of Wages

In Iowa, wages must be paid in cash or by check. An employer may pay wages by direct deposit or electronic paycards if certain conditions are met.

Pay Frequency

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.

Pay statements reflecting payments made or hours worked must 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 employer may make deductions from employees' wages for:

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

Deductions generally may not be made for most shortages or losses, tips, personal protective equipment and moving costs greater than $20.

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.

Time Off and Leaves of Absence

Iowa has several laws relating to required time off and leaves of absence for employees. These laws include:

  • Pregnancy disability leave (covering employers with four or more employees);
  • Jury duty leave;
  • Witness leave;
  • Elected officials leave (covering employers with 20 or more full-time employees);
  • Emergency responder leave;
  • Voting leave;
  • Drinking and driving class leave;
  • Military leave; and
  • Time off on Veterans Day.

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 time off and leave of absence 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:

Smoke-Free 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 appropriate signage.

Safe Driving Practices

Iowa law prohibits an individual from writing, sending or reading a text message while driving.

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 practices 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 Pay

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

Unused vacation time does not need to be paid unless there is an agreement between the employer and employee stating otherwise.

Mass Layoff Notifications

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 to affected employees, their representatives (if any) and the state 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.

An employer may pay severance or 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 may lose immunity if the information:

  • Violates the employee's civil rights;
  • Is knowingly provided to someone who has no legitimate interest in receiving 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.

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.