Iowa Abandons Longstanding Test Used in Employment Discrimination Cases

Iowa Abandons Longstandin…

The Iowa Supreme Court recently revisited the burden-shifting analysis that is used in an employment discrimination case. The Iowa Supreme Court noted that it had previously moved away from requiring that the employee first show that the employer’s discriminatory basis for adverse employment action was the determining factor, rather than simply a motivating factor.

The motivating factor standard is lower than the determining factor standard. Similarly, the Iowa Supreme Court has now strengthened the defense that can be asserted by the employer in response, where an employer can show by a preponderance of the evidence that it would have made the same employment decision even if it had not taken into account the plaintiff’s gender or other protected characteristic. Thus, even if an employee proves by a preponderance of the evidence that discrimination was a motivating factor in the employer’s decision, if the employer can demonstrate it would have taken the same employment action even in the absence of the mixed motive part of which was discriminatory, then the employer can meet its burden of establishing that affirmative defense and will not have liability.

The Iowa Supreme Court concluded its opinion by stating that to clarify it will no longer rely on the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting analysis and determining factor standard when instructing a jury. The Iowa Supreme Court decision at issue was rendered on June 7, 2019, in the matter of Gregory Hawkins v. Grinnell Regional Medical Center, et al. and a copy of that decision is linked here.