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Iowa Pre-Employment Inquiries (Interviewing): What you need to know

The Iowa Civil Rights Act prohibits employment practices that discriminate on the basis of age, race, creed, color, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, religion, qualified disability (including AIDS), gender identity, and sexual orientation (IA Code Sec. 216.1 et seq.). The Act covers all public employers and private employers with four or more employees (IA Code Sec. 216.6(6)). According to rules issued by the state Civil Rights Commission, any preemployment inquiry that expresses directly or indirectly a limitation, specification, or discrimination as to a protected characteristic is unlawful unless based on a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) necessary for the job in question.
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BFOQ exception. An employer may make an employment inquiry about one of the previously listed characteristics only if it is reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the employer's business and there is no less intrusive way to ensure that the applicant will be able to perform the essential functions of the job in question. According to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission's rules, the concept of the BFOQ is narrow in scope and does not include the "mere preference or convenience" of the employer (161 IA Admin. Code Sec. 8.32(216)). In order to be a BFOQ, a characteristic must be absolutely essential to the applicant's ability to perform the job. For example, being female would be a legitimate BFOQ for a person applying for a job as a model of women's clothing. In general, courts have been extremely reluctant to sanction otherwise discriminatory practices on BFOQ grounds. Employers should use caution in relying on the BFOQ rationale, and should always consult with legal counsel before making any ...

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