The Iowa Civil Rights Act prohibits all public and private employers of four or more persons from discriminating in employment on the basis of national origin (IA Code Sec. 216.1 et seq.). Under the state law, it is unlawful to:
• Refuse to hire, discharge, or to otherwise discriminate in employment against any applicant for employment or any employee because of national origin, unless based on the nature of the occupation.
• Advertise, indicate, or publicize that individuals of any particular national origin are unwelcome or are not acceptable for employment, unless based on the nature of the occupation.
• Intentionally aid, compel, or coerce another person to engage in discriminatory acts, or to discriminate or retaliate against any person who has opposed discrimination or assisted in any proceeding under the state law.
The “nature of the occupation” exception of Sec. 216.1 is not defined in the statute, but the state Supreme Court has ruled that it is virtually identical to the bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) exception as defined in federal law and other state statutes (Foods, Inc. v. Civil Rights Commission, 318 N.W.2d 162 (Iowa 1982)). Under the BFOQ exception, it is permissible to hire an individual on the basis of national origin because of a BFOQ only if the BFOQ is reasonably necessary to the normal operations of a business. However, the BFOQ exception is very rare (e.g., hiring actors to portray individuals of a certain national origin) and does not include the personal preference or convenience of the employer.