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 § 216.1 et seq.). The Act covers all public employers and private employers with four or more employees (Ia. Code § 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.
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 § 8.32(216)).
Disabilities. State regulations expressly prohibit employers from including any question on an employment application form that asks about a physical or mental disability unless the question is based upon a bona fide occupational qualification (161 Ia. Admin. Code § 8.31(2)). Employers should periodically review application forms and provide proper training to human resources staff, managers and supervisors, and other employees involved in recruiting and hiring.