Lane & Waterman attorneys Mikkie Schiltz and Alex Barnett successfully defended district court orders granting an eastern Iowa college summary judgment and dismissing a former student’s claims under state and municipal law for age and disability discrimination and breach of contract. The Iowa Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of the student’s claims arising under the Davenport civil rights ordinance because Iowa law does not authorize claimants to bring an action to enforce local civil rights laws in state or federal court. In reaching this conclusion, the Iowa Supreme Court resolved “an important question about the extent to which municipalities can confer state-court jurisdiction over individual lawsuits” in favor of Lane & Waterman’s client. As noted in the decision, municipalities across the state have exceeded their home rule authority by issuing right-to-sue letters for claims arising under local civil rights ordinances. The Iowa General Assembly granted municipalities authority to prohibit forms of discrimination by local ordinance, but it did not authorize municipalities to confer original jurisdiction upon a state court for claims arising under local civil rights ordinances. Therefore, local commissions must provide administrative relief for claims arising under a local civil rights ordinance.
The Supreme Court also affirmed the district court’s order granting summary judgment on the student’s breach of contract claim. As an issue of first impression under Iowa law, the Supreme Court held a college’s broad pronouncement of compliance with existing nondiscrimination laws does not create a separate and independent contractual obligation. Click to read the Iowa Supreme Court’s 51-page decision.