On June 17, 2003, a male employee of the University of Iowa filed a lawsuit against the University in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa (Davenport) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000e), 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Equal Protection ...
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On June 17, 2003, a male employee of the University of Iowa filed a lawsuit against the University in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa (Davenport) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000e), 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Iowa Civil Rights Act, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Iowa Constitution. The plaintiff filed the lawsuit on behalf of himself and a class of all male employees who are or who may become biological fathers and who have been or who may become subject to the parental leave policy. The plaintiff, represented by private counsel, asked the court for declaratory, injunctive, and compensatory relief, asserting that the University's policy illegally discriminated against biological fathers because it failed to provide them parental leave paid out of accumulated sick leave, but provided biological mothers and adoptive parents that benefit.
On November 19, 2003, the Court (Judge Ronald E. Longstaff) granted the plaintiff's motion to certify the class.
On July 21, 2004, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, which the Court granted. With respect to the Title VII claim, the Court held that the policy did not illegally discriminate against biological fathers on its face or in the University's application. With respect to the federal equal protection claim, the Court applied rational basis review after finding that there was no fundamental right implicated by the policy. The Court then held that the plaintiff "[did] not sufficiently discredit the legitimate purposes set forth by Defendants" and that he "[failed] to demonstrate the lack of a rational relationship between the operation of the policy to the purpose in the policy." Johnson v. Univ. of Iowa, 408 F.Supp.2d 728, 749 (2004).
With respect to the plaintiff's claim that the policy violated the Iowa Civil Rights Act, the Court noted that "Iowa courts have used federal law for guidance in interpreting the ICRA." Id. The Court then simply applied its Title VII analysis to this claim and held that the policy did not violate the ICRA. Lastly, with respect to the Iowa Constitution Equal Protection Clause claim, the court noted that "[t]o determine the proper analysis of cases implicating the Iowa Equal Protection Clause, it is necessary to evaluate both Fitzgerald III, and Bierkamp. These are two cases where the Iowa Supreme Court departed from federal rational basis equal protection analysis." Id., 751. Specifically, the Court found that, under these cases, it must conduct "a more searching analysis of the relationship between the University's asserted purpose and the means it used to reach that purpose." Id. Ultimately, however, the court applied its findings concerning the federal protection clause and held that its findings hold "even under the more searching analysis required by the Iowa Equal Protection Clause." Id.
On appeal by the plaintiff, the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the defendant on all claims. Johnson v. University, 431 F.3d 325 (8th Cir. 2005).Jordan Rossen - 11/29/2010