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State of Discrimination: How much taxpayer money goes to settling lawsuits?

Local 5 is On Your Side, uncovering how much of your state tax dollars are going toward paying out discrimination cases.

Local 5 is On Your Side, uncovering how much of your state tax dollars are going toward paying out discrimination cases. 

Kirsten Anderson was the Communications Director for the Iowa Senate Republicans for five years, but was fired on the spot after her fourth official harassment complaint. 

“I feel these are leaders making laws in our state who wronged me,” Anderson says. “And they’re wronging every taxpayer in the State of Iowa. Iowans need to know.” 

Anderson sued the state, and in 2017, a jury awarded her more than $2 million—the state settled the case for $1.75 million. 

From fiscal years 2010-2018, the state has used more than $5.2 million out of its general fund to pay for lawsuit settlements.

Tom Newkirk, a civil rights attorney in Iowa, says the process shouldn’t punish taxpayers.

“Instead of suing an individual, you could also just terminate them, discipline them, engage in other forms of accountability for that person,” Newkirk says. 

Newkirk represented a woman who sued the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for sexual discrimination and won $260,000 from the state. Court records allege that she was the target of sexual harassment on business trips. 

 

The Iowa Attorney General’s Office could help enforce punishments, according to Newkirk. But it might not be that simple. 

“..I think we have a limitation in our ability as lawyers to affect change,” says Jeffrey Thompson, the Iowa Solicitor General. “We don’t get to make employment decisions … mandate changes.”

Gov. Reynolds says she has a zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment, and fired longtime friend David Jamison from his position as director of the Iowa Finance Authority after allegations came forth that Jamison sexually harassed another IFA employee.  

See complete list of settlement agreements dating back to FY2011