Governor Seeks Denial of Unemployment Benefits After Harassment Firing

May 25, 2018

Gov. Kim Reynolds is asking the state to deny unemployment benefits to the former director of a state housing agency she fired over allegations of sexual harassment.

Reynolds fired Iowa Finance Authority Director Dave Jamison on March 24, less than 24 hours after she received a complaint from one of his employees.

Reynolds’ spokesperson Brenna Smith said in an email Friday the Department of Administrative Services has filed an objection to Jamison’s request for unemployment benefits.

Jamison’s appeal hearing before an administrative law judge is scheduled for June 5 over the phone, according to the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Bureau. The hearing could reveal more details about the circumstances surrounding Jamison’s firing.

It’s unclear if Jamison was granted unemployment benefits after the firing, or if he is seeking benefits through an appeal. The first steps of that process are not public.

In a letter to Reynolds, a state employee described more than 20 incidents, including inappropriate touching, and obscene comments and gestures by Jamison. The letter says Jamison frequently stared at and commented on the writer’s body, and harassed others in the office “for years.”

Jamison is also a personal friend to the governor, and at the time, Reynolds said she hoped the firing would send a strong message about her “zero tolerance” sexual harassment policy.

West Des Moines employment attorney Stuart Higgins said fired workers are eligible for unemployment benefits unless they are fired for purposeful misconduct. He said the burden is on the employer to prove that.

“They’re going to have to come forward with convincing evidence,” Higgins said.

He added evidence of misconduct gathered after a firing cannot be used as a basis for denying unemployment benefits.

On April 27, more than a month after firing Jamison, Reynolds announced an outside investigation of the Iowa Finance Authority and Jamison’s conduct. An outside auditing firm is also reviewing questionable financial practices from Jamison’s tenure at IFA.