The Iowa Supreme Court says anyone claiming damages for wage discrimination that occurred before 2009 is out of luck.
Three female employees of Muscatine-based Allsteel are suing the office furniture manufacturer, alleging male employees were paid more for similar work. While the lawsuit is pending, the high court's ruling greatly limits the amount of damages the plaintiffs may eventually claim.
Iowa's equal pay law was enacted in 2009. It provides protections against discrimination on the basis of age, race, creed, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin or disability. The law places no statute of limitations on claims of wage discrimination.
The plaintiffs interpret this to mean that any damages awarded should extend back to when they started working for Allsteel. Allsteel disagrees, saying the equal pay law only remedies wage discrimination from 2009 to the present.
The Iowa Supreme Court sided with Allsteel. If the women win the lawsuit, compensation will only date back to July 2009.
Since Iowa's equal pay law awards a victim two to three times the amount of salary they were initially denied, the state supreme court's decision is likely welcome news for Allsteel. One plaintiff started work at the company in 1999, and another began work in 2005.
According to the plaintiffs' attorney, Iowa is the only state to not have a statute of limitation when it comes to wage discrimination. All claims, however, must be filed with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission within 300 days after the last instance of an unfair payment.