It’s important to stay up to date on all of the employment laws in your state so that you can maintain compliance in your business. We did some of the hard work for you and put some of the most important Iowa statutes in one place so you can either learn them for the first time or give yourself a refresher. 

However, remember that our summary is not qualified legal advice, laws are always subject to change, and they can vary from municipality to municipality. 

It’s up to you to make sure you’re compliant with all laws and statutes in your area. Consult with a qualified lawyer and/or your local government agencies if you have questions or concerns. 

Here are a few Iowa labor laws every small business owner should know.

Resources

First, here are a few helpful links and resources for you to bookmark and refer back to:

Leave

  • Sick Days: Employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid sick leave.
  • Medical Leave: Employers may be required to provide an employee unpaid medical leave in accordance with the Family and Medical Leave Act or other federal laws.
  • Vacation Leave: Employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid vacation leave but must comply with their own established policies if they choose to implement one.
    • Employers may deny employees payment for accrued vacation leave upon separation or disqualify them from receiving payment for the leave if they fail to comply with specific requirements if it is in their contract. 
    • An employer must pay accrued vacation to an employee upon separation from employment if its policy requires it. 
    • Employers may cap the amount of vacation leave an employee can accrue. 
    • Employers may implement a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy requiring employees to use their vacation time by a set date. 
  • Jury Duty: Employers do not have to pay employees for time spent responding to a jury summons unless their policy stipulates they have to do so, but employees cannot be terminated or otherwise penalized for doing so. 
  • Holiday Leave: Private employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid time off for holidays. 
  • Voting Leave:  Employers must provide employees with enough paid leave to ensure that an employee has 3 hours when combined with non-working time to vote while the polls are open. The employee must request the leave in writing prior to the day of the vote. 
  • Bereavement Leave: Employers are not required to provide bereavement leave. 
  • Military Leave: Employers may not discharge or discriminate against an employee because they are a member of the National Guard or armed forces. and must allow them to take leave to serve in the military.
    • After their service, the employee is entitled to return to their job with the same rights to vacation and other employment benefits they would be entitled to if they had not taken the leave.
  • Emergency Response Leave:  As long as the employee provides notice in writing that they are a volunteer emergency services, the employer may not discharge them for missing or being late to work because they were responding to an emergency.
    • If the employee is called for emergency services during work, the employer may decide whether to release them from work to perform emergency services.
    • The employer may require that the employee provide notice of their need for leave as soon as possible. The employer may choose whether the leave is paid or unpaid. Afterward, the employer may require that the employee provide documentation confirming they were providing emergency services.
  • Pregnancy Disability Leave: Employers that have four or more employees must treat their employees who have a temporary disability because of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions the same as employees who have other temporary disabilities.
    • If leave is not otherwise available or has been exhausted, an employee with a pregnancy-related disability is entitled to leave for the duration of their pregnancy-related disability, up to eight weeks.
  • Witness Leave: Employers cannot take any adverse action against an employee for appearing as a witness in a criminal proceeding or as a plaintiff, defendant, or witness in a civil proceeding involving domestic abuse.

Final Paycheck

Employees who separate from employment for any reason must be paid final wages by the next regular payday. 

Minimum Wage

  • The current minimum wage in Iowa is $7.25.
  • Minimum wage requirements don’t apply to employers with an annual gross sales volume of less than $300,000, except for the following industries that are not subject to a minimum sales threshold:
    • Laundry and clothing repair 
    • Construction or reconstruction
    • Hospitals 
    • Schools
    • Public agencies 

Tipped Wages

Child Labor

  • Minors 14 and 15 years of age may work in retail and food service, agriculture, caddying on golf courses, selling gas and oil, and in offices. They may also work in street trades, migrant labor and as models. They may not work in establishments that serve alcohol and are prohibited from working in the following hazardous occupations:
    • Manufacturing or construction
    • Insurance
    • Real estate 
    • Hotels or motels 
    • Restaurants
    • Local government
    • Lumberyard
    • Garages or auto repair
    • Hospitals and nursing homes 
    • Greenhouses and nurseries 
    • Printing and publishing firms
  • When school is in session, minors 14 and 15 years of age may not work during school hours and are subject to these following time restrictions:
    • 4 hours a day outside of school hours 
    • 28 hours a week
    • In between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. (4 a.m. to 7 a.m. if they work in street trades, migrant laborers may work from 5 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.) 
    • If working as a model, the youth may work from 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. up to 3 hours a day or 12 hours per month. 
  • The same time restrictions apply when school is not in session, except the maximum time increases to 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week. 
  • Minors 16 and 17 years of age may not work in an establishment that sells or serves alcohol and are prohibited from working in these hazardous occupations:
    • Any exposure to explosives
    • Logging or sawmills
    • Using power-driven machinery 
    • Exposure to radioactive material
    • Slaughter or meat packaging
    • Wrecking or demolition
    • Roofing 
    • Excavating 
    • Mining
    • Operating motor vehicles 
  • When school is in session, minors 16 and 17 years of age are subject to the following time restrictions:
    • No working during school hours 
    • No more than 4 hours a day
    • No more than 28 hours a week
    • Only in between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. 
  • When school is not in session, they may work 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week. 

Hiring

  • Background Checks: Employers who run background checks should ensure they’re following the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which are available here.
  • Mandatory Background Checks: Iowa requires that employers conduct background checks on the following types of employees:
    • Police officers
    • Lottery personnel
    • Healthcare personnel
    • Childcare personnel

Drug & Alcohol Testing

  • Iowa does not require drug and alcohol testing of applicants and employees.
  • If employers want to test their employees or applicants for drugs or alcohol, they must comply with extensive requirements.
  • Among other things, a policy that provides for alcohol testing must specify the unacceptable limit, but it may not be lower than .02%.
  • Certain employers must offer employees the opportunity to attend rehab after a positive alcohol test at work, and all employers must provide information about the dangers of drug and alcohol use in the workplace.

Meal and Rest Breaks, Overtime

  • Employers are required to grant a meal period of at least 30 minutes to minor employees who are scheduled to work 5 or more consecutive hours. 
  • There are no state laws regarding breaks or meal periods, so federal law applies. The federal law does not require employers to provide breaks, but if they choose to do so, breaks less than 20 minutes must be paid. Meal periods do not need to be paid as long as the employees are free to do as they wish.  
  • The federal overtime rule stipulates that the minimum salary requirement for administrative, professional, and executive exemptions is $684 per week, or $35,568 per year.
  • Non-exempt employees must be paid an overtime rate of 1 ½ times the regular rate of pay for hours worked in excess of 40 in one workweek.

Required Posters

The State of Iowa requires that employers post the following notices in a prominent location:

  • Unemployment Insurance
  • Safety & Health Protection on the Job (must be at least 8-1/2” by 14”)
  • Your Rights Under Iowa’s Minimum Wage
  • Equal Employment Opportunity
  • Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (employers that have 10 or more workers in high-rate industries)

Employment Discrimination

  • Federal law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of:
    • Race
    • Color
    • Age
    • Sex
    • Sexual orientation
    • Gender
    • Gender identity
    • Religion
    • National origin
    • Pregnancy
    • Genetic information, including family medical history
    • Physical or mental disability
    • Child or spousal support withholding
    • Military or veteran status
    • Citizenship and/or immigration status
  • Additionally, Iowa prohibits discrimination based on the following:
    • AIDS/HIV
  • Employers may not inquire about an applicant’s criminal history until an offer of employment has been made.
  • Click here to read our blog on what acceptable and unacceptable questions to ask during an interview.    

Termination

Iowa is an employment-at-will state, which means that without a written employee contract, employees can be terminated for any reason at any time, provided that the reason is not discriminatory and that the employer is not retaliating against the employee for a rightful action. 

Layoffs and Reduction in Force

Iowa requires that employers with at least 25 employees provide 30 days’ written notice to affected employees and the Iowa Workforce Development before closing their business or conducting a mass layoff. The notice must contain the following information:

  • The company’s name
  • The company’s address
  • The company’s business contact information
  • The date of the closing or mass layoff
  • The names of affected employees
  • The address of affected employees

COBRA

  • COBRA is a federal law that allows many employees to continue their health insurance benefits after their employment ends. Because federal COBRA only applies to employers that have 20 or more employees, many states have adopted their own versions of the law, which are known as “mini-COBRAs.”
  • Iowa’s mini-COBRA allows employees to continue their coverage for up to nine months. Employers must provide an employee with a notice of their COBRA rights within 10 days of the triggering event.

Whistleblower Protection

Employers may not discriminate or retaliate against an employee because the employee did any of the following:

  • Opposed any unfair or discriminatory employment practice
  • Obeys the Iowa Civil Rights Act
  • Filed a complaint or participated in a civil rights proceeding
  • Reported a workplace safety violation

Shift Scheduling

There are currently no laws regarding shift scheduling in Iowa.

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