Ex-Iowa Finance Authority fired for sexual harassment shouldn’t be getting unemployment, judge rules

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Dave Jamison — official Iowa Finance Authority photo

Former Iowa Finance Authority (IFA) Director Dave Jamison isn’t entitled to unemployment benefits an administrative law judge ruled on Thursday. Jamison was fired in March after IFA employees filed complaints against him alleging years of sexual harassment.

The former director had originally been granted unemployment benefits and was paid $3,185 between April and June.

Jamison was receiving unemployment benefits because IFA “declined to participate in a fact-finding interview regarding [Jamison’s] separation on April 24, 2018,” according to the statement of facts Judge Nicole Merrill’s ruling. IFA appealed the decision to grant Jamison benefits, and Merrill concluded Jamison was disqualified because he “was discharged from employment due to job-related misconduct.”

In a letter to Gov. Kim Reynolds dated March 21, an IFA employee wrote,

I want to make you and others aware that Dave Jamison has been sexually harassing me and others in the office for years. I am terrified about coming forward, but his behavior is escalating and has to stop. It is not safe for women to be around him.

I literally don’t feel safe.

[Underscoring in the original.]

The writer described more than 25 disturbing incidents of sexual harassment, many of which she said Jamison did quite openly in front of others. The writer also said Jamison created a racist atmosphere at work as well as a sexually threatening one: “Dave tells sexist and racist jokes and expects you to go along with them or else he treats you poorly.”

She concluded by apologizing to the governor: “I know you’re friends with Dave and I hate to put this on your shoulders, but I just can’t take it anymore. I think DAS will just cover for him and I’ll end up without a job. Please help me or tell me who to go to.”

The Iowa Department of Administrative Services (DAS) is the state agency charged with handling employment issues. It appeared the writer lacked confidence in the agency since, according to her letter, senior officials in the IFA were aware of Jamison’s actions and did nothing but offer mild verbal warnings to the director.

During a telephone hearing on the appeal of the unemployment benefits on June 5, then-Reynolds Chief of Staff Jake Ketzner described a March 23 meeting with two IFA employees to discuss Jamison’s behavior. Ketzner found the allegations against Jamison credible. The following day Ketzner met the governor, her Senior Counsel Ryan Koopmans, Department of Management Director Dave Roederer and DAS Director Janet Phipps. Ketzner recommended firing Jamison, which the governor did later that day.

According to the ruling:

Ketzner provided credible testimony that he reasonably believed claimant engaged in behavior that violated the employer’s sexual harassment policy… [Jamison’s] behavior was in violation of specific work rules and against commonly known acceptable standards of work behavior. [Jamison’s] behavior was contrary to the best interests of employer and the safety of its employees and is disqualifying misconduct even without prior warning.

Merrill concluded, “Benefits are denied.”

Normally, when the granting of unemployment benefits is overturned on appeal, the money already paid out must be returned. But because IFA declined to participate in the original determination of benefits, Jamison can keep the $3,185 he has received.

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