What Year Is It?
Apparently, they do things a little differently in Iowa.
The Iowa Supreme Court ruled in favor of a dentist who fired his female assistant for being too "attractive." The votes were unanimous in an all-male court ruling. Her boss had the right to fire her because she was a "threat" to his marriage. The court explained that this does not count as illegal sex discrimination because the firing was motivated by feelings (the dentist's attraction to his assistant), not gender.
Dr. James Knight fired his dental assistant, Melissa Nelson, back in 2010. Having worked as a dental assistant for 10 years, Nelson wasn't the only woman on Knight's staff. As a matter of fact, his whole staff included just women.
The dentist allegedly once told Nelson that if his pants were bulging then it was a sign that her clothes were too tight.
Why did Nelson get fired? Because she wore outfits that the doctor deemed too tight and he was in fear that he would cheat on his wife. In fact, in court filings, the doctor called Nelson "irresistible."
Paige Fielder, Nelson's attorney, asked the court to reconsider the initial decision made in December of last year. The court ruled in favor of Knight then, but withdrew the opinion after the case became a national controversy. Fielder calls the new decision a "blow for gender and racial equity in the workplace."
The all-male court ruled that bosses can fire employees they see as an 'irresistible attraction,' even if those employees have not engaged in flirtatious behavior.
Knight's wife, Jeanne, who also worked at her husband's clinic, discovered text messages between Knight and Nelson and demanded that Nelson be fired. Jeanne testified that she found it strange that Nelson would hang around the office after work instead of wanting to get home to her children and husband after a long day away from them.
The only outfit Nelson claims to have worn to work are the standard scrubs that many nurses and dental assistants wear. The dentist allegedly once told Nelson that if his pants were bulging then it was a sign that her clothes were too tight.
Nelson is married with two children and maintains that she was never interested in her boss romantically, regardless of his own feelings towards her.
"The issue before us is not whether a jury could find that Dr. Knight treated Nelson badly," the ruling reads. "We are asked to decide only if a genuine fact issue exists as to whether Dr. Knight engaged in unlawful gender discrimination when he fired Nelson at the request of his wife. For the reasons previously discussed, we believe this conduct did not amount to unlawful discrimination, and therefore we affirm the judgment of the district court."
Nelson has been working as a waitress since Knight fired her.