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Labor & Employment

Iowa court again OKs firing of woman whose boss found her too irresistible

Posted Jul 12, 2013 1:40 PM CDT
By Terry Carter

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After a national outcry over its decision upholding the firing of a dental assistant who was fired because her boss found her too attractive, the Iowa Supreme Court agreed last month to reconsider. Today the court opined again, and again found that it was legal for her boss to terminate her because he feared he might try to have an affair with her, the Associated Press reports.

The all-male, seven-member court ruled that Melissa Nelson was fired not because of her status as a woman, but because her boss, Dr. James Knight, was concerned that his relationship with his wife was endangered by his infatuation with his much younger dental assistant. Nelson, 33, had worked for him for more than 10 years before being fired in 2010.

The court’s opinion (PDF) reprised considerable detail from a summary judgment motion describing the relationship between the dentist and dental assistant. While the two never became amorous, Dr. Knight made numerous comments about his sexual attraction to her, such as telling her that if she saw his pants bulging it meant her clothing was too revealing, and Nelson once commented to him that she and her husband had sex infrequently.

Nelson said Dr. Knight replied that seemed like “having a Lamborghini in the garage and never driving it.”

Nelson did not claim there was sexual harassment or a hostile workplace. Her argument was that he was attracted to her because she was a woman and thus her status as a woman was the reason – a discriminatory one -- for her firing.

Three of the judges joined in a special concurrence, noting that Nelson knew her relationship with the boss was a more significant one than enjoyed by the other employees, all of them women. His wife also worked there and believed Nelson was flirtatious with her husband.

The court ruled that it was the consensual relationship (not a sexual one, but a special one among others) not Nelson’s womanhood, that resulted in the firing.

Previous posts:

ABAJournal.com: "Iowa supremes to issue new ruling in case of woman fired for being too irresistible"

ABAJournal.com: "Columnists Decry Iowa Ruling Finding No Sex Bias in Woman Fired for Being Too Irresistible"

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