Apparently 32-year-old Melissa Nelson is way too attractive to be a dental assistant in the Fox Dodge practice of 53-year-old D.D.S. James Knight - her sexy, good looks are what ultimately got her fired. And in a judgment made by an Iowa Supreme Court on Friday (Dec. 21), Knight's decision to fire Nelson for being too "irresistibly attractive" and therefore a "threat to his marriage" was totally legal. That's right, firing someone for being too attractive is not considered gender discrimination or harassment in the state of Iowa (even though Nelson never directly made any improper or sexual advances toward her older boss).
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According to recent reports, Nelson had been a loyal, dedicated assistant in Knight's dental practice for ten years. She was unexpectedly dismissed from her position because as Knight and his wife puts it, she was a potential threat to the health of their marriage. Nelson was given a month's severance, and she quickly filed a lawsuit in Iowa court for gender discrimination.
Although allegations of sexual harassment weren't mentioned in the lawsuit, reports confirm that Nelson and Knight (both married with children) would exchange casual text messages from time-to-time - Nelson ultimately viewed Knight as somewhat of a father figure. Knight apparently thought differently - he allegedly once complained that his assistant's tight clothing ensembles were especially distracting. He also supposedly remarked about Nelson's infrequent sex life by once stating, "That's like having a Lamborghini in the garage and never driving it."
Nelson insists she was blindsided by the firing - apparently Knight's wife (who also works at the practice) made the ultimate resolution to terminate Nelson after she discovered the friendly text messages exchanged between assistant and boss.
Knight agreed with his wife's decision - he supposedly confided to Nelson's husband that he feared he was getting too personally attached to his young and attractive assistant, and therefore worried he would eventually try to start an affair with her.
In the gender discrimination lawsuit filed by Nelson, she claims that she would not have been terminated form her position if she was a male.
But it turns out Knight's decision to fire Nelson because her "attractiveness threatened his marriage" was totally legal. An Iowa court found that bosses can indeed dismiss employees that they see as a dangerous "irresistible attraction" (even if the employees never engaged in flirtatious or inappropriate behavior).
The Iowa court (led by Justice Edward Mansfield) took into consideration that Knight had an all-female staff, and the fact that Nelson had been replaced by a female. According to the Iowa Civil Rights Act, Knight's actions were motivated by feelings and emotions and not gender - therefore they cannot be considered unlawful discrimination.
Nelson and her attorney Paige Fielder strongly disagree with the judgment handed down by the all-male high court, insisting that many women cope with discrimination in the work place regardless of attractiveness everyday - "These judges sent a message to Iowa women that they don't think men can be held responsible for their sexual desires and that Iowa women are the ones who have to monitor and control their bosses' sexual desires," Fiedler said. "'If they get out of hand, then the women can be legally fired for it."
But according to Knight's attorney, Stuart Cochrane:
"While there was really no fault on the part of Mrs. Nelson, it was just as clear the decision to terminate her was not related to the fact that she was a woman... The motives behind Dr. Knight terminating Mrs. Nelson were quite clear: He did so to preserve his marriage... I don't view this as a decision that was either pro-women or opposed to women rights at all. In my view, this was a decision that followed the appropriate case law."
So what do Mstarz readers think - do you agree with the Iowa court's decision to uphold Nelson's firing because she's considered "too attractive?"