A female dental assistant was fired from her job after her boss claimed she is too attractive and a danger to his marriage, according to court proceedings.
The woman went on to file a lawsuit claiming gender discrimination. The Iowa dentist acted legally in the firing of a longtime assistant, because he and his wife saw her as a threat to their marriage, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday.
The court ruled 7 to 0 that bosses can fire employees they see as irresistible, even if they have not shown a flirtatious behavior or have not done anything wrong.
Such dismissals may be unfair, but not illegal discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of Iowa because they are motivated by feelings and emotions, and not due to gender, Judge Edward Mansfield wrote.
A lawyer for dentist James Knight said the decision, the first of its kind in Iowa, is a victory for family values because Melissa Nelson was fired in the interest of saving his marriage, not because she was a woman.
But Nelson's lawyer said that the all male Iowa Supreme Court, is one of the few in the nation, that did not recognize the discrimination of women at the workplace.
"These judges sent a message to Iowa women that they think men cannot be held accountable for their sexual desires and that women in Iowa are those that monitor and control their sexual desires," attorney Paige Fiedler said. "If they get out of control, then women can legally be fired for this."
Nelson, 32, worked 10 years for Knight, and was considered a stellar worker. But in the last months of her employment, Knight complained that her tight clothes are a distraction.
The Knights talked with their pastor, who agreed that Nelson should be fired. Knight fired Nelson, but continued to pay her for an additional four weeks.