Pop quiz: Which of the following is not an acceptable reason for termination?
(a) Your repeated, unapproved missed days from work
(b) Your alcoholism is affecting your work performance
(c) You’re way too good looking
(d) You stole money
The answer is not c, but all of the above. On July 12th, the Iowa Supreme Court determined for a second time that James Knight, 53, was not guilty of gender discrimination after firing Melissa Nelson, 32, for being too irresistible.
Nelson, a married mother of two, worked for Knight at his dental office for ten years. In the final months of her employment, Knight claimed Nelson’s clothes were distractingly tight and that his arousal was a threat to his marriage. Nelson, who reportedly saw Knight as a father figure, claimed she wore standard scrubs like the other dental assistants in the office.
Knight’s wife, also an employee at the dental office, discovered text messages on her husband’s phone between he and Nelson. They discussed things such as how her infrequent sex life would be like “having a Lamborghini in the garage and never driving it” and how often she experienced orgasms (she didn’t respond), but mentioned to her in person that “if she saw his pants bulging, she would know her clothing was too revealing.’
Knight’s wife demanded Nelson be terminated and after consulting with their pastor, Knight obliged, offering Nelson one month’s severance pay.
According to The Daily Mail UK, Nelson’s attorney, Paige Fiedler is concerned about how this ruling will affect women in the workplace.
“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,’ Fielder said. ’If they get out of hand, then the women can be legally fired for it.”
In the same article, Knight’s attorney, Stuart Cochrane, is quoted as defending the courts ruling stating “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.”
Since the termination was based on feelings and not gender, the all-male court decided 7-0 that this was not gender discrimination even if Nelson claims this wouldn’t have happened if she were a man. Nelson has since been replaced by a woman, adding to his all-female staff.