An Iowa dentist acted legally in firing a long-time assistant because he – and his wife – viewed the married mother as a threat to their marriage, the all-male Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday.
The court ruled 7-0 bosses can sack employees they see as an ‘irresistible attraction,’ even if they have not engaged in flirtatious behavior or otherwise done anything wrong.
Appearing on CNN Friday night, assistant Melissa Nelson said the decision was deeply unfair.
‘I don’t think this is fair,’ she said from her Iowa home by phone. ‘I don’t think this is right.’
Such firings may be unfair, but they are not unlawful discrimination under the Iowa Civil Rights Act because they are motivated by feelings and emotions, and not gender, Justice Edward Mansfield wrote.
An attorney for Fort Dodge dentist James Knight said the decision, the first of its kind in Iowa, is a victory for family values because Knight fired Nelson in the interest of saving his marriage, not because she was a woman.
But Nelson’s attorney said Iowa’s all-male high court, one of only a handful in the nation, failed to recognize the discrimination women see routinely in the workplace.
Nelson insisted she was never interested in Knight romantically, regardless of his own feelings.
‘Absolutely not,’ she said. ‘I’m happily married.’
Since Knight fired her she has worked as a waitress six nights a week.
While her former boss claimed her clothes were tight, Nelson said the only outfit she wore to work was standard scrubs worn by many nurses and assistants in dental offices.
Asked if she saw herself as irresistibly attractive, Nelson laughed at the question.
‘I’m just an ordinary girl,’ she said. ‘Just an ordinary mom.’
Also appearing via call-in, her attorney, Paige Fiedler, said it was unlikely they would seek an appeal because of the way the case was filed as only interpreting state law.
‘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.’
Knight and Nelson — both married with children — started exchanging text messages, mostly about personal matters, such as their families. Knight’s wife, who also worked in the dental office, found out about the messages and demanded Nelson be fired. The Knights consulted with their pastor, who agreed that terminating Nelson was appropriate.
Knight fired Nelson and gave her one month’s severance. He later told Nelson’s husband he worried he was getting too personally attached and feared he would eventually try to start an affair with her.
Source: The Daily Mail