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Iowa court rules boss can fire employee he considers an ?irresistible attraction?

Published December 22, 2012

Associated Press

A dentist acted legally when he fired an assistant that he found attractive simply because he and his wife viewed the woman as a threat to their marriage, the all-male Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The court ruled 7-0 that bosses can fire employees they see as an "irresistible attraction," even if the employees have not engaged in flirtatious behavior or otherwise done anything wrong. 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, 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 Melissa Nelson in the interest of saving his marriage, not because she was a woman.

'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'

- Paige Fiedler, attorney

But Nelson's attorney said Iowa's all-male high court, one of only a handful in the nation, failed to recognize the discrimination that women see routinely 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," said attorney Paige Fiedler. "If they get out of hand, then the women can be legally fired for it."

Nelson, 32, worked for Knight for 10 years, and he considered her a stellar worker. But in the final months of her employment, he complained that her tight clothing was distracting, once telling her that if his pants were bulging that was a sign her clothes were too revealing, according to the opinion.

He also once allegedly remarked about her infrequent sex life by saying, "that's like having a Lamborghini in the garage and never driving 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 that he worried he was getting too personally attached and feared he would eventually try to start an affair with her.

Nelson was stunned because she viewed the 53-year-old Knight as a father figure and had never been interested in starting a relationship, Fiedler said.

Nelson filed a lawsuit alleging gender discrimination, arguing she would not have been terminated if she was male. She did not allege sexual harassment because Knight's conduct may not have risen to that level and didn't particularly offend her, Fiedler said.

Knight argued Nelson was fired not because of her gender, but because her continued employment threatened his marriage. A district judge agreed, dismissing the case before trial, and the high court upheld that ruling.

Mansfield noted that Knight had an all-female workforce and Nelson was replaced by a woman.

He said the decision was in line with state and federal court rulings that found workers can be fired for relationships that cause jealousy and tension within a business owner's family. One such case from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a business owner's firing of a valued employee who was seen by his wife as a threat to their marriage. In that case, the fired employee had engaged in flirtatious conduct.

Mansfield said allowing Nelson's lawsuit would stretch the definition of discrimination to allow anyone fired over a relationship to file a claim arguing they would not have been fired but for their gender.

Knight's attorney, Stuart Cochrane, said the court got it right. The decision clarified that bosses can make decisions showing favoritism to a family member without committing discrimination; in this case, by allowing Knight to honor his wife's wishes to fire Nelson, he said.

Knight is a very religious and moral individual, and he sincerely believed that firing Nelson would be best for all parties, he said.

"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," he said. "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."

Read more: http://www.foxnews.c...s#ixzz2FnJw5sBW

Ok I think the owner is wrong is firing his worker. He failed in establishing dress codes and enforcing them. He's the one with the problem. I hope this is taken to a Federal court for review and the worker compensated for her service appropriately. Not reinstate her position but rather give you due compensation of 100,000 dollars at least. Make it clear that this behavior is not acceptable. I find a number of my coworkers attractive. What do I do? I treat them as my sisters, daughters as appropriate. It's my fault for being attracted to them not theirs. She wasn't trying to bone him, he was texting her for his personal satisfaction. She was just venting. Or so she claims...lol

Pics would help in this though so we could properly determine her degree of offense...;)

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I don't see anything illegal about terminating her. You CAN discriminate based on appearance, attraction, etc. No law covers that.

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She was working for 10 years. She did nothing wrong. He's the one with the problem not her. You miss the point in that.

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ROFL

Bravo!

Motivated by feeling and emotion, not gender. Such BS.

Lovely central USA.

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I don't see anything illegal about terminating her. You CAN discriminate based on appearance, attraction, etc. No law covers that.

You might be able to discriminate of appearance in so far as you wouldn't want someone covered in tattoos and piercing working in a bank or a fancy resturant, but to fire someone because you find them attractive is absurd. If your marriage is in so much trouble you're thinking about screwing around, that is on you. You want to save your marriage? Go to a counsellor, talk to your spouse or even consider if ti is really possible to save it. Don't take it out on your employees.

Note: I'd have the same opinion regardless of the gender of the employer or employee, so don't start that nonsense.

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She was working for 10 years. She did nothing wrong. He's the one with the problem not her. You miss the point in that.

Never said what was done was fair....there's just nothing illegal about it. Almost every state in the US is a "work at will" state. Unless specifically noted as an illegal act of discrimination, you can be terminated for ANY reason they come up with.

You might be able to discriminate of appearance in so far as you wouldn't want someone covered in tattoos and piercing working in a bank or a fancy resturant, but to fire someone because you find them attractive is absurd. If your marriage is in so much trouble you're thinking about screwing around, that is on you. You want to save your marriage? Go to a counsellor, talk to your spouse or even consider if ti is really possible to save it. Don't take it out on your employees.

Note: I'd have the same opinion regardless of the gender of the employer or employee, so don't start that nonsense.

I totally agree, what happened to her was ****ed up. But, she has no legal action as far as wrongful termination....by the law, the company can terminate her.

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Can you fire people because they're ugly too?

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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, not gender, Justice Edward Mansfield wrote.

Isn't sexism, racism, homophobia, prejudice in general, motivated by "feelings and emotions"?

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?su?s ou s???? s??? ?no? u??? ??????s ??? ???? ?sn???q ?uo??os ???? s? ??s ll?? ???? ?u??? ?x?u ??????

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my dad used to repair typesetters in the 80s and a couple places where he was sent to fix them the office only hired ugly people to avoid sexual harrassment and romances in the office. This practice has existed for a while.

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my dad used to repair typesetters in the 80s and a couple places where he was sent to fix them the office only hired ugly people to avoid sexual harrassment and romances in the office. This practice has existed for a while.

I understand your point... but the woman worked for him for over 10 years before this... I can see it if he didn't hire her originally.

Truth be told the Wife probably saw the way the two of them were chummy and felt threatened forcing him to fire her.

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pics?

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seta-san, please show firey pics of the ugly people...:)

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I don't find her attractive at all.

source:

http://mugshots.com/...on.3492111.html

Dude Wrong Melissa -- That one is from Wisconsin not Iowa

This is supposedly the woman -- (not yet confirmed) (The image supposedly originates from a dating site where the occupation is claimed to be dental field and it matches Nelson, Melissa , and she is 32 living in Iowa)

makuva-20_600.jpg

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Shes not that good looking, I was expecting some knock me dead stunner

http://gawker.com/melissa-nelson/

then you must have missed the part where it said Iowa

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then you must have missed the part where it said Iowa

Did you read the article ? It says Iowa

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Dude Wrong Melissa -- That one is from Wisconsin not Iowa

This is supposedly the woman -- (not yet confirmed) (The image supposedly originates from a dating site where the occupation is claimed to be dental field and it matches Nelson, Melissa , and she is 32 living in Iowa)

makuva-20_600.jpg

Nice teeth.

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Nice teeth.

I bet its shopped..

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I don't see anything illegal about terminating her. You CAN discriminate based on appearance, attraction, etc. No law covers that.

i would not fire a hotty.... maybe an ugmo ...

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Shes not that good looking, I was expecting some knock me dead stunner

http://gawker.com/melissa-nelson/

Seems fine enough to me. I wouldn't refuse her.

I think this is a bad decision, though. It's still discrimination no matter how to cut it.

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This is so messed up.. what a **** boss and Iowa is ****ing stupid.

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Seems fine enough to me. I wouldn't refuse her.

I think this is a bad decision, though. It's still discrimination no matter how to cut it.

Well, I wouldn't kick her out of bed for farting.... but I wouldn't feel the need to sack her for being amazing either :p

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Well, I wouldn't kick her out of bed for farting.... but I wouldn't feel the need to sack her for being amazing either :p

Same here. Either one of them. :D

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