January 3, 2013
Dentist Who Fired Attractive Assistant to Prevent Adultery Did Not Discriminate, Court Says
Iowa Supreme Court votes 7-0 to allow employers to fire employees for 'irresistible attraction.'
James Knight, a dentist in Fort Dodge, Iowa, fired dental assistant Melissa Nelson after he and his wife became worried that, in response to Nelson's attractiveness, Knight was "getting too personally attached to her" and "feared he would try to have an affair with her down the road." Nelson filed suit, alleging that Knight had discriminated against her on the basis of her gender and arguing that her situation arose only because of her gender.
However, the all-male state Supreme Court voted 7-0 in Knight's favor, finding that Knight did not violate the Iowa Civil Rights Act, which ensures equal treatment for employees regardless of their gender.
"Even taking Nelson’s view of the facts, Dr. Knight’s unfair decision to terminate Nelson (while paying her a rather ungenerous one month’s severance) does not jeopardize that goal," the decision stated. "This is illustrated by the fact that Dr. Knight hired a female replacement for Nelson."
According to the Associated Press, Knight's attorney called the decision "a victory for family values because Knight fired Melissa Nelson in the interest of saving his marriage, not because she was a woman."
CT recently reported on concerns over purity practices for coed leadership in the modern workplace.
(Editor's note: This blog has been updated to clarify the nature of Knight's concerns regarding working with Nelson.)