Melissa Nelson worked as an assistant to Dentist James Knight for ten years before he sat her down one day and let her go…because he found her too attractive to work with.
And so began the case of the irresistible employee.
Nelson sued the good Dr. for sexual discrimination after he told her husband she had been fired because, despite being a stellar employee, he found her “irresistible” and he felt that she was “a serious threat to our marriage”. The firing reportedly came at the prompting of Knight’s wife about a year and a half after the Dentist had started openly commenting on his assistant’s appearance at work.
According to court documents, “Dr. Knight acknowledges that he once told Nelson that if she saw his pants bulging, she would know her clothing was too revealing.”
Shudder. Gross. The bizarre case recently took a more bizarre turn when the Iowa Supreme Court decided to reopen it (previously having found in favor of Dr. Knight) with no additional evidence, only to quickly re-aquit Dr. Knight. According to court documents, Nelson’s lawyer dissented the verdict, stating “if Dr. Knight would have been liable to Nelson for sexually harassing her, he should not be able to avoid liability for terminating her out of fear that he was going to harass her.”
According to ABC News:
Coming to the same conclusion as it did in December, the all-male court found that bosses can fire employees they see as threats to their marriages, even if the subordinates have not engaged in flirtatious or other inappropriate behavior. The court said such firings do not count as illegal sex discrimination because they are motivated by feelings, not gender.
So…what do you think? Is it kosher to fire an employee because you find them attractive? Even if that person does not reciprocate? I’m inclined to think the Doc should have had to pay for his lewd comments, but I’m curious why Nelson didn’t take action until after she was terminated.
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