An Iowa dentist acted legally in firing aÂ long-time assistant because he – and his wife – viewed the married mother as aÂ threat to their marriage, the all-male Iowa Supreme Court ruledÂ Friday.
The court ruled 7-0 bosses can sack employeesÂ they see as an ‘irresistible attraction,’ even if they have not engaged inÂ flirtatious behavior or otherwise done anything wrong.
Appearing on CNN Friday night, assistantÂ Melissa Nelson said the decision was deeply unfair.
‘I don’t think this is fair,’ she said fromÂ her Iowa home by phone. ‘I don’t think this is right.’
Such firings may be unfair, but theyÂ are notÂ unlawful discrimination under the Iowa Civil Rights Act becauseÂ they areÂ motivated by feelings and emotions, and not gender, JusticeÂ Edward MansfieldÂ wrote.
An attorney for Fort Dodge dentist JamesÂ Knight said the decision, the first of its kind in Iowa, is a victory for familyÂ values because Knight fired Nelson in the interest of saving his marriage, notÂ because she was a woman.
But Nelson’s attorney said Iowa’s all-maleÂ high court, one of only a handful in the nation, failed to recognize theÂ discrimination women see routinely in the workplace.
Nelson insisted she was never interested inÂ Knight romantically, regardless of his own feelings.
‘Absolutely not,’ she said. ‘I’m happilyÂ married.’
Since Knight fired her she has worked as aÂ waitress six nights a week.
While her former boss claimed her clothesÂ were tight, Nelson said theÂ only outfit she wore to work was standard scrubs worn by many nurses andÂ assistants in dental offices.
Asked if she saw herself as irresistiblyÂ attractive, Nelson laughed at the question.
‘I’m just an ordinary girl,’ she said. ‘JustÂ an ordinary mom.’
Also appearing via call-in, her attorney, Paige Fiedler, said it was unlikely theyÂ would seek an appeal because of the way the case was filed as only interpretingÂ state law.
‘These judges sent a message to Iowa womenÂ that they don’t think men can be held responsible for their sexual desires andÂ that Iowa women are the ones who have to monitor and control their bosses’Â sexual desires,’ Fielder said.Â ‘If they get out of hand, then the womenÂ can be legally fired for it.’
Knight and Nelson – both married withÂ children – started exchanging text messages, mostly about personal matters, suchÂ as their families. Knight’s wife, who also worked in the dental office, foundÂ out about the messages and demanded Nelson be fired. The Knights consulted withÂ their pastor, who agreed that terminating Nelson was appropriate.
Knight fired Nelson and gave her one month’sÂ severance. He later told Nelson’s husband he worried he was getting tooÂ personally attached and feared he would eventually try to start an affair withÂ her.
Source: The Daily Mail