A dentist acted legally when he sacked his attractive assistant because he and his wife thought the woman was a threat to their marriage, the all-male Iowa State Supreme Court ruled.The court ruled unanimously that bosses can sack employees they see as an “irresistible attraction”, even if the employees have not engaged in flirtatious behaviour 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 dentist James Knight, from Fort Dodge, said the decision, the first of its kind in Iowa, is a victory for family values because Dr Knight, 53, fired Melissa Nelson, 32, who worked for him for 10 years, in the interest of saving his marriage, not because she was a woman.
In the final months of her employment, he complained her tight clothing was distracting.
Dr Knight and Miss 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.
Miss Nelson’s attorney said Iowa’s all-male high court, one of only a handful in the nation, failed to recognise the discrimination that women see routinely in the workplace.
Justice Mansfield 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.
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