Dental Assistant Fired for Being 'Irresistibly Attractive' & Court Says It's OK

Say What!? 61

Melissa NelsonLet's see, you can't be fired for your race, or your gender, or your age, but doggonit, if you make your boss all hot and bothered, then you can be axed, no problem. Unbelievable, but sadly true, as shown by the recent case of dental assistant Melissa Nelson, 32, who was fired by her boss Dr. James Knight, 53, for being "irresistibly attractive." Seriously.

Even crazier -- the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that it was okay because she was a threat to Knight's marriage -- not because of her behavior but because of her looks. Oh, and by the way, the court was made up of seven men. 

Outrageous, right? The details of the case are even more so.

When I first read the headlines I honestly expected there to be more to this story. Maybe something like she was making patients uncomfortable, or she was acting inappropriately, or something that would make sense. Because I do believe employers need to be able to make decisions regarding their employees that are best for their business. But honestly the reports just sound like she was a nice looking woman trying to do her job, and the dentist simply couldn't control his horndog ways. Legal or not (the court says she wasn't fired for her gender because it was based on Knight's "feelings"), it seems all kinds of wrong.

According to CNN, Nelson had been working for him for more than 10 years and was an outstanding employee. While he says that her clothing was tight, she claims she wore scrubs. He once reportedly told her that "if she saw his pants bulging, she would know her clothing was too revealing." Ewww, and perhaps a sexual harassment suit would have been more effective?

Both are married with children, and apparently sent text messages back and forth about non-work matters, but nothing scandalous. Knight's wife reportedly got wind of them though and didn't like them one bit. Shortly after that Nelson, who says she saw Knight as a father figure, was fired and given just one month's severance pay. He says she threatened his marriage, and was afraid it could lead to an affair. So never mind the fact that she was a good employee for a decade, or that he could just try to muster up a little self control, he just canned her.

Nelson's attorney, Page Fiedler, told the Associated Press:

These judges sent a message to Iowa women that they don’t think men can be held responsible for their sexual desires. If (the bosses) get out of hand, then the women can be legally fired for it.

Can you imagine if someone was fired for being too ugly? If the dentist had said, "sorry, looking at you all day repulses me"? There would be all sorts of outrage. But being too pretty is apparently your own problem. I truly can't believe in this day and age this happened, but it did. Beware, pretty ladies, I guess.


Do you think employers should be able to fire people because they're too attractive?


Image via CNN

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cmjaz cmjaz

He should have just fired her if he wanted her gone. I don't know why he told her the reason. But its not her fault. The sexual harrassment he gave her is something she should sue him for.

nonmember avatar Kimberly

This goes way beyond this pig. The Iowa Supreme Court says it's okay to just fire someone based on the thoughts of somebody else. Or what they say are their thoughts. This sets a dangerous precedent. I'm sure this firing had nothing to do with him having to pay her salary or insurance. I wonder how long it will be before we see people close to retirement getting awfully sexy all of a sudden.

It's not just degrading and discriminating to women, it is also infantilizing to men. "Oh, it's okay that you're a sexist pig, you can't help it -- you're just a man". I just wonder how long it will be before this ruling is applied elsewhere. "The Iowa Supreme Court says you weren't raped, he just found you 'irresistibly attractive'."

jalaz77 jalaz77

If it isn't her it will be someone else. Maybe he should hire all males. After 10yrs she is a problem??? They are both to blame for this problem, I think things got out of hand and they won't ever say.

Flori... Floridamom96

So the court couldn't possibly come to a fair and honest decision becaus they are all men? Sexist much?

redK8... redK8blueSt8

Normally I side with the employer on firings but this really is unjust.

nonmember avatar kaerae

Score one for fat, ugly hausfraus everywhere! This is ridiculous.

nonmember avatar kaerae

@Floridamom - They could have, but they didn't.

nonmember avatar a.non

"Irresistibly good looking" ja:D not at all

Momma... MommaMaddie486

What should he have done? I mean women have to be attractive to work at certain places. Lots of places judge a woman's beauty, so I don't see that as an issue. If it was distracting him at work he has to look out for his patients. I'm not saying he was right, but if he really couldn't control his desires, what should he have done?

Starg... Stargazer101

Sounds like she should appeal.

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