Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dental Assistant Fired For Being 'Irresistible' Is 'Devastated'

By  | ABC News Blogs – Sun, Dec 23, 2012 10:17 AM EST

After working as a dental assistant for ten years, Melissa Nelson was fired for being too "irresistible" and a "threat" to her employer's marriage.

"I think it is completely wrong," Nelson said. "I think it is sending a message that men can do whatever they want in the work force."
On Friday, the all-male Iowa State Supreme Court ruled that James Knight, Nelson's boss, was within his legal rights when he fired her, affirming the decision of a lower court.
"We do think the Iowa Supreme Court got it completely right," said Stuart Cochrane, an attorney for James Knight. "Our position has always been Mrs. Nelson was never terminated because of her gender, she was terminated because of concerns her behavior was not appropriate in the workplace. She's an attractive lady. Dr. Knight found her behavior and dress to be inappropriate."
For Nelson, a 32-year-old married mother of two, the news of her firing and the rationale behind it came as a shock.
"I was very surprised after working so many years side by side I didn't have any idea that that would have crossed his mind," she said.
The two never had a sexual relationship or sought one, according to court documents, however in the final year and a half of Nelson's employment, Knight began to make comments about her clothing being too tight or distracting.
"Dr. Knight acknowledges he once told Nelson that if she saw his pants bulging, she would know her clothing was too revealing," the justices wrote.
Six months before Nelson was fired, she and her boss began exchanging text messages about work and personal matters, such as updates about each of their children's activities, the justices wrote.
The messages were mostly mundane, but Nelson recalled one text she received from her boss asking "how often she experienced an orgasm."
Nelson did not respond to the text and never indicated that she was uncomfortable with Knight's question, according to court documents.
Soon after, Knight's wife, Jeanne, who also works at the practice, found out about the text messaging and ordered her husband to fire Nelson.
The couple consulted with a senior pastor at their church and he agreed that Nelson should be terminated in order to protect their marriage, Cochrane said.
On Jan. 4, 2010, Nelson was summoned to a meeting with Knight while a pastor was present. Knight then read from a prepared statement telling Nelson she was fired.
"Dr. Knight felt like for the best interest of his marriage and the best interest of hers to end their employment relationship," Cochrane said.
Knight acknowledged in court documents that Nelson was good at her job and she, in turn, said she was generally treated with respect.
"I'm devastated. I really am," Nelson said.
When Nelson's husband tried to reason with Knight, the dentist told him he "feared he would have an affair with her down the road if he did not fire her."
Paige Fiedler, Nelson's attorney, said in a statement to ABC News affiliate KCRG that she was "appalled" by the ruling.
"We are appalled by the Court's ruling and its failure to understand the nature of gender bias.," she wrote.
"Although people act for a variety of reasons, it is very common for women to be targeted for discrimination because of their sexual attractiveness or supposed lack of sexual attractiveness. That is discrimination based on sex," Fiedler wrote. "Nearly every woman in Iowa understands this because we have experienced it for ourselves."

Courts OKs Firing Staff for Being Too Sexy

Courtesy of
The Iowa Supreme Court ruled on Friday that employers in the state can legally fire workers they find too attractive.
In a unanimous decision, the court held that a dentist did not violate the state’s civil rights act when he terminated a female dental assistant whom his wife considered a threat to their marriage.
The assistant, Melissa Nelson, who had worked for James Knight for more than 10 years and had never flirted with him, according to the testimony of both parties, sued, saying she would not have been fired if she were a man.
At trial, Knight testified he had complained to Nelson on several occasions that her clothing was too tight, revealing and “distracting.”
But sometime in 2009, he also began exchanging text messages with Nelson. Most of these were work-related and harmless, according to testimony. But others were more suggestive, including one in which Knight asked Nelson how often she had an orgasm. She never answered the text.
In late 2009, Knight’s wife found out about the text exchanges and demanded her husband terminate the dental assistant because “she was a big threat to our marriage.”
In early 2010, he fired her, saying their relationship had become a detriment to his family.
Nelson sued, saying that she had done nothing wrong, that she considered Knight a friend and father figure, and that she would not have been terminated but for her gender.
Knight argued that Nelson was terminated not because of her gender — all the employees of his practice are women — but because of the way their relationship had developed and the threat it posed to his marriage.
The seven justices, all men, said the basic question presented by the case was “whether an employee who has not engaged in flirtatious conduct may be lawfully terminated simply because the boss views the employee as an irresistible attraction.”
The high court ruled that bosses can fire workers they find too attractive and that such actions do not amount to unlawful discrimination.

1 comment:

  1. 10 to 19 years in the industry will merit a worker an average of $39,920 each year while veteran dental assistants with more than 20 years of service get $47,090. The number of employees in a company can influence the average technician salary for this career too. Companies who have less than 10 employees pay their workers an average of $15.29 per hour. Those who have about 50 workers pay an average rate of $16 per hour. The hourly rate of those who work in medium-sized companies, with about 200 laborers, is $16.55.