US judge says it's okay to sack dentist for being 'irresistibly attractive'

Last Updated: Mon, Dec 24, 2012 12:29 hrs

A Iowa State Supreme Court in the US has ruled that a boss can sack a worker for being too attractive.

The all-male Court backed a dentist when he fired a 32-year-old assistant that he found "irresistibly attractive" simply because he and his wife viewed the woman as a threat to their marriage, the Herald Sun reported.

But Melissa Nelson, the woman at the centre of a discrimination row, feels that it's not fair on her part.

Speaking on CNN, Nelson said that she has worked hard and it's not right.

The court ruled 7-0 that bosses can fire employees they see as an "irresistible attraction," even if the employees have not engaged in flirtatious behavior or otherwise done anything wrong.

Dentist James Knight, 53, admitted Nelson was a great worker, but he complained her tight clothing was too much of a distraction.

But Nelson disputed that she had dressed provocatively saying that she wore a long-sleeve or short-sleeve T-shirt and scrubs.

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.

But Nelson's attorney said Iowa's all-male high court, one of only a handful in the nation, failed to recognize the discrimination that women see routinely in the workplace.

Nelson had worked for Knight for 10 years, and he considered her a stellar worker.

Knight and 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.

The Knights consulted with their pastor, who agreed that terminating Nelson was appropriate.

Nelson filed a lawsuit alleging gender discrimination, arguing she would not have been terminated if she was male.

But Knight argued she was fired not because of her gender, but because her continued employment threatened his marriage.

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