Fired for being ‘irresistible’

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Many would like to think themselves ‘irresistible’ – but not if it means getting fired. Yet that’s exactly what happened to one so-called ‘irresistible’ dental nurse in the US.

Melissa Nelson was fired by her employer, Dr James Knight, for being too attractive to him, and, if she kept working for him, would represent a threat to his marriage. The Supreme Court agreed her tight clothing and behaviour could be a distraction, and ruled in Knight’s favour.

While no sexual relationship ever occurred between the pair, in the six months prior to Nelson being fired, she and her boss began exchanging text messages about work and personal matters, including their children's activities.

Nelson had worked for Knight for 10 years, and the court found that because the dentist was motivated by feelings and emotions and not gender, it was not a case of unlawful discrimination. Nelson’s lawyer, Paige Fiedler, argued that the decision failed to recognise discrimination against women in the workforce. “These judges sent a message to Iowa women that they don't think men can be held responsible for their sexual desires and that Iowa women are the ones who have to monitor and control their bosses’ sexual desires,” she told the Huffington Post. “If they get out of hand, then the women can be legally fired for it.”

Dr Knight's lawyer, Stuart Cochrane, said the dentist believed firing Mrs Nelson would result in the best outcome. “While there was really no fault on the part of Mrs Nelson, it was just as clear the decision to terminate her was not related to the fact that she was a woman,” he told the Huffington Post. “The motives behind Dr Knight terminating Mrs Nelson were quite clear: He did so to preserve his marriage. I don't view this as a decision that was either pro-women or opposed to women rights at all. In my view, this was a decision that followed the appropriate case law.”

  • BN on 2013-01-04 1:05:12 PM

    This outcome sickens me to think that we still have courts and judges condoning this type of discrimination against any employee (male or female). Dr Knight should be ordered to pay a huge severance to Mrs Nelson.

  • BB on 2013-01-04 2:13:18 PM

    Ultimately, this individual is responsible for his behaviour... he should be able to control himself as should his dental assistant co-worker. If mutual behaviour was developing that was not appropriate then the simple solution would be to put a stop to those behaviours (put some boundaries in place... no more personal exchanges, no more text messages, etc.) - they had been working together for 10 years. He is a dentist and is supposed to be professional. I also understand the principle of taking a pre-emptive step to remove yourself from a situation in which you feel tempted, however, in this case, he owns the business - in fact, he is the business. So, if he can't control himself then he has to let her go (he can't remove himself from his own business), but, since this is not her fault, she should be heavily compensated for such an action.

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