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Iowa woman fired for being an 'irresistible attraction'

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 24th, 2012
Catholic Online (

Absolutely nothing happened, both parties claim. They didn't stop one Iowa dentist from firing his female assistant for being too attractive. Employee and married mom Melissa Nelson says she wore scrubs and conducted herself in a professional manner at all time - but a panel of judges now back up the dentist who found her an irresistible attraction."

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Nelson had worked for dentist James Knight for 10 years. Knight's wife reportedly demanded her dismissal after finding texts exchanged between her husband and assistant.

A panel of all-male judges viewed Nelson a threat to the Knights' marriage, ruling seven to nothing 7-0 that employers can fire employees they see as an "irresistible attraction" - even if they have not engaged in flirtatious behavior or otherwise done anything wrong.

Melissa Nelson told CNN that she thought the decision was deeply unfair. Nelson, being 21 years younger than Knight, and married with children said that she was "not interested in a relationship.

'I don't think this is fair,' she said from her Iowa home by phone. 'I don't think this is right.'

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, and not gender, Justice Edward Mansfield wrote.

An attorney for Fort Dodge dentist James Knight said the decision, the first of its kind in Iowa, is a victory for family values as Knight fired Nelson in the interest of his marriage - and not because she was a woman.

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

Since Knight fired Nelson, she has worked as a waitress six nights a week.

While her former boss claimed her clothes were so tight he couldn't look at her without being aroused, Nelson says the only outfit she wore to work was standard scrubs worn by many nurses and assistants in dental offices.

Asked if she saw herself as irresistibly attractive, Nelson laughed. "I'm just an ordinary girl," she said. "Just an ordinary mom."

Nelson's attorney, Paige Fiedler, said it was unlikely they would seek an appeal because of the way the case was filed as only interpreting state law.

"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," Fielder said. "If they get out of hand, then the women can be legally fired for it."

Knight and Nelson 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. Knight fired Nelson and gave her one month's severance.

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