Can the law protect employees from being terminated if that employees boss or someone else in your office finds you to be “too attractive” or “irresistible”? According to the Iowa Supreme Court, the answer is No. In fact, the Iowa Supreme Court recently held in Nelson v. James H. Knight DDS, P.C. that a dentist acted legally when he fired an assistant that he found “attractive” on the basis that he and wife viewed the woman as a threat to their marriage.
The Court unanimously held that bosses (at least in Iowa) do not violate any employment discrimination or retaliation laws and can fire an employee whom they find to be an “irresistible attraction” even if the employee has not engaged in any flirtatious behavior or otherwise done anything wrong.
Importantly, the Court made the distinction between what is unfair and what is unlawful, holding that in the case of terminating an employee based upon him or her being “too attractive” may be unfair, but it did not constitute unlawful discrimination. Notably, the Court held that the termination in this case was based upon emotions, not the gender of the employee, and therefore, did not constitute gender discrimination.
This decision raises an interesting question of how the Ohio Supreme Court would see this issue. Would the Court agree with the Iowa Supreme Court and hold that the employer’s decision in firing his “attractive” assistant was based purely on emotions? Or would it follow a different line of reasoning leading to the conclusion that the termination was unlawfully based upon the gender of the assistant? In the end, the Nelson decision likely will not be last that we hear of regarding this issue.
If you even think that your employment rights have been violated or that you might need an employment lawyer, then call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm is dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.
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