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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.