“How can it be permissible?” That is the first line of Robert Palmer’s hit “Simply Irresistible”, and probably what Melissa Nelson was thinking after an Iowa court ruled that it was okay for her to be fired for her looks.
Nelson was a dental assistant for James Knight in Fort Dodge, Ia. She worked with Knight for 10 years. In 2010, Knight fired Nelson because he considered her “too attractive”. He was worried that he would attempt an affair with the “irresistible” Nelson. In response, Nelson sued Knight for sexual discrimination. According to Radio Iowa, Nelson was arguing that she did nothing to get herself fired, except “exist as a female”.
According to the Des Moines Register, an Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously against Nelson. The court cited prior legal precedent, and said Knight’s actions were legal, as the decision was based on specific emotions tied to a specific relationship, and not based on his attitude toward an entire gender.
The Iowa court decided to review their decision in June. However, the outcome remained the same. According to USA Today, the court released a 15-page concurring opinion that said, “…the fact of the matter is Nelson was terminated because of the activities of her consensual personal relationship with her employer, not because of her gender.” Radio Iowa reported that the chief justice also cited Iowa’s “employment at will” law that allows employers to fire employees for personal reasons.
According to Time.com, Knight’s wife asked for Nelson to be fired after she discovered some of the texts left by Nelson on Mr. Knight’s phone. Nelson said she was never trying to have a “romantic” relationship with her boss. However, some of their text conversations seemed inappropriate. For example, chief justice Mark Caddy told Time that Nelson told Knight she wasn’t having much sex, and Knight replied, “That’s like having a Lamborghini in the garage and not ever driving it.”
Honestly, I don’t blame Mrs. Knight for being suspicious. It is okay for Mr. Knight and Nelson to be friends. Talking about sex, orgasms, and about your “pants bulging” is a little odd. Those topics are probably considered (or should be) off-limits for conversations between a boss and and their employee. There may be more than meets the eye, but for now, it just seems wrong to punish Nelson. If she is telling the truth, and there was nothing going on between the two, then why should Nelson be punished for Mr. Knight’s unfaithful thoughts? Then again, she could have avoided those conversations.