By Alden Wicker
NEW YORK (Learnvest) — What if your married boss was coming on to you and texting you inappropriate messages you were trying to ignore? Well obviously, you would get fired.
That’s what happened to a dental assistant in Iowa, who lost her discrimination suit agains her former male boss. In a story that has the Internet in an uproar, the dentist fired her because he felt like she threatened his marriage. The Iowa Supreme Court — all males — unanimously ruled that although the dental assistant did nothing wrong, was an excellent employee and resisted his advances, the dentist was still within his rights to let her go, and only give her one month’s severance for 10 years of work.
Strangely, Melissa Nelson worked for the dentist, James Knight, for nine years before he began to (what we will generously call) flirt with her, according to court proceedings. He complained that her clothes accentuated her body too much (though she claims she only wore scrubs) and told her that “if she saw his pants bulging, she would know her clothing was too revealing.”
When Knight’s wife got wind of the texting between the two, she demanded that Knight fire Nelson. Knight consulted with his pastor who agreed it was the best course of action, so Knight let Nelson go. Nothing actually happened between the dentist and assistant, but Knight told Nelson’s husband (she’s married with children) that it was because he was afraid he would try to start an affair with her.
Nelson, in another twist, chose to sue not for sexual harassment, but for gender discrimination. But the court ruled that it was not gender discrimination, and that it was within Knight’s rights to fire her to preserve his own marriage.