Did you hear about the dental assistant who got the pink slip from her long time boss for being too “irresistable”? This story was ridiculous to begin with, but the more I read, the worse it sunk. From ABC News:
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.
I was surprised, too. Sounds like the not-so-good doc was going through some kinda mid-life crisis. But far more surprising and scary are the courts who think being attractive is a perfectly valid reason to get the axe. The story continues:
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.
“Dr. Knight acknowledges he once told Nelson that if she saw his pants bulging, she would know her clothing was too revealing,” the justices wrote.
Six months before Nelson was fired, she and her boss began exchanging text messages about work and personal matters, such as updates about each of their children’s activities, the justices wrote.
The messages were mostly mundane, but Nelson recalled one text she received from her boss asking “how often she experienced an orgasm.”
Nelson did not respond to the text and never indicated that she was uncomfortable with Knight’s question, according to court documents.
Soon after, Knight’s wife, Jeanne, who also works at the practice, found out about the text messaging and ordered her husband to fire Nelson.
The couple consulted with a senior pastor at their church and he agreed that Nelson should be terminated in order to protect their marriage, Cochrane said.
On Jan. 4, 2010, Nelson was summoned to a meeting with Knight while a pastor was present. Knight then read from a prepared statement telling Nelson she was fired.
“Dr. Knight felt like for the best interest of his marriage and the best interest of hers to end their employment relationship,” Cochrane said.
Knight acknowledged in court documents that Nelson was good at her job and she, in turn, said she was generally treated with respect.
“I’m devastated. I really am,” Nelson said.
So the dentist starts sending inappropriate texts to his assistant, and although she doesn’t respond, the wife, who also works there, demands that she be fired. First, it must’ve been quite interesting to be at this office with all this drama going on. Who needs magazines or TV with lust, jealousy and revenge being played out by the staff? Second, um, wasn’t it mighty cocky of dude to just know Nelson would suddenly start reciprocating? She’s married, too. Who says she wants to throw her marriage away? She didn’t. Third, why’d the pastor think she had to get fired? Seriously? You don’t think your parishoner needs some counseling on handling his fleshly desires? On respecting and honoring his wedding vows? How about his wife on how to handle her (understandable) anger at her husband’s sexting? Fourth, why was the pastor there when he fired her? That sounds super embarassing for Nelson. It also doesn’t sound quite legal. Of course, I know nothing of Kentucky law, but I spent a few years working as a Human Resources generalist here in Jersey, and the whole scenario sounds like grounds for valid claims of harassment and a violatile work environment, not to mention violation of privacy.
What do you think?