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December 22, 2012

If you're 'irrestible' and female in Iowa, be sure to fug yourself up in the workplace! [laceyunderalls]

So apparently 'irresistible attraction' is now a recognizable defense to gender discrimination in Iowa.

In a 7-0 ruling, the Iowa Supreme Court this week held that an employer can legally terminate an employee seen to be a threat to the employer's marriage. The Court ruled that while it may be seen as unfair it doesn't constitute unlawful discrimination under the Iowa Civil Rights Act because the firing was based on 'emotions'; not gender.

Basically this guy got wood so he shitcanned the female employee. "At-Will" apparently now means 'I-have-no-check-on-my-free-own-will-so-adios'.

This entire opinion seems to be a hotmess and I don't really see any good people in this fiasco. The employer, here a dentist James Knight, fired the dental assistant Melissa Nelson after ten years of employment when she started wearing 'tight clothing'. He said "if his pants were buldging, that was a sign her clothes were too revealing". Oh employment law...

So the morons are off to Bing Melissa Nelson. For anyone left reading, these two people started caring on via text messaging. Knight's wife found out and rightly, wasn't too keen on that phone-time fun. Nelson was 'shocked' when she got her pink slip as she saw Nelson as a 'father figure' and never considered Knight to be anything but a friend.

Apparently they were discussing their personal lives. I'm not sure what kind of woman carries on with a married man (when she herself was married as well) about her sex life (or lack thereof) if she considers him a "father figure'. Ew. Creepy. And more ew.

For what it's worth, this opinion is line with other circuits that have held a boss is well within its rights to fire for relationships that cause jealously, so while it's a case of first impression in Iowa, there is precedent from other circuits.

While this may (or may) seem absurd depending on your take of an employee's 'at-will' employment status, the Court does have a point that Nelson's claim could be a slippery slope - anyone could claim they were wrongfully discharged due to a strained relationship and allege this under the auspices of gender discrimination.

What I do find absurd though is the claim by Knight's attorney -- "While there was really no fault on the part of Mrs. Nelson, it was just as clear the decision to terminate her was not related to the fact that she was a woman."

Um no. But for her gender, she'd still have a job. I agree with the court's rational regarding the unintended consequences, ie, relationships-gone-bad-in-the-workplace-being-used-as-a-guise-to-a-gender-discrimination-claim, but how an attorney can argue, and the court can agree that being female here wasn't the pretext for the firing is beyond me.

The court also said "The civil rights laws seek to insure that employees are treated the same regardless of their sex". It then goes on to say that because Knight hired a woman to fill Nelson's vacancy, the goal of the 'civil rights' law was not 'jeopardized'. So I'm understanding their interpretation, the state's civil rights act isn't violated against Party A as long as Party B (of the same gender) gets the benefit of Party A's job. That's how I'm reading this wonky decision.

You can read the full opinion here (PDF).

Flame away, morons!

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posted by Open Blogger at 04:54 PM

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