Target: Iowa Supreme Court
Goal: Overturn decision to make it legal to fire employees for being too attractive
Melissa Nelson was fired from her job for being a threat to her boss’ marriage despite the fact that she was not interested in an affair. Nelson worked as an assistant for 10 years at Dr. James Knight’s dental practice. Knight believed it would be too difficult not to start an affair with Nelson if she remained his employee. Nelson says she viewed Knight as more of a father-figure, 21 years her senior. Nelson is also a happily married mother and was never interested in a relationship with Knight.
The two would occasionally exchange text messages, mainly about personal issues such as family. But, when Knight’s wife found out about this exchange she demanded her husband fire Nelson. In the months leading up to her termination, Knight often complained that her clothing was too tight and served as a distraction. He even once told her that if his pants were bulging that was an indication her clothes were too revealing. Nelson said she wore scrubs to work, same as nurses wear or other employees in any other dental practice.
Knight and his wife viewed Nelson as a threat to their marriage and in a unanimous decision the all-male Iowa Supreme Court agreed. They ruled that bosses are allowed to fire any employee they view as irresistibly attractive even if they have not engaged in flirtatious behavior or otherwise done anything wrong. This was considered a victory for Knight because he fired Nelson in the interest of saving his marriage, not because she is a woman. However, it is impossible to separate the two.
Knight fired Nelson, giving her one month’s severance. She is now working as a server six nights a week. Knight also took it upon himself to tell Nelson’s husband that he worried he was getting too personally attached and feared he would eventually try to start an affair with her. Sign the petition to demand the Iowa Supreme Court overturn their decision to legalize discrimination based on looks. The precedent set from this decision is a step backwards for women’s rights, especially since the all-male Supreme Court can not possibly understand the discrimination women see in the workplace everyday.
Dear Iowa Supreme Court,
It was ruled legal for a man to fire his employee for being too attractive. The woman, Melissa Nelson, was not at all interested in starting an affair and has a family of her own. Yet, her boss Dr. James Knight felt she was a threat to his marriage. He did not believe he could resist starting an affair with her, risking his own marriage.
He also made comments to Nelson on a number of occasions that border on sexual harassment. In the last months of her employment he would tell Nelson that her clothes were too tight or revealing, despite the fact that she was wearing scrubs.
Your decision to legalize this firing should be overturned. Although this discrimination is not unlawful under the Iowa Civil Rights Act because it is motivated by feelings and emotions and not gender, the two go hand-in-hand. Because your court is made up wholly of males, it is impossible to fairly judge a case like this. You will never fully be able to understand the discrimination women are forced to deal with in the workplace everyday. This one decision could undo years of progress women have made. Please overturn your decision to allow bosses to fire employees because they are too attractive.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Jason Mrachina via Fotopedia