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Author Topic: Iowa: Nurse got fired for being too attractive - upheld by state Supreme Court  (Read 1302 times)

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Online gaggedLouiseTopic starter

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Dental nurse fired by her boss for being too sexy for his marriage - Iowa SC says it was perfectly legal

Seriously? Mrs Nelson was too good-looking and (according to her dentist boss) too flirty for him not to think she could become a threat to his marriage, and therefore he was right to fire her. You'd think a dentist parlor would not  be a great place to make any kind of innuendoes, it's sort of useless when the target person is often unable to reply, feeling awkward or half sedated. Oh wait, it was the dentist himself making overtures and initating text message convos with his trusted nurse, but his wife - who also worked at the practice - decides that the nurse has to go.

This sounds like something that might have happened sixty years ago, but today...? Even in Iowa.
« Last Edit: December 22, 2012, 08:00:15 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Callie Del Noire

So, it would be okay for a male nurse to be fired because he MIGHT rape his female employers or such?

I'm sorry this is ridiculous. They might as well fired her because she might kill his wife or such. She worked for YEARS and never did anything. Might as well fire her for maybe becoming a Rastafarian.

Offline despickable

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Hire unattractive people much safer and it's only fair the good looking have all the advantages anyway.
Equal rights for the less attractive about time right?

No different to not hiring males as kindergarten teachers because they might be pedophiles
Obviously a slow news day in Iowa

Online gaggedLouiseTopic starter

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No different to not hiring males as kindergarten teachers because they might be pedophiles
Obviously a slow news day in Iowa

You'd better argue the kindergarten hiring policy thing with those places, but getting fired from a job you've kept for ten years with a good professional record, for the reason that you're looking too hot and might be a sexual hazard is a lot more questionable than somebody not getting hired to a post with lots of applicants. Nobody can demand to get hired to just this or that job but you can demand to be treated fairly on a job you've kept up for years.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2012, 03:30:26 AM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Funguy81

Hire unattractive people much safer and it's only fair the good looking have all the advantages anyway.
Equal rights for the less attractive about time right?

No different to not hiring males as kindergarten teachers because they might be pedophiles
Obviously a slow news day in Iowa

I'm sorry, but I'm not sure if your being jokingly sarcastic or if your serious. I just don't see the point in this statement.

Now unless you know for a fact or have a record that a male is a pedophile, you can't discriminate him from hiring him as a teacher just  because he might. If that's the case, then you can't hire anyone..... ever.

Also this was a personal problem between a wife and husband. If he cant handle himself around his assistant, he could have asked his her to dress more conservitively and not by indicating "if his pants were bulging that was a sign her clothes were too revealing". He could have also set things up to either provide her a new position within his office where he would not deal with her so closely, or if that was not possible a new job else where. Letting her go with only one month severance pay is really fucked up just because him and his wife could not handle the situation.


Offline Hemingway

Isn't this basically giving employers a carte blanche to fire anyone they please, for no reason at all? Workers' rights? Who needs 'em!

If you can use this as a reason to fire someone, then is there even such a thing as a wrongful dismissal?

Offline Torch

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Isn't this basically giving employers a carte blanche to fire anyone they please, for no reason at all?

In most states in the US, that's exactly how it works.

"At-will" employment states that any employee not bound by a collective bargaining agreement (i.e. non-union) can be discharged by an employer for good cause, bad cause or no cause at all. Conversely, the employee is free to quit or cease working at any time for any reason.


Offline Moraline

While I think the firing was completely ridiculous and appallingly unethical I have to side with the employer in this issue.

What was his alternative? This would have created a rift between him and his significant other resulting in him possibly losing his relationship or having to quit his practice.

The law as stated above is meant to protect the employer as well as the employee.

He shouldn't have to give up his job - which would have resulted in the dental assistant losing her job anyways.

The court made the right decision but the firing was still a shitty thing to do.

Offline Callie Del Noire

I'm sorry Moraline, I can't agree. It is hard enough to keep a job without being penalized for things you HAVEN'T done. How can you disprove a negative?  And she did the job for TEN years without seducing him.

Online gaggedLouiseTopic starter

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Uh Moraline, do you really think the danger to his marriage from her looks, and the way she dressed (he referred to how her tight dresses were too inviting and distracting), was a serious one? But okay, if the law says you can fire your employee after a couple years of good service because they don't share your belief that a flying saucer will be coming to transport you up in the sky some day, as long as there is no union or collective deal involved, then he might well have been within his legal rights.

Offline Chris Brady

I'm sorry, but I'm not sure if your being jokingly sarcastic or if your serious. I just don't see the point in this statement.

Now unless you know for a fact or have a record that a male is a pedophile, you can't discriminate him from hiring him as a teacher just  because he might. If that's the case, then you can't hire anyone..... ever.

Also this was a personal problem between a wife and husband. If he cant handle himself around his assistant, he could have asked his her to dress more conservitively and not by indicating "if his pants were bulging that was a sign her clothes were too revealing". He could have also set things up to either provide her a new position within his office where he would not deal with her so closely, or if that was not possible a new job else where. Letting her go with only one month severance pay is really fucked up just because him and his wife could not handle the situation.

I know that a local Children's Hospital won't let male nurses in the below 12 section of the hospital.  RUMOUR has it because of fear of Pedophiles.  It's just accepted for the most part, very few nurses question it.

Offline Iniquitous

First, I’ll point out that his wife worked in the same dental office as her husband and the employee in question. Second, I’ll point out that the dentist had stated to said employee on different occasions that her attire was too ‘revealing’ (as a sub note on this point, the way he told the employee this bit of information would technically fall under sexual harassment). Third, I’ll point out that said employee and the dentist would have conversations about her sex life with her spouse and he would make comments about how not having sex with her was like having a Lamborghini but never driving it. Fourth, I’ll point out that the employee in question and the dentist would text each other.

With all that said, it was the wife who threw a fit first and had the dentist going with her to their minister to discuss whether or not the employee should remain. From where I sit, they were both at fault for the situation.

And with that said… at will states give no security to the employee nor the employer. However, seems to me that this is just opening the door for a whole host of problems. 

Offline Moraline

I think the issue is that it doesn't really matter what she looked like.

The husband and wife agreed that there was a perceived and potential threat to their relationship.

Since he is the business owner in this case. He had a choice, close his practice to avoid this conflict or let the employee go.

He choose to let her go. The courts agreed that she was let go on those grounds and didn't violate any laws.

We shouldn't get hung up on the sensationalist media excerpts proclaiming "too attractive."

Uh Moraline, do you really think the danger to his marriage from her looks, and the way she dressed (he referred to how her tight dresses were too inviting and distracting), was a serious one?
I never said that. I said, he and his SO had a relationship problem and so they had a choice on how they could handle. I think their choice was a shitty one but it was legally justified.

Do you think that if a husband and wife run a business and they are having marital problems because of an employee they should continue to run the business until their marriage is broken up with the business lost as a result of it?

I'm sorry Moraline, I can't agree. It is hard enough to keep a job without being penalized for things you HAVEN'T done. How can you disprove a negative?  And she did the job for TEN years without seducing him.

This isn't about disproving negatives, it's about an employers right to release an employee. He didn't violate any laws. So while it was unethical and shitty, he still had the right to do it.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2012, 11:15:27 AM by Moraline »

Offline Chris Brady

This smacks of the Rape laws, where a woman in revealing clothes is 'asking for it.'  Makes me a bit uncomfortable here.

Offline DarklingAlice

Under at-will employment you can fire someone at any time and don't even has to provide a reason; however that still does not allow an employer to fire an employee based on them belonging to a protected category under federal law. The contention in the case was that she was fired because of her sex. Which would be illegal even in an at-will employment situation.

The really skeezy part of this is than she wasn't fired for anything she may or may not do, but rather because her employer felt he could not stop himself from sexually harassing her. Which is utter bullshit. Not that I would want to work for someone who had self-control problems, it isn't grounds to fire someone and it perpetuates the notion that men can't control themselves. Frankly, were that true he should just register as a sex offender or check himself into a mental hospital.

Online gaggedLouiseTopic starter

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I suppose it's rarer where I live than in the U.S. midwest to have your boss's wife (or some other member of his/her close family) as a day-to-day floor workmate. Most people who landed in that situation and who are holding down a steady job with some responsibilities and a decent wage, not just a brief extra stint, would likely take care to join the union or set some sort of framework for their employment, albeit if they were allowed. Precisely in order to have some backing if there's fallout, backstabbing or favouritism coming out of the boss's family connections.


The boss may have been technically entitled to fire her, but the reasons he gave are absurd. It's like Darkling pointed out., she had not even done anything unseemly or threatening; the initializing of the "hot conversations" and sms rounds seems to have been all on his part, and that basically makes him into someone who has admitted he is one step away from becoming a stalker or sex offender.

If you can fire for this, you can pretty much fire for anything. Suppose the dentist and his family had been fervent believers in that the world would come to an end this week, as of the Maya calendar, and the dentist's dauighter had teased the dentist's son at school a bit about it. The boy came home and whined about it, and then the doc could claim that the nurse had put his family under stress and disrepute, and injured their beliefs and honour by not making sure her daughter respected said beliefs, right?
« Last Edit: December 23, 2012, 12:31:52 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline DarklingAlice

To be clear, an employer is within their right to fire for almost any reason or no reason at all. That's not the issue here though. What is is that your membership on a 'protected class' as defined by civil rights law can not be the reason for your termination. Current protected classes include: race, national origin, religion, age, sex, disability, familial status, and veteran status. The nurse contends that her civil rights have been violated because she would not have been fired were she male, thus sexual discrimination is at play.

Her boss is an asshole regardless, but that's not a legal matter.

Offline Deamonbane

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I think it might be fair to note that his wife pressured him to fire her... As is said in the article that I found on Yahoo!

Quote
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.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2012, 05:34:15 PM by Deamonbane »

Offline Caela

I know that a local Children's Hospital won't let male nurses in the below 12 section of the hospital.  RUMOUR has it because of fear of Pedophiles.  It's just accepted for the most part, very few nurses question it.

A lot of this in hospitals, isn't so much that the hospital management fears pedophiles as it is that patients parents do. It's a huge stress on a unit when parents refuse to let an RN do their job simply because he's male. A lot of them wouldn't though. They wouldn't be comfortable with it and would request a woman and then one of the female RN's has double the work...just easier to hire all women in the first place and avoid the problem. Happens on OB floors too.

Offline Kuje

A lot of this in hospitals, isn't so much that the hospital management fears pedophiles as it is that patients parents do. It's a huge stress on a unit when parents refuse to let an RN do their job simply because he's male. A lot of them wouldn't though. They wouldn't be comfortable with it and would request a woman and then one of the female RN's has double the work...just easier to hire all women in the first place and avoid the problem. Happens on OB floors too.

I dealt with this myself when I was interning. Some of the nurses and other workers at the hospital wouldn't let a male up on the OBY wing without getting permission. It made me feel so odd being told, well, you're male and this is more of a woman wing, so we have to keep asking everyone for permission.

Offline elone

There is often a matter of perception in these cases of male and female nurses. It is unfortunate that people feel that males are naturally inclined to be pedophiles. Maybe ist is a matter of the hospital being overly cautious to protect itself.

A somewhat similar example.

Many male doctors will not examine a female patient without a nurse present, and some female patients demand a female nurse be present.

I am male and for years have had female physicians as my primary care doctors.  Never has there been another nurse or staff present,  including checks for things like testicular cancer and prostate exams. Never even occurred to me to question it.

Offline despickable

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I will respond only by saying the following.

You can sacked for any reason an employee feels like, they don't even have to give a reason. And he could have told her, times are tough and I need to cut back on expenses. He paid her month's pay.

If this had been a male employee he would have no recourse for appeal or as much publicity as this story. Look at the facts. She was sending text messages to and fro from him, both should have stopped those. She should not have even got involved in the exchange. Sorry both need to be responsible. If a male employee had sent those to a female boss he would be up for sexual harassment, or it would be used more against him and sacked he would have no case or sexual discrimination.
Dressing appropirately is also just coutesy. I don't think they allow a Judge to wear board shorts and a singlet to work; there are dress codes for a work plaace, it isn't like this was a nightclub.

It is also a well known fact that the teaching profession is losing males from the industry. The most innocent remark, look or sign of affection and he is looked upon as some deviant. As Elone stated below, just being male is enough to cause issue for some just like a color or race does.
The story also seemed to be slanted. Even the mention of an all male judging panel.

The nurse will have a book deal and a get another job she will do fine. And the dentist keeps his marriage intact.

As I jokingly said. Hire unattractive people, older people, even males, better safe than sorry.

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Unfortunately, despickable is correct about no reason having to be given.  The dentist could simply have called her into the office, said her services were no longer required and let her go.  Now the severance pay, if I understand unemployment laws correctly, may get him out of having to pay for unemployment benefits for her.  The mistake he made honestly was in explaining himself to her.  By giving an explanation she does have grounds to sue for discrimination because he did fire her based on her gender and his attraction to her as a female.  Sadly being an asshole is not illegal and I can understand the court not wanting to expand the meaning of sexual harassment or sex discrimination.

The employee should have called an end to the text and conversation when they started.  There was an obvious sexual overtone to the statements.  I am not saying she is supposed to monitor her boss, but she is conducting herself in a professional work environment.  Were a doctor to make that sort of statement to me there would be problems.  Honestly if she had taken those statements to a lawyer on their own she could have won a lawsuit about sexual harassment and/or discrimination.  She continued the conversations though and so is seen as a willing participant in the eyes of the law.  People have to draw a sharp line between work environment and personal.  There was a lot of familiarity between the two, which some can be expected after ten year of working together.  Still that was a place of business and work.

I do think he is being a douche and I wish the Supreme Court had struck down the previous ruling.  There is of course a gray area here and after much of what the media has done, I am willing to see that there is probably more gray here than black/white.  I do not like the idea that simply being an attractive woman that a male employer feels he can have sex with means grounds for dismissal.  Reality though is a boss can fire someone simply because they do not like ANYTHING about them.  I have seen people fired with the only rationale being “attitude” on their slip.  The dentist hires nothing but women and even replaced her with another woman, so discrimination there would be more against hiring men.   My only hope is that his customers will speak with their wallets and take their business elsewhere if he is truly this much of an asshole to fire a mother and leave her jobless just because he had a crush.

Online gaggedLouiseTopic starter

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Perfectly put, Pumpkin Seeds. When I first saw the story I figured (without checking it in depth)  that there almost had to be some contract of obligations and limiting the reasons he could invoke to fire her. I mean, she had worked for him for many years with a good record. In many countries that would have meant she was almost bound to have some kind of union or legal protection, and if it had just been "I can fire you whenever I want, lady" why would the boss even have bothered to invent such a clearly obnoxious and dumb reason? He could simply have said "You're fired from next week, because I want a new nurse here" and had his back clear - thát's what it looked like. But it's just possible that he might have thought he would come out in a better light to his local peers if he tried to blame her for being a femme fatale and a threat to his honurable marriage.

I hope some of his customers will show their opinion by quitting, and that some of his professional peers will let him know that they don't approve of his style either.

Offline Deamonbane

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This isn't a case of gender discrimination, at least not at first. This is the case of a jealous wife that dislikes the fact that her husband has a female friend at work. However, the judges appeal was their own to make, and while we all disagree with it, I don't think the the guy himself has too much blame for himself for trying to keep his marriage with a possessive wife intact...