Dr. James Knight had a right to fire his dental assistant, Melissa Nelson, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled, after his wife felt threatened by Nelson because Knight had told his wife he was attracted to his assistant.
Nelson, 33, had worked for Knight for a decade.
“Dr. Knight said I couldn’t work in the office because he was becoming attracted to me and not able to focus on his family and his family life,” Nelson told ABC News’ Paula Faris in an interview for “20/20.”
Knight, 53, offered Nelson a month’s severance pay. She accepted it, but also filed a gender discrimination suit against Knight in August 2012.
The judge dismissed the case before trial. In December 2012, Nelson appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court. The seven justices – all men – ruled that although the one month’s severance was “ungenerous,” terminating an employee “simply because the boss views the employee as an irresistible attraction” was OK, especially because Knight’s wife felt their marriage was threatened.
Nelson filed yet another appeal, and the court, in a rare occurrence, agreed to reconsider its ruling.
On July 12, it came back with the same ruling and clarified that you can be fired “simply because the boss’s spouse views the relationship between the boss and the employee as a threat to her marriage.”
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