RULING REVIEW: ‘Irresistible’ Firing Case

Melissa Nelson

A dental assistant fired for being too “irresistible” to her boss will have her case considered again by the Iowa Supreme Court.

Melissa Nelson was fired not because of her gender, the court originally ruled in December, but because her boss and his wife felt Nelson was a threat to their marriage.

The decision from the all-male high court received national attention.

Nelson was hired in 1999 as a dental assistant for James Knight. She worked at the Fort Dodge business for more than 10 years.

Nelson and Knight, both married with children, also exchanged text messages to each other outside of work. Neither objected but Knight’s wife did. She was also employed at the dental office and in late 2009, demanded her husband fire Nelson.

In early 2010, the dentist did just that.

In the presence of a pastor, Knight told Nelson that she had become a “detriment” to his family and for the sakes of both their families, they should no longer work together. Knight gave Nelson one month’s severance.

Knight said Nelson had done nothing wrong and that “she was the best dental assistant he ever had,” court documents revealed.

In 2011, the Webster County court dismissed the claim for wrongful dismissal before it was presented.

The case went to the Iowa Supreme Court. They ruled in December 2012 that employees could be fired “simply because the boss views the employee as an irresistible attraction.”

In a rare move, the court withdrew its opinion on Monday and will reconsider the case based on the original argument. A new decision could be issued in the case as early as Friday.

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