Yesterday the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in favor of James Knight, a dentist who fired Melissa Nelson, his dental assistant, because he found her so sexually attractive that it was causing problems with his wife. Katy Waldman of XX Factor wishes she could disagree:
On a legal level, though, Knight’s defense appears pretty airtight. His lawyers bat away the charge of gender discrimination by claiming that their client let Nelson go not because she was a woman, but because her ineffable attractiveness threatened his marriage. This is lame, but valid in the eyes of the law: Bosses are allowed to fire workers for stupid emotional/family reasons, such as to mollify one’s wife or eliminate nest-wrecking temptations. In his decision, Justice Edward Mansfield observes that Knight replaced Nelson with another female staff member, which would imply his motives were not purely sexist.
Waldman speculates that Nelson could have grounds for a harassment suit against Knight, and that would certainly be more satisfying. She’s quite right, though: as much as blaming a hot girl for your troubled marriage stinks of privilege and slut-shaming, being hot is not a protected status.