Back in a December post under our wrongful termination category, we introduced our readers to the legal problems facing one Iowa dental assistant who was fired from her job because her boss was worried he might try to have an affair with her. The story, which peaked national attention seven months ago, made a lot of residents here in Indiana wonder whether the termination was really all that lawful. It’s certainly something the now 33-year-old dental assistant considered when she filed suit against her employer.
As many of our readers will remember, she lost her first claim of discrimination. But she appealed in January, asking the court to reconsider their decision. Once again, she brought up the issue of sex discrimination and urged the court to consider whether her termination really was that legal. Surprisingly, the court ruled once again against her.
Just like in their December decision, the all-male panel of judges stated that because the boss felt that his marriage was threatened, he was within his legal right to fire her. They further clarified their decision by explaining that her termination supposedly did not qualify as illegal sex discrimination because the discharge was motivated by feelings rather than gender.
Though she her case has been denied once more, her appeal does raise an important question about gender and racial equality in the workplace. Per the judge’s decision, an employer is within their right to fire someone based on their feelings towards someone, which begs the question: could this lead to an employer firing a dark-skinned employer, using their feelings as a defense despite signs of discrimination?
If the woman decides to push the issue, this could be a question the U.S. Supreme Court may have to decide on in the months to come.
Source: CBS News, “Firing of attractive assistant is legal, Iowa top court rules,” July 12, 2013