Can An Employee Be Terminated for Being Too “Tempting”?

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An Iowa appeals court recently considered an interesting twist on an unlawful discrimination claim—whether an employee may be lawfully terminated simply because the boss (and his spouse) view the employee as too “tempting.”

The plaintiff, Melissa Nelson, had worked as a dental assistant for Dr. James Knight for over ten years before she was terminated. Both sides agreed that Nelson had not engaged in flirtatious conduct with her boss. However, on several occasions, Dr. Knight complained to Nelson that her clothing was too tight and revealing and “distracting.” During the last six months or so of Nelson’s employment, Dr. Knight and Nelson started texting each other on both work and personal matters outside the workplace. While Dr. Knight sent several “questionable” texts, Nelson never responded.

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