Firing Attractive Woman Legal, Court Rules

A court has decided that an Iowa dentist did not discriminate against a female assistant when he fired her for being "too attractive".

The case began when Dr James Knight sacked dental hygienist Melissa Nelson after more than 10 years' service because he found her too attractive and his wife saw her as a threat.

In December, the all-male  the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that Dr Knight did not discriminate against Ms Nelson.

She had argued she would not have been fired if she were a man, and her lawyer, Paige Fiedler, argued in seeking a second hearing that their decision was a setback for gender equality in the workplace.

In late June, the justices decided to reconsider the case.

"We ultimately conclude the conduct does not amount to unlawful sex discrimination in violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act," Justice Edward Mansfield wrote.

Dr Knight had hired Nelson in 1999 and on several occasions in the 18 months before he fired her in early 2010, he complained that her clothing was too tight, revealing and distracting, the decision said.

She denied wearing anything inappropriate.

Ms Nelson and Dr Knight began texting each other in 2009, the opinion said.

Most messages were work-related or otherwise innocuous, but some were more suggestive, including one in which the dentist asked his hygienist how often she had an orgasm, the opinion said.

Ms Nelson did not answer that text.

"The fact of the matter is Nelson was terminated because of the activities of her consensual personal relationship with her employer, not because of her gender," Chief Justice Mark Cady wrote in a separate 'special concurrence'.

In late 2009, Dr Knight's wife, Jeanne Knight, learned that her husband had been exchanging texts with Ms Nelson while he was on an out-of-state vacation with their children.

She insisted that he dismiss her, saying "she was a big threat to our marriage", the opinion said.

Dr Knight read Ms Nelson a statement when he fired her that said in part that their relationship had become a detriment to both of their families.

Ms Nelson's lawyer said on Friday she was "beyond distressed at the lack of awareness and understanding this decision demonstrates".

Ms Fiedler said in a statement: "Women already have to balance on the very fine line of being respected, professional and well-liked in the workplace without having their perceived charm or attractiveness garner unwanted sexual advances, harassment and discrimination."