Attractive Nuisance

Published January 11, 2013

It was legal for a Fort Dodge dentist to fire his long-time female dental assistant because of his “irresistible attraction” to her, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled recently.

The dentist had complained to the assistant her clothing was too tight and revealing and that he found it “distracting.” The assistant had worked for the dentist for ten years. Both the dentist and the assistant were married and had children.

The dentist’s wife recently began working in the office as well and viewed the assistant as a threat to their marriage. The dentist admitted making salacious comments to his assistant. She denied engaging in any such behavior herself.

The assistant sued on grounds of gender discrimination, but the court ruled she was terminable at will by the employer. “The issue before us is not whether a jury could find that Dr. Knight treated Nelson badly. We are asked to decide only if a genuine fact issue exists as to whether Dr. Knight engaged in unlawful gender discrimination when he fired Nelson at the request of his wife,” the court wrote. “For the reasons previously discussed, we believe this conduct did not amount to unlawful discrimination, and therefore we affirm the judgment of the district court.”

Source: Jonathan Turley, ” Debonding: Iowa Supreme Court Rules Dentist Can Fire Assistant Due To An ‘Irresistible Attraction’” December 24, 2012