You’re too sexy? You’re fired

Melissa Nelson: Too sexy for Iowa. (AP)

Melissa Nelson: Too sexy for Iowa, and horrible at matching shoes with outfits. (AP)

Take it from me, being amazingly good looking has its downside.

Especially in Iowa, where a court has ruled an employer can legally fire anyone he (or she) is sexually attracted to.

Room for abuse? Sure.

Instead of firing an employee for a valid (incompetence, not rooting for the Braves, etc.) or invalid (race, political thought processes, etc.) reason an employer could simply say his marriage was threatened by an overload of work sexy.

It is hard to imagine a corn-fed dental assistant being so hot a mature dentist couldn’t crown his carnal proclivities, but that seems to be the case with Melissa Nelson, who was 33 when Fort Dodge, Iowa, dentist James Knight, 53, gave her the boot.

Nelson, a married mother of two who had worked 10 years for Knight, was considered his best assistant.

Sometime in 2009 she began exchanging text messages with him. During one exchange, he asked her how often she had an orgasm. She never answered that text, but did respond to others that trended towards saucy.

Later, the dentist’s wife found the text messages and demanded Nelson be fired because “she was a big threat.”

The Knights had their pastor, who agreed with the plan, attend Nelson’s firing.

Nelson sued, saying she would not have been terminated but for her gender.

Knight argued all of his employees are women and she was fired because she posed a threat to his marriage. He replaced Nelson with another woman, who must know that he thinks she is pretty ugly.

The first case made its way to the Iowa Supreme Court, where, in December of 2012, all seven of the male justices ruled unanimously against Nelson. After much public criticism, the court withdrew its opinion.

Nelson’s attorney asked the court to reconsider, saying the ruling was a blow to gender equality. (The attorney must assume men cannot be ‘big threats’ to marriage.)

Once again, the court ruled it is legal to fire an employee that makes the eyes wander.

Chief Justice Mark Cady explained the court’s rationale: “Nelson was terminated because of the activities of her consensual personal relationship with her employer, not because of her gender.”

Cady also said Nelson’s relationship with Knight went beyond the “reasonable parameters of workplace interaction.”

After the Friday ruling, Nelson’s lawyer, Paige Fiedler, said, “Melissa’s life will never be the same after this experience: She has lost her profession and endured great emotional distress— all because her boss didn’t think he would be able to control himself,” Fiedler said. “While Melissa is sad for herself and her family, she is even more upset at the way this decision will affect the rights of countless Iowa women to participate in the workplace on a fair and equal footing with men.”

40 comments Add your comment

0bama = Bush 2.0

July 16th, 2013
11:41 am

Did Michelle have Barack fire Larry Sinclair for this same reason?


July 16th, 2013
11:51 am

As long as she received a reasonable severance and/or time to find another job, then whatever…. When you start getting involved with your employer, you take on that risk–it’s not an equal relationship.

Lonnie Gentry

July 16th, 2013
11:59 am

I ran into the same situation down to the taxidermy shop.One minute your bendin’ over, sprayin’ out a squirrel carcass. The next, your out of a job for what the boss’s wife refers to as “presenting.”


July 16th, 2013
12:44 pm

Seems like some NUT job has a HARD on for the prez…


July 16th, 2013
12:52 pm

She looks pretty rough to me especially for being only 33. The story seems inaccurate. How can a guy be a dentist and have his own office at the age of twenty five.

George 'The Orkin Man' Zimmerman

July 16th, 2013
12:56 pm

Was Melissa Nelson making an appointment with this dentist for a Drillin’ and a Fillin’ via text message?

George Mathis

July 16th, 2013
12:58 pm

She was given 1 month’s severance, which the judges said was “ungenerous.”


July 16th, 2013
1:03 pm

Maybe instead of the family pastor attending the firing (odd), he should, instead, set up a counseling session between the doctor and his lovely wife to ask why the doctor is sexting his employees? Seems to me that’s where the problem started.

Mr. Snarky

July 16th, 2013
1:12 pm

Sounds like he was the threat to their marriage, not her.

Male Matters

July 16th, 2013
1:28 pm

Re: “the dentist’s wife found the text messages and demanded Nelson be fired because “she was a big threat.’”

Suppose the dentist had been a female and the fired employee a handsome male. Suppose Mr. Handsome threatened the female dentist’s husband who demanded that he be fired. The story would have been about “controlling husbands.”


July 16th, 2013
1:33 pm

“Sometime in 2009 she began exchanging text messages with him. During one exchange, he asked her how often she had an orgasm. She never answered that text, but did respond to others that trended towards saucy.”

It appears that she maintained some sort of communication that was not professional in nature. I don’t know about you folks, but I have certainly never discuss orgasms with any boss, nor have I exchanged “saucy” texts. If she participated in communications that were adult in nature and not professional, she has nothing to whine about. She was a willing participant in her own demise.


July 16th, 2013
1:50 pm

god, i would hate to be married to his wife!……IJS!!


July 16th, 2013
1:50 pm

Sexy? She looks like a man. Maybe, that’s what “sexy” looks like in Iowa.

Road Scholar

July 16th, 2013
2:14 pm

What about suing for sexual harassment on “how often she had an orgasm”? Ah, biblical Iowa! I just luv them Repubs!


July 16th, 2013
2:17 pm

Crawdaddy are you dyslexic? The dentist is fifty-two. geez By the way, if she was answering saucy texts, she was coming on to him and the wife was right to ask him to let her go, but after ten years, six months severance would have been a lot better with a good recommendation.


July 16th, 2013
2:22 pm

Every dental assistant I’ve ever known was “good to go”, actually sought them out in my college/single days. I guess it’s something about working in people’s mouths all day.


July 16th, 2013
2:25 pm

She is fairly attractive I do not see how she is that sexy to cause
that much of an uproar. The whole problem is the dentist has wondering eyes. I am sure not just her. Also his age is 53. How does everybody see his age differently, strange?


July 16th, 2013
2:32 pm

Note to self….delete all text messages


July 16th, 2013
2:36 pm

“Sometime in 2009 she began exchanging text messages with him.” Just another woman who spends the balance of her day staring into the palm of her hand, I presume.

Bosses and workers of any gender, married with families, who send “saucy” text messages to each other are STUPID!!! Hello????


July 16th, 2013
2:38 pm

She looks like a skinny Kate Gosling…and I don’t know many who find KG sexy

Big Daddy

July 16th, 2013
2:39 pm

I guess the wife thought there might be a new “drill” introduced into the practice.

Fred Buncher

July 16th, 2013
2:56 pm

If he was wanting to drill his receptionist chances are he’s already been drilling someone else or is looking to.


July 16th, 2013
3:19 pm

The dentist owned his practice and had a right to fire his receptionist or dental hygienist for any legal reason. She had a corresponding right to seek employment elsewhere.

Not likely that the justices were all republicans. Iowa is a blue state, heavily unionized and our Dear Leader won it in both 2008 and 2012

Free American

July 16th, 2013
3:50 pm

Wow lets punish and torture Melissa because she doesn’t believe in your religion. I thought that’s why we founded America to get away from people like YOU


July 16th, 2013
4:37 pm

Wait…..let me clean my glasses…..nope…didnt’ help, looks the same…woof


July 16th, 2013
4:51 pm

Workers have no protection. My wife was a security guard and got fired for not allowing a VP who showed up without an ID card into her building. He got someone to sign him in, then called the security company and had her fired for essentially doing her job. So nothing surprised me.


July 16th, 2013
8:54 pm

The caption on the photo says:
Melissa Nelson: Too sexy for Iowa, and horrible at matching shoes with outfits. (AP)

If there’s a joke here, it’s about your journalism.


July 17th, 2013
6:38 am

An earlier sexual harassment suit may have allowed her to own the practice.


July 17th, 2013
8:48 am

She may have lost in court, but I hope she broadcasts this idiot dentist’s, his wife and his pastor’s name all over the internet as a stupid bunch of fools. Maybe she could take him to civil court. What kind of pastor counsels someone to fire an employee of long standing instead of telling the idiot to keep it in his pants? What if he runs into an attractivewaitress in the coffee shop, is he going to demand she be fired because she tempted him? If he’s that easily tempted, there is something very wrong with him.


July 18th, 2013
9:54 am

So that’s why I keep getting fired from jobs…


July 18th, 2013
10:43 am

“After much public criticism, the court withdrew its opinion.”

That’s the most troubling aspect of the story. Once again the judicial process was influenced by public opinion, similar to another infamous case that just wrapped up in Florida.

Durty Burd

July 18th, 2013
11:27 am

Really Bumper!

You probably were picked on in school and now that you have a forum to express your dumb thoughts you choose to make that statement.

Where is the professional/personal responsibility of the dentist to not engage in illicit behavior with his employees? The pastor should have counseled the couple on how to respect their marriage.

It is a troubling sign in America when folks don’t accept personal responsibility for their bad/wrong actions towards others.

George Zimmerman had not right to approach, engage, or follow Trayvon Martin. He is not a POLICE OFFICER!!!!!!!!

ATL Born & Raised

July 19th, 2013
6:12 pm

I question the legal advice she received. She sued for wrongful termination. She should’ve sued for hostile work environment/sexual harassment. The court touched on this point in their opinion.

David Granger

July 21st, 2013
9:40 am

If a worker can be fired for being too attractive, then…by the same principle…a worker can also be fired for being too ugly. And there are far more people in danger of that…


July 21st, 2013
11:46 am

All employment should be “at will”, period!


July 22nd, 2013
1:05 pm


July 22nd, 2013
1:06 pm

WOW…what a story!! The wife is wrong to not rightfully place the blame….with the hubs. Firing someone will not stop his wondering heart and eyes (all three of them).


July 22nd, 2013
1:42 pm

She’s a far cry from sexy…IJS


July 23rd, 2013
9:31 am

Slow topic eh?


July 23rd, 2013
11:42 am

Amazing story here. The girl featured in the pic…is that her? If so, I’d hate to see “reeeeallll” sexy!