By MELISSA WELLHAM
Both Derek Zoolander and Samantha Brick have taught us that being really, really ridiculously good-looking isn’t always easy. But this week, one woman has actually been discriminated against for being too attractive.
But don’t stress about it too much, because the justice system says that it’s totes okay.
Stop the world, I want to get off.
In Iowa on Friday, their Supreme Court ruled that a dentist was acting legally when he fired his assistant because he thought she was attractive and he was worried he might start an affair.
The details of the case are as follows: a dentist called James Knight from Iowa dismissed his assistant Melissa Nelson. He acknowledged that she had been an excellent employee for ten years – but said that he and his wife were worried that his superficial attraction to Nelson was a strain on their marriage.
The court acknowledged that Nelson had not encouraged any of his advances, or behaved unprofessionally, but nonetheless found “that bosses can fire employees that they and their spouses see as threats to their marriages”.
So “threat” might be the wrong word to use in this situation, given that Nelson didn’t actually do anything. She was fired for the sole reason that Knight was worried he might have ‘impure thoughts’ about her.
Woman being punished for a man’s potential transgressions – does that remind anyone of anything?
But Knight couldn’t be expected to control himself, could he? Because:
Nelson’s attorney Paige Fiedler told AP, “These judges sent a message to Iowa women that they don’t think men can be held responsible for their sexual desires and that Iowa women are the ones who have to monitor and control their bosses’ sexual desires … If they get out of hand, then the women can be legally fired for it.”
After being fired, Nelson was replaced by another woman.
The court made this decision not once – but twice. They first decided in December that Nelson’s dismissal did not break any sex discrimination laws, but withdrew their decision last month to reconsider after it attracted criticism from the US and around the world.
They made the same decision the second time around.
The all-male court justified its decision-making process, saying that the ruling does not count as sex discrimination – which is illegal – because the decision was motivated by feelings, not by gender.
And now? I’d like to share my feelings about that decision with them.
So basically it seems that bosses can fire young, attractive female employees for no other reason than that they recognise they are young, attractive and female. It doesn’t matter if the women in question has flirted with their superiors or not, or engaged in inappropriate behaviour, or done anything that might be construed as unprofessional. It doesn’t even matter if they are really, really good at their jobs.
That is one screwed up system.
It should not be legal to fire someone for being too good-looking, if it doesn’t impact negatively on their job performance.
Or for being too young. Or for being too friendly. Or for being female. Or for being any combination of the above.
Nelson had a “personal relationship” with Knight – as you might expect from someone who had been working for his or her boss for 10 years – and this was a deciding factor in the case.
This “personal relationship” included text messages between Nelson and Knight out of work hours, usually instigated by Knight. And yet, the firing was legal “because of the activities of her consensual personal relationship”.
Good-looking woman in Iowa better be careful not to dress up for work. No flattering outfits. No make-up. Reset your face into a permanent scowl. Oh wait – except there are studies that show women who wear make-up are considered to be ‘more professional’, and are more likely to get promotions and pay rises.
It’s a lose-lose situation, women of Iowa. Sorry.
Do you think employers should be able to fire staff because they are attracted to them?