June 10, 2013 Articles

Terminating an "Irresistible" Employee

The "my wife made me do it" defense comes into play in an Iowa court.

By Christopher Carcich and Carly Skarbnik Meredith – June 10, 2013

In Nelson v. James H. Knight, DDS, P.C., et al., the Iowa Supreme Court found that an employer did not engage in unlawful gender discrimination when the employee was terminated due to the employer’s wife’s concerns about the nature of the relationship between the employer and the employee.

This matter arose in Dr. Knight’s dental practice, where the plaintiff, Melissa Nelson, worked as a dental assistant for over 10 years. During the last six months of Nelson’s employment, Dr. Knight and Nelson began texting each other regarding work and personal matters. Neither Nelson nor Dr. Knight found any of the texts offensive or objectionable, even though some contained moderate sexual comments. For instance, Dr. Knight once told Nelson “if she saw his pants bulging, she would know her clothing was too revealing.”

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