Iowa Supreme Court rules on Melissa Nelson


Eva Evangelina (Courtesy of

Eva Evangelina
(Courtesy of

“Without proof of sex discrimination, the employment-at-will doctrine followed in Iowa guides the outcome.”
Iowa Supreme Court Ruling, 12 July 2013

The problem I see here is, this sets a dangerous precedent.

Miss Nelson alleges that she was fired because her employer found her “irresistible,” and indeed, her presence during his on-again-off-again sexual relationship with his wife was like “…like having a Lamborghini in the garage and never driving it.”  The employer doesn’t deny he said this, if I remember correctly.

Okay, a fair statement, perhaps.  Perhaps during the downturn of his sexual relationship with his wife, he found himself enamored with his assistant.  This has the makings of a very unfortunate situation.  A marriage hangs in the balance on one side, and Nelson’s employment on the other.  Unfortunately for Nelson, the marriage argument won out, and the employer, under the at-will employment laws in Iowa, terminated her employment — for that exact reason.  She is “irresistible.”

Most At-will laws say that employment can be terminated at any time, by either party, for any reason that doesn’t violate other laws, such as the Civil Rights Act, or anything that’s essentially NOT a BFOQ.  This is common knowledge.  You can be terminated for showing up to work late, even once.  You can be fired for misfiling an important document, even once.  While not “good” reasons, they are reasons under the law.

However, my concern here is the precedent it sets.  While this reason may be “legal,” is it 1) ethical; and 2) safe from precedent?

Because now that the Iowa Supreme Court does not count this at-will termination as a form of sex discrimination, does this set the scene for even more extreme terminations for similar reasons?

Let’s not forget: The court has UPHELD the employer’s right to fire because of his “irresistible” attraction to her, likely physically; as there are mentions of his requiring her to wear lab coats, and her other physical attributes.  Does this now, mean that someone, such as I am now allowed to terminate someone like ME, under the rules of something along the lines of…

quote-open“You are being terminated because I found the size and shape of your breasts to not be large enough.  Because you are a front-office worker of a successful company, I require front-line employees to be dressed and appear impeccable, including your physical attributes, such as breast size, shape, appearance, acceptable amounts of cleavage showing, etc.”

Basically, it means I’m allowed to fire her because her tits aren’t big enough — and she’s not wearing tops or suits that expose them “properly.”  While this may sound ridiculous, is it *REALLY* something that could be unprecedented, if this ruling is upheld in the high court as part of an “at-will” termination?

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