Society

Fired for Being ‘Irresistible’: Second Chance in Court for Iowa Dental Assistant Melissa Nelson

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht
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An Iowa dental assistant will get another chance in court after she sued her boss for firing her because he claimed she was “irresistible.”

Melissa Nelson, 33, worked for Dr. James Knight for 10 years. The married mother-of-two was shocked when Knight handed her a pink slip explaining that she was threat to his marriage.

Court documents show the dentist believed Nelson was an “irresistible attraction.” He also reportedly made remarks on her sex life and compared it to “having a Lamborghini in the garage and never driving it.”

When Nelson sued for gender discrimination in December, the all-male Iowa State Supreme Court ruled that Knight was within his legal right to fire her because the termination had nothing to do with gender.

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“I think it is completely wrong,” Nelson said of the initial ruling, according to ABC News. “I think it is sending a message that men can do whatever they want in the workforce.”

The Iowa Supreme Court withdrew its unanimous decision this week.

"I can tell you she was surprised and delighted by the news that the Iowa Supreme Court has withdrawn its earlier ruling," Nelson's attorney, Paige Fiedler, told ABC News in a statement. "Not only does this breathe new life into her court case, it eliminates what many of us believed was a harmful legal and misguided precedent."

Knight said Nelson was one of the best dental assistants he ever had, but that he had to fire her because he wife, Jeanne, who also works at the practice, told him to. Jeanne reportedly learned of text messages exchanged between her husband and Nelson.

Supreme court justices wrote that six months before Nelson’s termination, she was exchanging text messages with her boss. Most were mundane and often talked about their children. But Nelson recalled one text in which her boss asked “how often she experienced orgasm.”

Knight and his wife consulted with their pastor at church, who told them Nelson should be fired in order to protect their marriage, said Knight’s attorney Stu Cochrane.

Nelson was fired in 2010 at a meeting with Knight while his pastor was present.

"There really is no reason to grant rehearing six months after the decision was made unless someone is seriously considering changing their mind," said Ryan Koopmans, a Des Moines attorney who is not affiliated with the case. "I think we'll definitely see at least one opinion in favor of Melissa, the question is whether it is the majority opinion or dissenting opinion."

Koopmans said the justices will not hear new evidence but will likely be issuing a new opinion.

Sources: ABC News, International Business Times