Can You Lose a Job For Being Too Attractive?

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Yes, you read the title right and yes, it seems that you can lose a job for being too attractive.


There are many labor laws that serve to protect people from unfair or prejudicial hiring practices. For women, there are laws in place that are designed to protect them from being passed over for a job or for being fired due to their gender. There are even federal laws that make sexual harassment in the workplace illegal. For legal purposes, sexual harassment can include “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.” It doesn't cover the occasional offhand comment, the thoughts an employer might be harboring and the jealous imaginings of the boss's spouse.


Recently, a dentist in Iowa fired his long time dental assistant because he claimed that she was too attractive and that in the time that they had been working together, he had grown increasingly more attracted to her. He was worried that he might attempt to start an affair with her, sexually harass her or behave in a way that would be harmful to his marriage.


While I don't think it should matter as far as the legal principles at play, it still seems worth noting that the assistant hadn't done anything to foster these feelings in her boss. At no point has she been accused of being overly flirtatious or behaving in a manner that would make him believe that she would be open to the idea of an affair with her boss. Again, not that it matters.


The dental assistant sued her former employer for wrongful termination and sexual discrimination. During the course of the trial, the legal issue being decided was “whether an employee who has not engaged in flirtatious conduct may be lawfully terminated simply because the boss views the employee as an irresistible attraction.”


The case was heard in the Iowa Supreme Court where an all-male court ruled that yes, an employer can fire an employees, male or female, because they or their spouses view them as a threat to their marriage. The reason given is because the issue in question isn't based on gender, but instead is one of emotions and feeling, which aren't protected.


I'm not sure how I feel about this ruling, but I can see the court's point. On the other hand, I think that it's poorly done of the dentist to fire a long time employee based on his own feelings. When he hired her, I'm sure the fact that she was attractive played a large role in why he felt she was right for the job. For it to be used against her later seems wrong. However, I have to hope that this is an isolated incident and in the end, the dental assistant was better off for not having to continue to work for an employer who was having those types of thoughts about her.


What do you think? Do you think employers should be able to fire people because they're too attractive or because they think that they might be tempted to harass them? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


Image source: MorgueFile


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  • Dawn Pride
    Dawn Pride
    Men are constantly punishing women for their inability to control themselves, whether it's making up religious laws for her to be covered from head to toe because her wrists turn him on, or this case presented here. I'm sorry, HE is the one with the problem. She is performing her job with no issues. Maybe instead of firing her, he should have sent himself to counseling to DEAL with his apparent psycho-sexual issues. Of course, a jury of all men wouldn't see it that way!
  • Bridget DiMambro
    Bridget DiMambro
    America is not land of the free unless you are one of the rich people who set the not so rich people in chains!  Unbelievable.
  • Debra Walked king
    Debra Walked king
    Yes you can, when I go for a job interview and I know it's a woman. I try to look down grade all of my features. I am currently trying to get my job back at the Dallas Veterans Hospital. I never dated the men or women that worked there. But still, having all of the education and military training doesn't help me. Sometimes I wish I had a job where I worked alone. Oh wait I did have a job like that and my Chief harassed me from another city. She wanted me to report to her every morning and drive to Dallas every Thrusday for supervisors meetings. The meetings there had nothing to do with me or the clinic. Being attractive is hard.
  • L Wighton
    L Wighton
    was fired from a plastic injection molding plant because the men kept hanging around my machine. was told by the owner of an ad agency  I was not hired because he "found it difficult to work with women he was having an affair with"  why is it my problem that men are weak?
  • Susan Russo
    Susan Russo
    Are you serious? The last I heard, "lust" is a sin. What was hers? He needed to pay her salary until she was able to get another job. I can't believe this!
  • Chandra Wells
    Chandra Wells
    Can't get a job due to looks
  • victoria gilbert
    victoria gilbert
    Absolutely not ! I believe continued self control and professionalism should have played a part. The dentist could have laid the assistant off or maybe some type of severance with pay.
  • Songa M. B.
    Songa M. B.
    I have been dealing with situations like this my entire career. The rights of the American employee are deplorable! Women are jealous because of looks or education and use this as reasons to bully other women; men can't control themselves and use it to their advantage or in this case as a reason to ruin a life. It is to a point where you have to be very careful not to look to good or show that you are smart if your a woman and it's disgusting!
  • Maria Kuhn
    Maria Kuhn
    Sounds like his wife doesn't interest him anymore.  
  • Philip Altenburg
    Philip Altenburg
    While I agree that the employer should be able to let them go, it would have been better to find her a new job, and clearly state his intentions to help her before hand.  But what I find most curious is your comment "When he hired her, I'm sure the fact that she was attractive played a large role in why he felt she was right for the job."  This is a sexist thing to say, and implies that her worth as a person was based not upon her skills at the job, but on your thoughts about how others make judgments in their hiring practices.  Now if you had said that [made up information to follow] 78% of hiring managers admit that physical appearance is a major factor in the decision making process" then you would have something I could not judge you by.  But you didn't.  You clearly believe that he judged a book by its cover, probably because you have done the same thing in judging him.  This is where the real fault lies.  We can never reduce or eliminate sexism as long as we hold sexist views ourselves.
  • Keith Kennedy
    Keith Kennedy
    Another thing wrong with abolishing Unions. Also, not unlike witch trials. "Right to Work" means anything but.
  • Dawud Makonnen
    Dawud Makonnen
    That was in my opinion very egotistical of her employer. It's like he had this whole affair going on in his mind. What about her years of service to his business? And her life after being fired? For women sometimes it's like they are damned if they do or don't. Shame on him!
  • Felisa Booz
    Felisa Booz
    this situation should be handled by a third party who cares about the employee. The least people involved the best!
    I believe that we the human beings are a superior creation created in God's own image, in such a situation no one should loose a job because of being attractive. We should look at those attractive people and appreciate God's creation. We as superior creation should pray for God's grace so that we overcome all temptations. Satan is at work and he uses his power 100%, but we can overcome satan if we believe.
  • Ralph Wilson
    Ralph Wilson
    I would hope that the dentist would have offered a sweet termination package and a letter of reference (omitting, of course, the reason for her termination).  However, after the lawsuit,I rather suspect that the assistant may have not only blown her chances at any such offer from the dentist but also any hope of her next potential employer not knowing the reason for her termination.That being said, I am afraid I would have to side with the dentist.  What he did was to remove a temptation that he had come to realize he was liable to be unable to resist.  Having seen too many colleagues of mine fail in their attempts to resist similar temptations and their resulting, divorces, I understand his situation.  I have seen colleagues (both male and female) request reassignment to other projects or even find a new job to avoid such a temptation.  In this case, the dentist couldn't do either of those and could only remove the temptation be letting the assistant go.Sorry but family comes before business, IMHO.
  • katy brown
    katy brown
    in the united states, beauty and brains are taboo. women are still being punished for being women. if this were not true, then why are women the first to removed from higher paid positions than their male counterparts in the continued "downsizing" game?
  • Raymond Carroll
    Raymond Carroll
    The dentist didn't have a choice. His wife worked there also and was very jealous of a more attractive woman. She found out he was flirting with her and that was that. Goodbye assistant.I don't understand why she would want to go back and work for such a weak pathetic excuse for a man.
  • Malissa Lopez
    Malissa Lopez
    My first thought would be absolutely not! That employer was completely wrong and unfair in how he treated his employee. However, let's consider this- What if the man had never taken such actions and instead pursued this woman based on his attraction towards her. Then we'd all be considering him immoral and perverted. Perhaps, he did go about it the wrong and yes, the situation was completely unfair to this woman. But in the end, I do believe this man was just trying to do what he though was right and just handled it all wrong. Can't hate him for that.
  • Myra Craft
    Myra Craft
    What happens if they're ugly? Could they fire them for being ugly or fat? If that's the case no one will be at work. You're either pretty or ugly. The Dentist should've come up with some other reason instead of saying because she's attractive.
  • Albert Curtis
    Albert Curtis
    The ruling by the court is wrong. I work at a college in a dorm and am exposed to many attractive young women. There are days when I wrestle with my emotions but I am not engaged in any kind of affair or sexual conduct it is not appropriate. How a court of law could actually make such a ruling is incomprehensible. I hope that people respond to this travesty of justice and fairness. As to the dentist he hired her the time to make that decision was then not after she was employed. Also it sounds as if he was harboring his feelings rather than discussing them with a trusted individual. As far as I am concerned were I someone with that authority I would rule in her favor. As to the justice sitting on the bench that day the judge should be held accountable for a bad ruling that has a clear sex bias attached the judge was irresponsible. This kind of injustice should be fought and as to the dentist go take a cold shower bub.
  • Fernando Bernal
    Fernando Bernal
    I dont think it was right to fire her due to his own insecurities. He shouldn't have hired her in the first place!
  • Veronica Smith
    Veronica Smith
    Most employers wont hire someone they feel in the interview they would sleep with. To avoid problems later.  A woman will not hire an attractive woman because she will pose a threat (she would feel)to her position. I've seen the exception (Being of the African American race) I have experienced,that the more attractive the better chance of landing the job. So my answer is, no why should someone be punished for someone else s sexual depravities of there marriage, you shouldn't abstaine from the bedroom for a long period of time when married or temptation will creep in. If you work with the opposite sex every day, and that person being the same person every day. Eventually you will start to  develop an attraction for that individual, weather that person is attractive or ugly.  We all know a story or two were this has happen and wondered, why in the world did he or she leave that for that. ,but; to go to the extent of firing someone because you feel attracted to them  to me  means, you cant control the temptation and  you have a need not being met, or a attention being ignored. You need help in your marriage with sex more often or communication and intimacy. Maybe the employer has a disease and is afraid the physical attraction would go to far and expose the hidden secret.  I also believe the woman knew the employer was getting physically attracted to her and was hopping this would lead to and affair and the rich doctor would leave his wife for the assistant but the scenario  didn't  play out that way. and the flirts went to far and lead to a decision of who I can't  live with or with out and the wife won. With an all male jury we see the out come and the lesson of a married man, if deprive of intimacy and communication one would stray but with wife will stay.
  • Elizabeth Brower
    Elizabeth Brower
    You answered your own question at the end of your blog.  Why did he hire her if she was "too attractive?"  He was the one with the problem, not her.  She should appeal the case.
  • DonaldShaw
    I feel that if this person is hired by the employer this should be look at at the time hired and not come back later saying the person is to attractive the person is the same when hired if thats the case don,t hire them
  • CarolWalker
    The article above doesn't cover all of the facts of the case, it's very vague, I researched this case and found that it's really sticky. Due to office politics, (a jealous co-worker). A jealous wife finding too many off the clock texts between, the employer and this employee with a very close work and off work relationship. With the employee hanging around after work? Not to mention some very unprofessional remarks made by the employer to this employee makes for some interesting reading. Every place I have ever worked enforced a dress code. If your attire wasn't up to code they would send you home to change. Which in this case should have been enforced, but was not... I'm done rambling. No I don't think it's right to for an employer to be able to fire an employee for being too attractive. The employee was compensated with one month's severance pay and let go. It doesn't change the fact that the employee lost her job and that is what's sad. If everything I read about this case is true the terminated employee should keep her next employee, employer relationship strictly professional, the employer should do so as well to avoid any future law suits.

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