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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  • Celigny Bastien
    Celigny Bastien
    I think that there are hidden issues behind this article.The dentist and his assistant need to clarify for the public that situation.
  • Flore Reid
    Flore Reid
    The Dentist did not have to fire her. he could had an employment agency/ or temp agency fin her another job opportunity.  A different solution for a good assistant.
    I don't agree, that is not fair, is not her problem if she's too attractive, I think problem with him, as you mentioned that when he hired her she was attractive, too, he must be more professional and always must keep limited in relation between employer and employee! I don't think that fair at all!!!
  • Jeff W
    Jeff W
    No I don't think a person should be fired because of there looks. I think the jury made the wrong decession.unless he all of a sudden regained his sight I'm should he know what see looked like when he interviewed her. It's the employers fault and she should not have been punished because of her looks.
  • Chris Petroff
    Chris Petroff
    You need to put fences and hedges around your marriage including staying away from places that you could fall into temptation.  Thus, yes, it is appropriate to put this fence around your marriage.  I have had friends quit jobs for the same reason
  •  Christine Brig
    Christine Brig
    First of all, I find it interesting that it was an "all male court", with no female representation, that decided this girl's case. I wonder if it had been a woman dentist firing a male assistant if the outcome would have been the same. I doubt it.I also DO NOT think it should be legal to fire someone because "the employer" deems them too attractive. What a ludicrous excuse for terminating someone. If the employer can't control themselves, they have the problem, not the employee. I think the more likely scenario is that he became angry that she did not reciprocate his feelings. Besides, If his marriage is that shaky, the issue lies with he and his wife's relationship!  My opinion is the court got this wrong, but maybe it was "a good old boy " system at work here. I think she should have been compensated something! Hopefully the jerk learned his lesson, and his next assistant will be homely!Can you imagine how many lawsuits the movie and music industries would have if it was common practice to fire "very attractive people?"
  • Michael Gianakos
    Michael Gianakos
    How can you be too attractive.....If it was any where but Iowa the court would have ruled in her favor
  • Michael Mertz
    Michael Mertz
    Just Because He Didn't Think He Couldn't Keep It In His Pants She Shoiuld Not Have To Pay For His Lack Of Self Control With Her Job
  • Tim McCullough
    Tim McCullough
    WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!Certainly not the young lady's fault that her boss can't control his feelings, emotions, thoughts, urges.  And, his wife shouldn't be so insecure that she thinks something could develop between her husband (probably been cheating for a while - at least in his mind) and the employee.  All male jury - ha!  
  • Bob Faulkner
    Bob Faulkner
    There is more to this than is being reported in the above article. Other articles have reported that the dental assistant texted the dentist multiple times while off duty, but there is no description of the content of the texts. That doesn't make this any more right, but all the blame may not lie on one side as the article above seems to imply.
  • Martha Glosser
    Martha Glosser
    Wrong, wrong, wrong.  Since a person can't be fired for being too ugly (that's discrimination), how can they be fired for being too beautiful (also discrimination)?
  • Rhonda McAfee
    Rhonda McAfee
    first, I think it is very wrong and stupid to fire an employee because the boss is afraid of getting too close to the employee because they are too attractive, with this being the case, maybe this dentist should resign, if you have to think that you are afraid you cant control yourself then get out, you don't deserve to have a practice anyway so this is wrong, make the person who did the firing resign and not be allowed to practice, if he was afraid he would do something to harm his marriage then he is not thinking of work, when you are at work, keep work at work and personal at home. Is that hard?
  • Sean Mohrhoff
    Sean Mohrhoff
    I think of it as being as proactive. The man obviously recognized it as a weakness. The crux of the matter is "long-time" employee. Time seems to have done nothing to cool an attraction. Instead of being a day-in/day-out image of familarity, she REMAINED attractive to HIM. Should he of waited before making a mistake that could literally destroy his life? And I am talking beyond harassment. What if when finally he feels compelled to act, he's beyond words and go straight to action? Now we have gone from sexual harassment to potentially sexual ASSAULT. If I had a daughter, I would actual thank the man for firing her on such grounds. He discovered a problem within himself and dealt with it. Better to be sued for unfair work ethics (being fired) than worse. She was not fired for anything else. He could write her a letter of recommendation and she could probably move on to something better. Not to mention she is eligible for Unemployment, again, for being let go FOR NO FAULT of her own, to which HE admits to. Unfair, yes, but better for everyone all around.
  • Scott Hutchins
    Scott Hutchins
    The jury are scum for their verdict, and the judge is scum for upholding the verdict.  Puriza E. is scum for saying that they are correct.  Too many people are becoming homeless as the result of capitalist whims.  I should know.  I am one of them.
  • Serena McCloud
    Serena McCloud
    I feel that if you are married that your vows should be enough to make a decision to overcome the trick of the enemy. There is nothing or no man that can make me cheat. My marriag is that important to me.
  • Dave Fihn
    Dave Fihn
    While the nature of the dismissal is legal, the court should have set guidelines as to how long the platonic work relationship can go on before dismissal is no longer non-discriminatory. For example, if within the first year of employment no dismissal has been made for unintended attraction or possible marital discord, then the defendant should have recourse, especially if the spouse of the employer is well aware of the assistant's appearance and has not mention a need for a change in assistants.
  • Jean Palombo
    Jean Palombo
    I believe the dentist should have come forward and spoke with his assistant and tell her how he felt about her and let her decide what she wanted to do about the situation. Let her make the choice of either staying with him in his practice or quitting her job and moving on before anything possibly started between the two of them.  But, having her working for him for sometime and then the courts deciding that she should be let go, Oh How Wrong was that.  He just should have been a man about his feelings and talked to her and told her that he couldn't work with her anymore because he didn't want anything to come between their friendship.
    Employers have far too much power to decide someone's fate, especially in right-to-work states where an employer doesn't even need a reason to fire someone. My last employer "felt threatened" by my education, talents and height and her lack thereof, and fired me. Then she tried to claim that I had quit in order to deny my Unemployment benefits, which I had to fight for. I hope the beautiful girl gets a better job and the employer give the next "ugly" girl the opportunity to work for the jerk.
  •  Ronald Rickard
    Ronald Rickard
    That's clearly an injustice! Obviously the labor laws need to be upgraded for this type of situation. Laws are only as good as the law makers, so hopefully this case will be given sufficient attention in the future.
  • Arun Sarin
    Arun Sarin
    An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.
  • Crystal Griffin
    Crystal Griffin
    Bottom line its ridiculous and unfair cause evetybody has to make a living whether they are attractive or not.And he shouldn't be married if can't control hisself and that shows that if he truely loved his wife and was happy he shouldn't even have those thoughts. He should have to give her job back and get over hisself.
  • Tracey Bauknight-Johnson
    Tracey Bauknight-Johnson
    This is absolutely ridiculous and sexist. What does this say about this country and the men who run it?
  • JoseTerrell
    I believe u can be fired for any reason and yes being attractive is one, maybe it's described differently , here's my view  if a drug addict work at a drug store he would feel like this is not the place he should work. Well if a person thought he could not control his self around a person that being around that individual would cost him his job then he should separate himself . Sometimes people enhance their looks for what ever reason , here's another example have u ever been around a friend and felt their mate was attracted to u ,u go out your way not to entice them right . Mind u the doctor has issues but he had the right to protect his self
    The article tells the reader that the "legal issue being decided" .... BECAUSE THE BOSS views the employee.  Then the article claims the Iowa Supreme Court ruled the boss OR WIFE can view them as a threat.  Both are different sexes (the husband and wife) therefore, the LEGAL issue is one of gender!!!  As for being allowed to fire - this woman must have had an IDIOT for a lawyer and yahoo judges on the state's Supreme Court.  THE COURTS SHOULD HAVE RULED IN THE EMPLOYEE'S FAVOR BY THE BOSS PAYING ALL COURT FEES, GIVING HER A GLOWING RECOMMENDATION AND GIVING THE REASON FOR HER LEAVING AS RESIGNATION.  AND OF COURSE, ENOUGH REMUNERATION FOR THE UNNECESSARY COMPLICATIONS CAUSED BY THIS BOSS, SUCH AS MORTGAGE OR RENT PAYMENT, UTILITY BILLS AND CAR LOAN PAYMENT (IF ANY) UNTIL SHE FINDS A NEW JOB.  For the judges to have ruled this way was 100% endorsement for all the Middle Eastern countries who blanket their females from head to foot because they feel threatened by a woman's beauty.  The judges endorsement of the dentist's "rights" as an employer also give legal privilege to men all over the planet to rape women because they felt they were dressed to provocatively, or just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  These Iowa yahoo judges also are giving their approval to the U.S. military where CO's rape not only women but MEN AS WELL, and their own military code allows U.S. soldiers to have intercourse with animals.  Frankly, all these Iowa Supreme Court judges prove was how s-u-p-r-e-me-l-y UNQUALIFIED they are en masse to have ruled with their own appendages on behalf of this pathetic excuse for a male ... dentist.    HEAR YEE! HEAR YEE!  The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that men are not in control of their own appendages, therefore (and gender NOT aside here) that means the Iowa State Supreme Court also condones every Catholic church in America for molesting every boy because they are not at fault for finding little boys arousing to them sexually. THEREFORE every American woman and every little Catholic boy is to blame for the faulty character traits of all men where their appendages are involved.  If this woman doesn't take this case to the Supreme Court, then we all suffer.  AND GET A BETTER LAWYER BEFORE YOU DO!
  •  Kevin Fry
    Kevin Fry
    So some employer fires his assistant just because he cannot control himself around her?  That is so wrong & incredibly insane!!!  She definitely should have won the lawsuit!!

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