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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  • Michelle Munise
    Michelle Munise
    It's crap. Just another way for a man to avoid accountability. Do they not have any self control!?!
  • peg jackson
    peg jackson
    Do we really know the whole story???? Something to consider!
  • Toni Pacelli
    Toni Pacelli
    I was bullied out of my job from female co-workers who where jelous of me for what ever boss also said somethings to me that I thought was personal....however I had to quit the job because two femals made it too hard for me to go on.....I told my boss but he did nothing...what do ya do in a case like this????  I believe you should not get fired or made to quit because of how you lool and should be bullied!!
  • Shannon Walker
    Shannon Walker
    I posted something earlier, and after reading other comments I wanted to add a few more things.  The article stated she was a long time employee.  So apparently at some point in time he began to have feelings for her.  If he was married and concerned regarding his wife, one would think he would go to counseling to resolve this issue he has within himself.  Don't punish her because you are having thoughts of her in other ways.  If counseling is not an options, then I would hope he would give her an excellent compensation package and well as helping her find employment elsewhere.  You can't tell me he does not have enough connections to help her out.  
  • RobertChojnowski
    it happen to me i look young for my age. my boss figured that i might get  his job,so i was let go.
  • Cathy Mac
    Cathy Mac
    Seems there may be more to this story than is being told...given that it was a long time employee makes it harder to digest his story. If he can't control his thoughts perhaps he'd best terminate his own business altogether! He certainly shouldn't be working on other people's teeth -  What if he has an attractivepatient? I think the court ruling enables the man who can't control his own thoughts and perpetuates a belief that I thought we had done away with a long time ago.
  • Shannon Walker
    Shannon Walker
    Although I have never been fired or let go because of my looks, I have been passed over job opportunities because of my looks.  I also at all my jobs have had issues with female co-workers because of my looks.  No matter where I work rumors always are started and the work place gets uncomfortable.  I have even left jobs because of the jealousy.  If I asked for help with a critical patient, they just ignore me.  I have been passed over promotions because of jealousy.  It is a shame, but I have a hard time finding a job that lets me work to my full nursing potential.  Unfortunately it is something I am just going to have to deal with forever.   
  • wendy demas
    wendy demas
    That is very wrong. I don't think a person should get fired because their employer can't control him or herself. The fact that it was all male court wasn't fair either . Some males are stupid and have no self control. He probably wanted to get with her and thought it would be easier this way. If you are a married person, you should be able to control your feelings. If a person can't do that then they are the problem. He probably already cheats on his wife since he can't control himself around beautiful women. He needs to get help and his wife needs to keep an eye on him.
  • Margaret Hickman
    Margaret Hickman
    No, employers should never be able to fire someone for their looks, whether ugly or beautiful. I worked for an employer that made flirtatious advances toward me that I wouldn't have been able to prove in court. The women I worked with hated it and made my working life miserable. I always thought that I was imagining this- that I was vain or something, but after reading your article, I have no doubt now that my fears of getting fired were real. I had to work, I loved the job but lost a lot of sleep over how I was treated.  
  • Marianne Curran
    Marianne Curran
    I think it was very wrong to fire his employee.  I bet hedid hire her because she would be good for his business. If I was his wife I would think twice about the marrigage
  • Layla Saunders
    Layla Saunders
    The only issue we have at hand is that men are only more and more proven to be weak minded around attractive women.
  • Sally chenevert
    Sally chenevert
    I do believe it is possible to be fired or let go because of being too attractive. This happened to me recently. I would come to work every day to do a great job.  This is what I do! The company I worked for provided a mandatory film on DIVERSITY for all employees to watch. I felt the film was excellent because it expressed my exact feelings on the matter that employees and employers should not judge one on there appearance, religion, age etc. My manager did not heed this at all.  Because I came to work looking attractive and professional and well liked by everyone, she completely overlooked my work performance and felt threatened by me simply because I looked attractive. I was still in the 3 months probation period, so I was called into her office and informed that she was letting me go. No explanation offered and that she did not feel that she had to give me one. End of story. I loved my job....was doing a good job and because of her insecurities I lost it all in an instant. I am still fuming about it to this day but, I also believe when one door closes another one opens.
  • Ramon Masongsong
    Ramon Masongsong
    I do not think that this was right. With the way the job market is currently, this may also cause a hardship on the former employee. It is more than just a moral issue here. You are messing with someone's livelihood. And, as it states, he should not have hired her in the first place knowing at that time his assistant was attractive. If his marriage was strong, issues like this should not even emerge.
  • Tony Gueringer
    Tony Gueringer
    I disagree with the court's decision and the assessment that you made that this is a different situation from being protected by gender. Discriminatory practices in hiring is about appearance and the identification that is associated with the appearance. Therefore, if you appeared to be of an origin that carried negative perceptions, you were not hired. You may have been smart enough for the position and met all the qualifications to work at the position but were still denied the position. In those cases discrimination kept you from being hired because you were visually identified as being in and undesirable grouping. In this case the discrimination is based on visual perception and has worked to take a position from someone who has proven to be qualified and professional. In both cases the problem is not one that is originated through the prospective or current employees, but is rooted in the weaknesses of those who do the hiring and firing. If this man is concerned about his marriage and the possibility of sexual harassment, then he should involve himself in a counseling program. This recommendation would be the same for a coworker that had the same issues. In any case this women should not have been terminated for any reason that existed outside of her job performance. Although, this man worked with this women daily, I wonder would he turn away patients based on their physical attractiveness. In any case to terminate someone based on the subjective perception of desirability or undesirability is a personal issue that has no place in the workplace. Furthermore, if an employee can be terminated for being too attractive, wouldn't it also be okay to terminate someone for being unattractive. Especially, if I can tie in my lack of amorous affection for my wife because I worked with an unattractive female..
  • Frank Lee
    Frank Lee
    I would argue that she was not fired for "being too attractive" but rather because the employer believed there was a risk to his marriage if he continued to employ this woman. It seems they already had started texting for reasons outside of work concerns, so it could be they were starting down this slippery slope.I agree with some of the other postings that the dentist was should be able to deal with the woman as an adult and take responsibility for his own behavior and "just say no" as it were. As a second option, he should have allowed her to find another job before just firing her.Despite all the comments, the bottom line is Iowa is an "employment-at-will" state, meaning that an employer or employee may terminate the relationship at any time, for any reason, or for  no reason at all. So since there was no violation with respect the few exceptions to this rule, the court decided correctly
  • Paul  R.Veenendall
    Paul  R.Veenendall
    I feel the Iowa Supreme court ruled correctly. However the Dentist later found her too attractive so he justified terminating her? He did not see that a issue when he first hired her for the job? Hello?Personally I feel she should have cut her losses and moved on to another Dental assistant position. Because she took this to court how will this affect her getting employed anywhere? Yes I feel women do get the short end of it in this imperfect world. However when we can make it better we should strive to do so. Unfortunately that is not happening. I have been wronged in the workplace but could not prove it. I got shafted. You have to take the bitter with the sweet in this life its just how it is meted out to us. Life is not fair sometimes it just plain stinks.We just have to get over it the sooner we do the better for us.
  •  Tamika Gross
    Tamika Gross
    I believe many people are hired, not hired or fired due to their looks. A good friend of mine worked in a law office and said if the interviewee was pretty with long hair they knew she wouldn't get the job. There boss ( a woman) never hired women who were very pretty. I think it's sad, but it's true in many cases. I recall many pretty girls very nice being ostracized when I was in elementary and middle school. I have seen this behavior on the job, at church, at schools and it's all wrong. I'm glad that the young lady that worked at the dental office fought the decision. At least her voice was heard.  
    Fired with excellent recommendations
  •  Patti Grzegorczyk
    Patti Grzegorczyk
    People unlike animals have control of their feelings.  It is completely immature for a human being to act in this manner.
  • Melanie McRae
    Melanie McRae
    I think this is some BS & how can they have an all male jury??!! So unfair....
  • Silvi Bender
    Silvi Bender
    this is insane. I cant believe the court ruled in favor of him. she should have received at least for 6 mos severance pay. nevertheless if he was attracted to her why did he hire her in the first place? something similar like this happened to me. all of the female employees in the other business where large. I was skinny. was told one time one of the mechanics telling the boss I need a dress code because I was wearing string underwear ( unable to see the shape of the underwear through the dress pants). The manager made my life very hard working there but I wouldn't quit and took all the harassment. she had a crush on the service mgr that was married on top of it. I was a single mom of 4 kids and had just bought my own house. thank goodness I had always saved my income tax money.
  • Amy B.
    Amy B.
    All these years I was so upset I was not as pretty as the other women. That is awesome. I am glad I am ugly! Now I know I have job security!
    This ruling was wrong.
  • Princess Greene
    Princess Greene
    its a shame that woman have to go through that i somthing should be done about that
    No wonder I can't find a job.Just too darn good lookin, I guess.

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