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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  • Brian Woodward
    Brian Woodward
    This has to be the most outrageous verdict and unfair ruling's I've ever heard of. I guess the dental assisstant and other potential worker's can never work again. The jury makes it sound like this is a disability rather than being fortunate!!!! RIDICULOUS!!!!
  • Kenneth Bowie
    Kenneth Bowie
    If the employer had good character, he would transfer her employment to another employer after he disclose his reasons to her. She deserve better justice.
  • Jolie B.
    Jolie B.
    How about men learn to control themselves and keep in in their pants instead of threatening the livelihood of their workers? This is just one more thing that leads me to believe that humans need  mass extinction event because we've gotten too stupid for our own good.
  • Rich Davis
    Rich Davis
    There are many labor laws on the books in this country to protect the worker, unfortunately when tested they never seem to work. Companies today tend to do whatever they feel like doing and get away with it. For example PA is considered an at will state, which means at any time with no reason you can be let go, and there is nothing you can do about it. In the company I worked for when you attained some seniority and started making some money you were just let go. One day they came in and said they were making some changes and your position was being eliminated. Even though your position was essential to the function of the company, they would just break up the responsibilities between two lower seniority and lower paid employees. Speak to a lawyer about wrongful termination and he will tell you their isn't much you can do about it. Companies today have found that they can make more money with less employees, by making the employees they have do the work of two or three people, than if they had increased sales of their products. Companies in the past were successful because they cared about their employees and looked at their experience as an asset of the company, not a liability. Corporations today are making more money than anytime in history, but right now we have 4.2 million long term unemployed people in this country, over a third of the population, what's wrong with this picture? This gives companies the power to pay less to their employees and make them do the work of two or three people with the threat of having millions of people willing to take their jobs. Until the companies in this country start putting the employees first as in the past, instead of corporate profits and the greed of the shareholder, we will never return to the great industrial powerhouse we once were.
    In my opinion the wrong person got fired! Anyone who thinks that way has issues with self respect and respect for coworkers issues. I think that the court made the wrong decision and this opens up a whole can of worms for the future. You are a professional and need to handle yourself in that manner.
  • Bener Kavukcuoglu
    Bener Kavukcuoglu
    for me this is a very unique situation.  I think the  problem is not she was attractive, the problem was , the employer was not able to control his feelings / behaviors. If I were the employer , I would talk to her , give her a time to find a new job  and her compensations. Who knows ,maybe he had wanted to start an affair with her and she had refused him. Anyway "this is man's world" PUNKT
  •  Ivy Chang
    Ivy Chang
    The dentist's decision andthe Supreme Court's decision are both discriminatory. Thedentist should change HIS behavior, not fire his assistant. Deborah S. is correct about the all maleSupreme Court. Iowa needs a makeover. This assistant will find a better job that pays more. Employees have been taught to look professionalon the job, but this example bucks that rule.
  • QuinceJackson
    She sued him for everything he had. She shouldn't had to put up with him. What would you had done  if she was ugly?
  • Clare White
    Clare White
    I has follow some of this I never heard the verdict, till now. I am surprised that the Boss won and it is all due to how the worded the case. The Dentist didn't handle his problem correctly. I don't think the employee should of been fired but asked to leave.
  • Garreth Calder
    Garreth Calder
    I think this is wrong. This could have worked out better. If he can fire her, then she should have been given a great letter of recommendation and time to find a new job. I'm glad this made the news because no one would believe that she was fired for such a reason. I hope he loses all his customers, I hope the rest of his employees quit, and I hope his wife gives him a difficult time because in her eyes, he was already a pig for making attractiveness such a big deal. Don't trust this guy.
  • Marjorie Ann Balce
    Marjorie Ann Balce
    From the interview of the woman, what was the reason why she was hired?  You mean to tell us that after a long time he decided to fire her?  What a crazy reason.  Unless the employer was desperate to hire her because he needed help to do work at the office.  I think its a stupid reason that he fired her.  She was already attractive from the start when he hired her, so the all men jury decided wrongly in this case.  
  • Derrick Harding
    Derrick Harding
    He should have gave her a chance to to find another job before letting her go. I understand why he did it but just went about it the wrong way. He isnt the only person that has made rash decisions without thinking it through.
  • Tyra White
    Tyra White
    I think this is one of the most ridiculous things that I have ever heard. I think she should have sued & I feel as if she should have won.... because it is true that she cannot control the uninhabited moronic emotions of her boss.I think someone should definitly do something to control this outlandish beheavior, before employers began using this method as a tatic to terminate other employees without legally breaking the law.So, yeah ~ do somthing. Don't let issues like this contuiue.T.E. WhiteNew Orleans, La.
  • Lisa Shadle
    Lisa Shadle
    This is almost as bad as the miscreant teacher (and the judge who sentenced him to serve only 30 days) for the rape of a young girl 'because she looked older than her age'. Really???
    I think this should be taken to a higher court. If she was too attractive for him, why did he hire her? I say the dentist needs to look at himself, if he can't trust himself around an attractive woman. This ruling is setting the stage for firing anyone that doesn't fit into a certain mold.
  • Jeffrey Gunning
    Jeffrey Gunning
    Dumbest thing I ever heard. She looked that way when he hired her.She done nothing wrong by the Denist own admission.The jury make up was just plain stupid also
  • Mary Fox
    Mary Fox
    My opinion is this, A dentist has his own business. Any wrong decision he makes directly or indirectly involving  his business can and will affect the operations of his business, his family lives and the other employees as well.  He can't fire himself.  So he did the next best thing.  The dentist should have gave the worker one to two years of her salary since she did nothing to cause the problem.
  • Nadean Bryan
    Nadean Bryan
    I think this was outrageous.As was noted the dentist knew she was attractive when he hired her.Probably there was more to why he fired her.Did she have a good health/benefits package that he no longer wanted to honor? Maybe firing her and hiring new worked out better for him financially.Why in such a sexist case like  this was it further compounded by the selection  of a bias all male jury ?Where is the justice in that? Well, 1 thing I'm learning is that many times rejection is God's protection.
  • Joan Alvarez
    Joan Alvarez
    All male or all female juries should be outlawed.  Did the dentist do everything possible to discourage his own desires?  Did he seek and obtain professional help with his problem.  He should be the one fired, not her.  I think he should be responsible for her financial security for a substantial period until she finds another equally paying job.  Why should she suffer because he has no control over his own behaviour?  
  • Jacqueline Ryan
    Jacqueline Ryan
    All she needs to do is start wearing a burka.  That might "help" him and his genital attraction.
  • Terry Murphy
    Terry Murphy
    I think it is incumbent upon any mature adult to be able to control their impulses around anyone who is attractive. In the extreme version of this, we could end up with a class of people who are "too tantalizing" and are theerefore not desirable for hiring! It's the same argument as yhe woman who deserves to be raped becaue was dressed sexy and deserved to be raped. The decision just goes to show you how out of control men feel.
  • Darlynn Fine
    Darlynn Fine
    It is always unjust to fire a person through no fault of their own. A manager who has no control over himself certainly has no business controling others. A long time employee has proven their worth through their work and their loyalty. This man showed no loyalty to the employee who now has to start all over again.
    I think the problem is with the boss for not being able to control his feelings of passion towards the assistant. She has done nothing wrong that would warrant her being fired. However I would not want to work for a boss who had those thoughts toweards me. Perhaps a severance package would be in order.
  • Abu Kevorkian
    Abu Kevorkian
    Great story, unfortunate outcome!  I think that is to be considered discrimination, there are many instances that attraction grows among people, as leaders, managers, it I expected to set personal feelings aside and remain professional.  When you have a smart and attractive person on your team, it is innevitable the there will be som type of attraction from someone in the workplace.  I think its Discrimination, rather than identifying as color, race or gender, it should be based on looks! If they had 12 female jury, guess what would have happened??? I rest my case! Not a fair outcome.
  • Mike Rigato
    Mike Rigato
    Employers and corporations once again have the upper hand and can fire their employees without cause!! That is exactly the kind of treatment that drove the success of unions in this country. If the government is going to keep backing the employers I hope we answer back with strong unions that will keep them in place. Just the fear of having their companys having to deal with a union used to keep the employers competitive with what the unions offered, including job protection. I think that the unions will rise again to help the employees in this country.

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