Can You Lose a Job For Being Too Attractive?

Posted by in Career Advice

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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  • Rob G
    Rob G
    I am a supervisor at a group home that serves men who have been sexual offenders in the past.  I am responsible for hiring the direct care staff, and have found myself in the position of having to reject an applicant on the basis that she's too attractive.  I feel guilty about it, but my first priority is the people I serve, and the safety of my staff
  • Carolyn Brock
    Carolyn Brock
    No, a person should not be fired because they are too attractive.  If that's the case, why not hire/fire someone because they are too short, tall, fat, skinny, disabled, in perfect health, White/Black, Asian, or Latino.That sounds like a form of reversal discrimination and a business person should not mix business with pleasure on the job.  That sounds like a lame excuse to me if it was NOT encouraged by the employee.  GROW UP!!!
  •  Chris Botsis
    Chris Botsis
    No way, no employer should have the right to Terminate an employee because they find that person to attractive!  They should never have hired them if they cannot control their emotions, feelings etc!
  • Mark S.
    Mark S.
    What if she had been fired for being too ugly?
  • Joan Castle
    Joan Castle
    I do not think a person should be terminated under those circumstances.  Her employer should have spoken to her and strongly encouraged her to find another position.  He should grow up and take some responsibility to solve his own problem without adversely affecting his employee.  Personal attractions happen all the time - it is just a matter of shifting one's focus and attention to another project to get over the "problem".
  • Mary Sander
    Mary Sander
    I accept that the dentist had a real need to release his employee. However it should NOT be classified as fired, a nasty term, but a lay-off due to poor match and include ample severance pay and reference for other employment. Employers need their rights protected also.
  • Tracy Colby
    Tracy Colby
    I think he should have gotten her a better job w/1 of his collegues maybe.not her fault shes pretty.My friends boss was going out of business &that's what he did 4 her! She needs 2 sue that court 4 not compensating her losses
  • Lubna Siddiqui
    Lubna Siddiqui
    Of course not, it was not her fault. He or they could have transferred her to a place or position, where he had less encounter with her. Firing her is not justified. If supreme court thinks it to be a legitimate cause, then they should arrange for a suitable income for such a person, who has been discriminated against. I think the trial and its rulings are not fair to the person who was fired, for no fault of hers.
  • Nancy Newell
    Nancy Newell
    I can see this happening, but I don't believe it is a frequent occurrence. I know for certain that it is possible to NOT be  hired for being too attractive.
  • Diana L. Carter, LPC
    Diana L. Carter, LPC
    I was fired from Elgin, IL’s District U-46 as a substitute teacher because I had the ethics to email the sup about about a life threatening situation in a classroom of very cognitively impaired Special Ed students. (A high school girl with Down’s syndrome likes to throw chairs.  Her classmates, who are cognitively about one year old, don’t seem to mind, and aren’t aware enough to duck.)  Evidently, they don’t want aware people working for them, because it’s cheaper to allow the danger to stay in existence.
  • Lisa Todd
    Lisa Todd
    I think that that is really unfair. the boss should have wanted to hire her because she was properly trained and fit for the job, and not because of her looks. Especially if this woman had a Chicago job, it's hard enough to find another job if you lose a job here. So that is such an inconvenience to her, because her looks had everything to do with the cause of her getting hired for her job in the first place. She still needs to support herself, and take care of herself financially, and just in case she has a family, or kids she needs to support them, and it's not fair if she loses her job over that. If she loses her job I feel like her boss should lose he's. Maybe not, but that's just my opinion. It's harder enough to find jobs here, that's not right.
  • Otis Canton
    Otis Canton
    I think that's it is wrong. He knew how she looked. I think that there's more to the story. I think that his marriage had hit a hard point and he knew that she was not interested in him.
  •  Theresa L. Byers
    Theresa L. Byers
    I cannot believe that any self respecting court would pronounce and/or uphold such an undeniably discriminating ruling.  If we allow employers to simply decide to fire their employees based on their own uninvited thoughts or opinions and desires, then we have become a nation of dictators no better than Adolf Hitler and other such self-serving tyrants!! It would set the basis for those in power (i.e... employers, social workers, public servants and political representatives  etc...) to simply pick and choose who does/does not get to keep their jobs, not based on performance and effort, but rather on their own whims.  Although the issue is understandable, the responsibility lies on the employer, not in any way on the employee and should not depict that employee's financial security.  It seems to me that much in the same manner that the result of an employee's inappropriate behavior would result in their termination, it should be the offending employer who should suffer the consequences of his/her thoughts and/or actions.  For example, if the dentist was having such thoughts, un invited/provoked by the assistant and they had become such a threat to his/her marriage, they should be the one who is replaced, or in this case due to the required medical degree, he should have been required to employ his wife or some other person to act as a "probation officer" of sorts in the same manner that we make criminals submit to the monitoring of their actions when they have shown that they are unable to control their own actions in a morally acceptable fashion.  Maybe its just me but there is just no possible way to justify punishing someone for simply doing the job that they were hired to do.  I guess there is some truth to the old saying that " NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED!!!
  • Brenda Richard
    Brenda Richard
    Wow, this just opened a can of worms. I don't wish that anyone getting fired, but because of this reason, maybe ok. I don't think that being too attractive is the point. The point is that the boss was attracted to her.  Just because you are attractive, it doesn't mean others are attractive to you. We can't control who we are attracted to. I understand.
  • Romanda Gaye
    Romanda Gaye
    No...I feel the ruling and termination was unjust. He knew she was attractive when he hire her. Just because he couldn't control his emotions toward her has nothing to do with her job performance. I too was targeted at work for being complementary...majority of the people I worked with complemented me on my looks and how I dressed and when my education came into play my boss who was a female became very jealous and threaten by me. She made sure to find everything she could to get rid of me... After she fired me...the state later found her accusations to be nonsensical and I was award unemployment until I could find anther job.
  • Linda Turriff
    Linda Turriff
    Why did  he hire her in the first place?  Why didn't he hire an unattractive /ugly dental assistant with the same qualifications? And, she was a long term employee. So she was meeting the qualifications for performing her job. I feel the ruling was a SET-UP ...because they should have had at least 50% women in court ( or on the jury) to give the female prospective. This was not handled properly and I don't agree with the ruling.
  • J Daniels
    J Daniels
    I'm fine with this outcome...Provided the employer is court ordered to attend counselling for his impulse control and entitlement issues.!!!What a crock!
  • Kathleen Alemany
    Kathleen Alemany
    Again, chauvinistic behavior on the part of men. He want's to fire her, he should have been made to pay a severance. Before you know it, MEN will be using this excuse to get rid of unwanted employees, attractive or not under the same guise! Some men are attracted to fatties! No matter what she looks like.
  • JuliaAnderson
    In my opinion, that's total BS for "can't keep it in my pants." It's just another justification for men to behave the way they want.  He's using a reason (real or not) because he wants to appear as if he's concerned for his marriage.  Tell him what you'd tell a woman: "Just say NO."  Just a note: most employers can fire a person without cause.
  • Robert B. Lewis
    Robert B. Lewis
    This is an extremely valid article. In my experience as a patient, it is very easy not to miss an appt because of the assistant. As an employer it is ridiculous not to see the benefits for said employee, I find it very commendable that the Dr. did terminate her, because of the consequence of keeping her. Remember she was there for awhile, the only thing I find wrong is that he did not have a one on one with her and come to a positive resolution, probably one helping her obtain new employment.
  • Mary Peaker
    Mary Peaker
    no I think it was unfair for the employee to get fired because of her looks, because her boss could not be professional and control his thoughts, he's supposed to be thinking about work and not sex
    I think it is unfair to  do  this  as  it is  essential  for  every  worker   to  perform  to  their  best  ability  and  sometimes  it takes  good  physical  appearances
    Attractive is in the eye of the beholder. I understand the temptation, but it' called "control" to not go further than one should.
  • DesmondLinton
    I think the dentist had a problem suppressing his feelings so he played it safe; but I think he could have spared her and seek professional help.
  • Laura Williams
    Laura Williams
    That's ridiculous!  One's appearance has nothing to do with how well they can do the job they were hired to do.  As far as spousal jealousies when the spouse doesn't work for said company, they have nothing to do with it so they should stay out of it because it can only make matters worse.
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