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Court upholds woman's firing because boss found her 'irresistible'

Stories posted on this blog regularly show that there is no shortage of injustice in the workplace. While inappropriate and illegal workplace actions are sadly common, most of us would nonetheless like to believe in the court system as the voice of reason that allows wronged individuals to find justice.

But just when you think you've heard it all, a court delivers a ruling that makes you wonder just how much legal recourse is available to certain victims of wrongful termination or other injustices. A recent ruling by a state Supreme Court has gained national attention and has been seen by many across the country as an affront to the rights of women in the workplace.

The case concerned a 53-year-old dentist in Iowa who fired his 32-year-old female assistant simply because he was attracted to her and felt that her continued employment was a threat to his marriage. The woman, who had worked there for 10 years, was described as a "stellar" employee.

Furthermore, she never engaged in flirtatious behavior. If anything, comments made to her by her employer could have been construed as sexual harassment. On one occasion, the dentist commented on her infrequent sex life by saying: "that's like having a Lamborghini in the garage and never driving it."

Sadly, the woman's gender discrimination lawsuit was dismissed by a district judge, and the all-male Iowa Supreme Court unanimously upheld that decision. One Justice explained that because the firing was motivated by "feelings and emotion" and not by gender, her termination does not qualify as "unlawful discrimination under the Iowa Civil Rights Act."

Critics have noted that this ruling could be a slippery slope that threatens the rights of all women in the workplace, at least in Iowa and other states with similar laws.

As the plaintiff's attorney recently warned: "These judges sent a message to Iowa women that they don't think men can be held responsible for their sexual desires and that Iowa women are the ones who have to monitor and control their bosses' sexual desires. If (the men) get out of hand, then the women can be legally fired for it."

Source: Huffington Post, "Bosses Can Fire Hot Workers For Being 'Irresistible': All-Male Court," Ryan J. Foley, Dec. 21, 2012

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