Melissa Nelson, Dental Assistant, Fired For Being Too Hot

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Apparently 32-year-old Melissa Nelson is simply too attractive to work as a dental assistant in the Iowa practice of 53-year-old D.D.S. James Knight.

Her sexy, good looks are what ultimately got her fired.

Melissa Nelson Pic

After working as a dental assistant for more than 10 years, Nelson was fired for being too "irresistible" and a "threat" to her employer's marriage.

"I think it is completely wrong," said Nelson, who challenged the move. "I think it sends a message that men can do whatever they want in the work force."

On Friday, the all-male Iowa State Supreme Court ruled that Knight was within his legal rights when he fired her, affirming the decision of a lower court.

"We do think the Iowa Supreme Court got it completely right," said Stuart Cochrane, Knight's attorney.

"Our position has always been Mrs. Nelson was never terminated because of her gender, [but] because of concerns her behavior was not appropriate in the workplace."

"She's an attractive lady. Dr. Knight found her behavior and dress to be inappropriate."

For Nelson, herself a married mother of two, the news of her firing and the rationale behind it came as a shock; she says there was never an indication.

"I was very surprised after working so many years side by side I didn't have any idea that that would have crossed his mind," she said of Dr. Knight.

The two never had a sexual relationship or sought one, according to court documents, however Knight recently began to make comments about her clothing.

"Dr. Knight acknowledges he once told Nelson that if she saw his pants bulging, she would know her clothing was too revealing," the justices wrote.

Six months before Nelson was fired, she and her boss began exchanging texts about work and personal matters, such as updates about their children's activities.

The messages were mostly mundane, but Nelson recalled one text she received from her boss asking "how often she experienced an orgasm."

Nelson did not respond to the text, but never indicated that she was uncomfortable with Knight's question, according to Iowa court documents.

Soon after, Knight's wife, Jeanne, who also works at the practice, found out about the text messaging and ordered her husband to fire Nelson.

The couple consulted with a senior pastor at their church and he agreed that Nelson should be terminated in order to protect their marriage.

On January 4, 2010, Nelson was summoned to a meeting with Knight while a pastor was present. Knight read a prepared statement telling Nelson she was fired.

"Dr. Knight felt like for the best interest of his marriage and the best interest of hers, they needed to end their employment relationship," Cochrane said.

Knight acknowledged in court documents that Nelson was good at her job and she, in turn, said she was generally treated with respect at the office.

"I'm devastated. I really am," Nelson said.

When Nelson's husband tried to reason with Knight, the dentist told him he "feared he would have an affair with her down the road if he did not fire her."

Paige Fiedler, Nelson's attorney, said she was "appalled" by the ruling "and by the Court's ruling and its failure to understand the nature of gender bias."

"Although people act for a variety of reasons, it is common for women to be targeted for discrimination because of sexual attractiveness or supposed lack of sexual attractiveness."

"That is discrimination based on sex," Fiedler wrote. "Nearly every woman in Iowa understands this because we have experienced it for ourselves."

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