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."


Sounds to me like the state Supreme Court needs 7 new judges. It would be nice if these overpaid judges had a clue about the real world.

@ ppt54

You got it backwards. In the "real world" a dentist had the hots for his sexy assist and she had to go. That's as "real" as it gets. In liberal la-la land she could strut around showing t&a until he did actually hit on her at which time she'd sue for harassment, get her payday, ruin his life and be hailed a hero by the looney left. In the "real world" the Doc made the right call.

@ sruggsy

In the "real world" people are able to control themselves and take responsibility for their own actions. In the real world you have the right to not be harassed at work by people who cant control themselves. The doctor said he "feared he would have an affair with her down the road if he did not fire her.". When she had no intentions of having an affair with him... That should set alarm bells ringing! And now he thinks his way of thinking is justified by the supreme court. Hope we don't see this doctor in the news again for "having an affair" with someone who didn't want it... The doctors wife should have a serious think about her relationship with man, and the "senior pastor" who advised these people to fire the innocent woman should be ashamed of himself

@ sruggsy

I completely agree with you, if it had continued and he said something she didn't like it would be her running to the court again to sue, this time for sexual harassment. Somethings happen that Does not look good from the outside this may be due to lack of facts. There are something's we don't know! Before you get all mother and daughter relationship and become judgmental I am a woman I empathize with what she is going through life is life and she will move on.

@ Myop

So because he felt he would go on to harass her, she deserves to be fired now?.. You people have a strange way of looking at things.


It sounds like Melissa Nelson has enough evidence for a nice tidy sum for a sexual harassment civil suit. Comments about having a bulge in his pants, asking her how many orgasms she's had. For Ms. Nelson it's going to be about chaching. What a duffus the dentist is.

@ Peter

It's not harassment if Ms. Nelson sought and welcomed the unprofessional attention from the dentist.

@ Chris

Nowhere in the article did it mention her seeking that kind of attention from Knight. If a woman is attractive, that does not in any way mean she is automatically always horny on the job. He made sexual comments to her and she didn't respond to them.


This decision by the dentist and the Supreme Court were terribly wrong. The dentist shouldn't blame his assistant for his lack of self confidence. Can't the courts see the implications by this decision? this decision is very sexist! Does this mean that any employer can legally fire a female employee because "she is too pretty?" I hope they go to the US Supreme Court.

@ Reltip

Yes, an employer can fire in a right to work state for being too pretty. Or too ugly. Or too red-headed. You might not like it but that's the reality of it. Refreshing, isn't it?

@ sruggsy

You are a complete dirtbag and a stupid one to boot. What he did was sexual harassment. Telling her that he had a bulge in his pants. Asking her how often she had orgasms. Are you freaking kidding me? In any right to work state, you STILL have the right to work WITHOUT having to cater in whatever way to your boss's sexual urges. She may have chosen the wrong statute to sue over, but that's a legal mistake. You, on the other hand, clearly feel that it's okay to violate those who work for you, because they need a paycheck. Really hoping it happens to you soon, asshat.

@ truebluewoman

What the media has failed to touch on is her past affair with another dentist, or various and numerous one night stands. The comment about the orgasm was taken completely out of context. Also the tight clothing that she wore, she had changed into her gym clothes, which were revealing. In any case, not much of a story when you know both sides, is it?