Iowa Supreme Court Reopens Case of Woman Fired for being too Attractive

Saturday, June 29, 2013
Melissa Nelson (photo: KCCI)

After being maligned in the national media for its earlier ruling, the Iowa Supreme Court has decided to reconsider the case of woman fired from her job for being too attractive.


The court unanimously rejected Melissa Nelson’s sexual discrimination claim in December, saying the conditions under which she lost her employment did not qualify as discrimination under the law.


Her story goes like this: Nelson worked for dentist James Knight for 10 years until he fired her in 2010 because of her looks. Knight claimed that she was too attractive to keep around, lest he be tempted to sleep with her and endanger his marriage.


The ordeal and court ruling of the “irresistible employee” became a national story on news shows and comedy programs.


Nelson asked the court to reconsider its decision, and this week it agreed to do so. The justices will not hear any further oral arguments, but simply reevaluate the evidence already presented. The court rarely reconsiders its decisions, having done so only five times in the last 10 years.


Nelson is by no means the first female employee to face discrimination for being too attractive. In 2008, Amitjo Kajla, a prison guard at Brinsford Young Offenders' Institution near Wolverhampton in England, was forced out of her job for wearing too much makeup and clothes that were too tight. A tribunal ruled in her favor and the HM Prison Service paid her compensation.


And in 2012, Erika Bonilla, an FBI employee in New Mexico, sued the Department of Justice, claiming that co-workers had “targeted, harassed and retaliated against because she is an attractive Hispanic female with a career in Latin music.” 

-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky


To Learn More:

Iowa Court to Reconsider 'Irresistible Employee' Case (Jeff Eckhoff, Des Moines Register)

FBI Employee Sues over Attractiveness Discrimination (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Lost Job for being too Attractive (AllGov)


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