Saturday, December 22, 2012

Too hot for your boss? Too bad.

Employment lawyers are always telling potential clients that they can be fired for virtually any reason, even for something that's not their fault or that they didn't even do. What employers cannot do is fire an employee because of his or her race, gender, religion, or other protected status.

In another example of the wide latitude employers enjoy in personnel decisions, a state judge in Iowa ruled that a dentist did not violate antidiscrimination laws when he fired a female staff member for being too attractive. According to, the dentist fired the irrestible staffer after 10 years of employment when his wife discovered some innocent but personal text messages between the dentist and the female staff member.  The court ruled that the termination did not amount to gender discrimination, because the dentist did not terminate the employee on the basis of her gender but for the purpose of saving his marriage. In fact, he replaced the employee with another woman.

As the writer for reasoned, the dentist is not a sympathetic employer, and his actions are deplorable. He fired an employee because of his own personal failings - i.e. the inability to control his male urges. He did not, however, fire her because of her gender.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Court worker claims sexual harassment complaint ignored

A female employee at the Concord District Court has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the Trial Court, alleging that the Trial Court did nothing in response to her repeated complaints that a probation officer was sexually harassing her. As reported by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly (subscription required), Susan Ahern filed the complaint originally at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, claiming that the Trial Court aided and better the sexual harassment and, as a result, created a hostile work environment. She alleges that Probation Officer Ricky Speller sexually assaulted her, wrote her sexually explicit notes, showed her photographs of nude women, and engaged in other sexual harassment, and yet no disciplinary action was taken even after she reported the behavior to her supervisor and the Trial Court's general counsel. The MCAD found probable cause for her claim, and Ahern removed the complaint to Superior Court. The Trial Court has not yet responded to the complaint.