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.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. December 22, 2012 12:32 PM

    Respectfully, Mr. Sulman, I disagree. The dentist did fire her because of her gender - for being a particularly idealized version of her gender. (Presumably, he hired an unattractive woman to replace the staffer.) This suggests that anyone deemed attractive - an entirely subjective category - can be fired at any time, despite having done nothing but show up for work looking the way they normally do.

    Why not rule against the dentist for failing to take initial steps (cognitive-behavioral therapy, testosterone blockers, shock therapy, etc.) to control his "male urges" prior to firing the woman?

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