Too hot to work? Melissa Nelson's fight with former employer Dr. James Knight heads back to court

An Iowa woman was fired from her job because her boss found her 'irresistible' and said working with her risked his marriage.

She sued, but lost her legal battle last December.

Now she's getting a chance to fight back.

This week, Iowa's Supreme Court took a rare step, withdrawing a unanimous decision in Melissa Nelson's case.

"People think this decision is just unfair," Iowa attorney Ryan Koopmans said.

Dentist James Knight called Nelson one of the best dental assistants he'd ever had, but he fired her in 2010.

Why? Because she presented an "irresistible attraction," court records say, threatening his marriage.

"His reasoning was, I was affecting his home life, and his personal life and that it was time for me to go," Nelson said.

Records show Knight's wife "demanded that he terminate Nelson's employment." Nelson sued, claiming gender discrimination.

"I'm not attracted to him," Nelson said. "I've never been attracted to him."

Nelson said Knight complained "her clothing was too tight and revealing". Not so, says Nelson.

"I just thought of myself as this everyday person that came to work."

Last December, the all-male Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled Nelson's firing was unfair, but legal and not gender discrimination.

But Nelson hasn't stopped fighting. In April, she even brought attention to her case on Comedy Central.

Now Iowa's highest court is reconsidering its decision.

"It's really unprecedented," Koopmans said. "In this case there is no new evidence. There is no fact that the Supreme Court missed. The only thing that's new here is the public reaction to the opinion. Which is mostly negative, actually overwhelmingly negative."

Nelson's attorney says her client is "delighted" at the news. Knight's attorney says he's confident the court will uphold its prior decision.

"I did my job to the best of my abilities," Nelson said. "I work hard."

In its decision, the Iowa Supreme Court pointed out that Knight hired a female replacement for Nelson and argued that showed that her firing was unfair, but not gender discrimination. The justices noted that if adverse action was repeatedly taken by an employer against persons of a particular gender, that may be seen as gender discrimination but not in this case.

The court did call Knight's decision to only pay Nelson one month's severance ungenerous.


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