Iowa court: Employers can fire workers they find too sexy

December 22, 2012

Good! People make judgments about what is good in their workplace. Sexual distractions are a factor and society doesn’t work otherwise.


The Iowa Supreme Court ruled on Friday that employers in the state can legally fire workers they find too attractive. In a unanimous decision, the court held that a dentist did not violate the state’s civil rights act when he terminated a female dental assistant whom his wife considered a threat to their marriage.
The dental assistant, Melissa Nelson, who worked for dentist James Knight for more than 10 years and had never flirted with him, according to the testimony of both parties, sued, saying she would not have been fired if she were a man.
At trial, Knight testified he had complained to Nelson on several occasions that her clothing was too tight, revealing and “distracting.”
Knight argued that Nelson was terminated not because of her gender – all the employees of his practice are women – but because of the way their relationship had developed and the threat it posed to his marriage.
The seven justices, all men, said the basic question presented by the case was “whether an employee who has not engaged in flirtatious conduct may be lawfully terminated simply because the boss views the employee as an irresistible attraction.”
The high court ruled that bosses can fire workers they find too attractive and that such actions do not amount to unlawful discrimination.


An Originalist Argument for the Unconstitutionality of Sex Discrimination

November 27, 2011
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Posted Image(volokh) It is generally accepted that the Supreme Court’s sex discrimination jurisprudence cannot be reconciled with an originalist interpretation of Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment.   Originalists and non-originalists alike accept that the original intent of Section One was to preclude racial discrimination against blacks, and that there was no intent to prevent sex discrimination by state entities.  Nor did the original public meaning of Section One embody a rule that would prevent state governments from engaging in sex discrimination.

In an important new paper, forthcoming in the Texas Law Review, Northwestern law professor Steven Calabresi and Julia Rickert argue that the conventional originalist view on sex discrimination is wrong, and that the Supreme Court’s sex discrimination decisions (if not their rationales) are largely consistent with a true originalist understanding of Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment.  Specifically, they argue that Section One is best understood as a prohibition on caste legislation and that the meaning of the Amendment must be considered in light of subsequent constitutional amendments, the Nineteenth Amendment in particular.  Thus understood, Section One prohibits state-sponsored gender discrimination and can even justify the Court’s decision in the VMI case.
This article is Lawrence Solum’s “Download of the Week,” and with good reason, as it is sure to prompt significant discussion and debate.  As Solum would say, “Download it while it’s hot!”