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High court says woman was not illegally fired over good looks

It certainly does not seem fair or right to be fired for being too attractive in the workplace. But is it illegal for an employer to fire an employee because he or she is good-looking?

In California and throughout the entire country, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees on the basis of their sex or gender. So when a woman was fired in 2010 because she was a good-looking woman, she filed a wrongful termination and sex discrimination lawsuit against her employer. A lower court ruling stated that the woman's employer did not fire her on the basis of her gender, though. The woman then brought her case to the Iowa Supreme Court, but last week, the higher court upheld the ruling.

So why did the state Supreme Court rule in favor of the woman's employer?

The high court concluded that the woman's employer did not violate gender discrimination laws when firing the woman for being too attractive. Instead, the court concluded that the decision to fire the woman was simply because her presence in the workplace had threatened her supervisor's marriage.

According to the lawsuit, the woman was hired as a dental assistant in 1999. She worked at the office for more than 10 years before she was fired. The lawsuit stated that the dentist the woman worked for had mentioned that her looks were distracting to him. He had also asked her not to wear "revealing" clothes, but the assistant said that her work attire consisted of scrubs.

The dentist's wife also worked at the same office, and when the wife found out that her husband and his assistant had exchanged text messages outside of work, the wife asked her husband to terminate the assistant in 2009. The dentist then fired his assistant in 2010.

The woman's lawsuit argued that she had been fired because of her gender, which is unlawful. But the high court concluded that the woman's gender was not the reason for her being terminated. As a result, the woman's termination was not illegal, the court decided.

Source: CNN, "'Irresistible' worker fired in Iowa: 'I don't think it's fair,'" Dana Ford, Dec. 23, 2012