Beauty turned ugly in the State of Iowa last week when the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the firing of a woman because she was simply too irresistible to the employer’s owner. This is the same conclusion the Iowa Supreme Court reached several months ago, when it first considered the case.
The ten-year employee claimed she was fired because her boss’ wife felt that she was a threat to their marriage because she was so attractive. The employer did what any married man who hopes to feel safe in his marital bed asleep at night might do—he took his wife’s demand to heart and fired an otherwise excellent, albeit attractive, employee. The employer told the employee that he was starting to have feelings for her and therefore had to end her employment to save his marriage. The court reasoned that the termination was driven by personal feelings and emotions regarding a specific person, and not on account of unlawful gender discrimination, and the firing was therefore completely lawful.
The case raises a number of interesting cocktail-party questions: Would the result have been different were the gender roles reversed or if the employee had been male? Why isn’t the termination, which would not happen but for a crush on someone of the opposite sex, not unlawful sexual stereotyping? Finally, is the takeaway from this case “go ugly, or go home?”