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Court: Termination of attractive employee was lawful

Running a business can have a seemingly endless supply of challenges and legal issues that an owner must confront. In the interest of creating and maintaining the success of a business, there are times when an employer must make unpopular choices to protect his or her professional and personal interests. It is therefore very important to consult with a legal professional prior to making these decisions in order to avoid a lengthy and costly lawsuit.

One of the most difficult tasks that a boss often needs to make decisions on is when and if it is necessary to fire an employee. Employees are protected from discriminatory termination, meaning that they cannot be fired for being a certain race, gender, religion or disabled. However, there are some situations that present a grey area.

For example, can an employer let an employee go for being too attractive?

This situation recently came up in another state. According to reports, the employer is a dentist who worked with a 32-year-old woman who was his dental assistant. After years of working together, the dentist called the assistant into his office to inform her that she was being terminated because she was a threat to his marriage.

The woman believed she should not have been fired because of her attractive appearance. She was good at her job and had worked with her boss for years. However, in the months leading up to her dismissal, the dentist reportedly commented on the assistant's tight, distracting clothing. Although the two never had any relationship outside of work, the dentist believed that he would jeopardize his marriage and pursue an affair if they continued working together.

The dentist maintains that the assistant's workplace behavior and dress was inappropriate, and therefore the firing was necessary. He and his wife even spoke with a pastor regarding the issue, and they were told that the assistant was a threat to their marriage and she should be terminated.

The state Supreme Court recently upheld a lower court's ruling that the firing was justified and lawful. The public's reaction to the ruling was split. Some agreed with the Court while others believe she was the target of discrimination. In either case, this lengthy and controversial lawsuit could have been avoided if the dentist had spoken with an attorney in addition to the pastor prior to making his decision.

Source: ABC News, "Dental Assistant Fired For Being 'Irresistible' Is 'Devastated'," Dec. 23, 2012

  • In order to avoid lengthy lawsuits such as the one discussed in this post, Denver employers may want to visit our firm's page on Employment Law to learn more about their rights and limitations.

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