Yuletide spirit and Doomsday notwithstanding, I still don’t know why the news story was so irritating. That seven men sitting in judgment on Iowa’s highest state court failed to find a jurisprudential remedy in law or equity for Melissa Nelson’s suffered wrong shouldn’t have been a surprise.
Most lawyers know enough to never bet on the ancient maxim Ubi Jus Ibi Remediu that “for every wrong, the law provides a remedy.” You’re better off remembering what Lyndon B. Johnson famously averred, “Boys, I may not know much, but I know chicken shit from chicken salad.”
The Iowa Supreme Court, ironically enough after the not-so-long-ago ousting of 3 of its members over gay marriage, this time took the side of traditional marriage-preservationists, more specifically, of Dentist Employer James H. Knight and his Mrs. “It is undisputed, rather, that Nelson was fired,” the Court said, “because Ms. Knight, unfairly or not, viewed her as a threat to her marriage.”
No matter that the court opinion also noted that, “Dr. Knight acknowledges he once told Nelson that if she saw his pants bulging, she would know her clothing was too revealing. On another occasion, Dr. Knight texted Nelson saying the shirt she had worn that day was too tight.
“After Nelson responded that she did not think he was being fair, Dr. Knight replied that it was a good thing Nelson did not wear tight pants too because then he would get it coming and going. Dr. Knight also recalls that after Nelson allegedly made a statement regarding infrequency in her sex life, he responded to her, “[T]hat’s like having a Lamborghini in the garage and never driving it.” Nelson recalls that Dr. Knight once texted her to ask how often she experienced an orgasm.”
So in the spirit of Robert Palmer, “anything’s permissible,” and of wrong-head thinking men who can’t control themselves, the Supremes gave a warm affirming nod to personal irresponsibility and an ‘Amen’ to “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.”
It was not “unlawful gender discrimination” and Melissa Nelson only incidentally happened to be a woman. A tight clothes-wearing male assistant wouldn’t have brightened the dental drill or made this employer’s pants bulge.
And insomuch as the court made much of Nelson’s replacement being a woman, they unanimously answered ‘yes’ to the legal question, “Can a male employer terminate a female employee because the employer’s wife, due to no fault of the employee, is concerned about the nature of the relationship between the employer and the employee?”
“Seem a saint . . . .”
“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection,” the passage says. And adds, “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”
Which later found such pronouncements laid bare,
“But then I sigh and, with a piece of Scripture,
Tell them that God bids us do good for evil.
And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With odd old ends stol’n forth of holy writ,
And seem a saint when most I play the devil.” – Gloucester, Richard III : ACT I : Scene 3. William Shakespeare
44 years after that tobacco company popularized a cheesy marketing slogan “You’ve come a long way, baby,“ women really haven’t come as far as we thought.
Indeed, last spring, lingerie company data-entry temp Lauren Odes was told she was “too hot” and that her “breasts were too large” and was terminated as her suit alleged. Her lawyer further claimed, “She was simply fired for being too attractive and for not conforming to the religious strictures imposed by top management.”