Melissa Nelson worked as a dental hygienist for 10 years with her boss Dr. James Knight. The mother was stunned when after a decade her boss fired her for being a “threat to his marriage.”
Nelson did not have an affair with Knight, nor was she ever flirtatious. In fact, Knightconstantly made inappropriate comments toher, all of which she ignored. Nelson wore medical scrubs to work every day, but her boss warned her that if his pants were “bulging” it meant her clothes were too tight.
“Dr. Knight said I couldn’t work in the office, because he was becoming attracted to me, and not able to focus on his family, and his family life…I instantly broke down in tears. All I remember is just sitting there, and not able to get up, telling him that I love my job,” she said.
Nelson decided to sue, saying her termination was gender discrimination. But the Iowa State Supreme Court, made up of sevenmen,said it was perfectly legal. Then something amazing happened.
People all over the country were outraged. How could a man fire a woman becausehewas attracted to her? How was that her fault? How could a married man make so many inappropriate comments to a married woman and then holdherat fault for it?
The court decided to allow Nelson to appeal her case. But here’s the kicker: It went tothe same seven male judges. Nelson then won the right to appeal the case again, but it was the same seven judges again. Each time they ruled that it was Knight’s right to fire Nelson for personal reasons and ithad nothing to do with her gender.
While Nelson lost three times, she is glad she put up a good fight.
“I could either pick my head up and go with it, or I can walk away with my tail between my legs. And I’m not going to let that happen,” she said.
If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace visit RAINN or call 1-800-656-HOPE!
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