Iowa Supreme Court To Reconsider Case Of Melissa Nelson, Woman Fired For Being Too Attractive

After being fired by her boss in 2010 for being too attractive and thus a threat to his marriage, former dental assistant Melissa Nelson filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against her ex-employer, claiming that she had been wrongfully terminated from her longtime job.

"I worked for [dentist James Knight] for 10 years," Nelson, who is married with children, said in a HuffPost Live interview earlier this year. "I didn't understand it at all."

"I thought that was what I was going to be doing for the rest of my career," recalled Nelson, who had received sexually explicit text messages from Knight before she was axed. "It just happened so fast. ... I didn't have a chance to figure out what I want to do or where I want to go." (Watch more of this interview in the video above.)

To the chagrin of women's rights and anti-discrimination activists, the all-male Iowa Supreme Court sided with Nelson's boss in December, ruling that an employer has the right to fire an employee whom he considers an "irresistible attraction."

However, in a surprise move, the court announced this week that it will reconsider Nelson's case, withdrawing the unanimous opinion it had issued last year.

According to the Des Moines Register, Iowa Chief Justice Mark Cady signed an order Monday submitting the case for reconsideration by the court. Though Cady’s order says that "the case will be reopened for discussion by the court," it adds that the lawsuit will be "re-evaluated based on previously submitted evidence and legal briefs." In other words, no new evidence will be heard.

Ryan Koopmans, an Iowa attorney who is not affiliated with the case, said that this reconsideration was likely triggered by the nationwide controversy and backlash that the court's original decision had sparked.

"The only thing that's changed here is the public's reaction to the decision, which was mostly negative," said Koopmans, according to ABC News. "There really is no reason to grant rehearing six months after the decision was made unless someone is seriously considering changing their mind. I think we'll definitely see at least one opinion in favor of Melissa, the question is whether it is the majority opinion or dissenting opinion."

It is very rare for justices to reconsider cases. A spokesperson for the Iowa Supreme Court told the Register that in the past 10 years, there have been only five reconsiderations.



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