On Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that an employee could be lawfully terminated because her employer found her to be an "irresistible attraction." The Court's decision (here) - which, in the words of a friend of mine, "reads a bit Mad Men-like" - is worth a quick read. In this case, the employer, a dentist, developed an attraction to his dental assistant, Ms. Nelson. Over the years, Dr. Knight made several comments about Nelson's clothing being "too tight" and warned that she might see his "pants bulging" if her clothing was "too revealing." When Knight's wife became concerned about the nature of the relationship between the parties, she demanded that her husband terminate the assistant. And he did.
The Court held that neither Title VII nor the state's Civil Rights Act forbade the adverse employment action, despite the plaintiff's argument on appeal that the doctor's behavior amounted to sexual harassment which would have, itself, been actionable even without termination. The decision appears to turn on the fact that the relationship/fresh language/etc. was not "unwanted" - in other words, Ms. Nelson did not complain about Knight's language and maintained a friendship with him over the course of their working relationship. According to the court, their workplace environment never assumed the level of "hostility" required for such claims.