Home / General / Shorter Iowa Supreme Court: If A Fifty Year-Old Man Can’t Control His Hormones, A Woman Must Lose Her Job

Shorter Iowa Supreme Court: If A Fifty Year-Old Man Can’t Control His Hormones, A Woman Must Lose Her Job


This is the set of facts that the Iowa Supreme Court did not see as constituting sex discrimination:

During the last six months or so of Nelson’s employment, Dr. Knight and Nelson started texting each other on both work and personal matters outside the workplace. Neither objected to the other’s texting. Both Dr. Knight and Nelson have children, and some of the texts involved updates on the kids’ activities and other relatively innocuous matters. Nelson considered Dr. Knight to be a friend and father figure, and she denies that she ever flirted with him or sought an intimate or sexual relationship with him.

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. Nelson did not answer the text. However, Nelson does not remember ever telling Dr. Knight not to text her or telling him that she was offended.


At the end of the workday on January 4, 2010, Dr. Knight called Nelson into his office. He had arranged for another pastor from the church to be present as an observer. Dr. Knight told Nelson he was firing her, reading from a prepared statement. The statement said, in part, that their relationship had become a detriment to Dr. Knight’s family and that for the best interests of both Dr. Knight and his family and Nelson and her family, the two of them should not work together. Dr. Knight handed Nelson an envelope which contained one month’s severance pay. Nelson started crying and said she loved her job.

You will probably also recall this gruesomely sexist logic from arguments about why women should not be permitted to serve in the military and other male-dominated industries. “Clearly, adult heterosexual men cannot possibly be expected to accept that they will not be able to have sex with every woman they find attractive. The solution is to deny women equal economic opportunities.” The idea that firing a woman, after sexually harassing her, because you want to have sex with her isn’t gender discrimination is the same kind of sterile illogic that holds that discriminating against pregnant women isn’t gender discrimination, because the law in its majestic equality allows employers to fire men and women alike for being pregnant. (It probably goes without saying that Robert Bork, the greatest jurist and political thinker of the 20th century, found the latter argument perfectly credible.)

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