Iowa Supreme Court Affirms Summary Judgment in Case of Termination Due to Wife's Concern About Relationship Between Employer Husband and His Employee

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Iowa Supreme Court affirmed a decision by  the lower courts in Nelson v. James H. Knight DDS, P.C. and James Night, No. 11-1857 (July 12, 2013).  The question raised by the case was whether a male employer can terminate a long-time 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?

The Court concluded that the conduct of the employer did not amount to unlawful sex discrimination in violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act.  The Court emphasized the limits of the decision. The employee did not bring a sexual harassment or hostile work environment claim; and therefore, the Court did not decide how such a claim would have been resolved in this or any other case. Also, when an employer takes an adverse employment action against a person or persons because of a gender-specific characteristic, that can violate the civil rights laws. According to the Court, the record in this case, did not support such an allegation.

The Appelant argued that her gender was the motivating factor in her termination because she would not have lost her job if she had been a man.  The Appellees responded that the employee was terminated not because of her sex (the employer had other female employees), but because of the nature of their relationship and the perceived threat to the employer's marriage.  After review of numerous cases, the Court determined that the conduct of Dr. Knight did not amount to unlawful gender discrimination and affirmed the summary judgment.  

Login to read more.


Username: *

Password: *
Accept terms *
Login failed.
copyright 2000 - 2024 Curtis Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. | Access to the HR Care publications is subject to certain terms and conditions.
Learn about our online compliance training at