Melissa Nelson Fired for Being 'Irresistible,' But Court Will Review Case

Friday, 28 Jun 2013 03:44 PM

By Teresa Meek

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After ruling in December that a dentist had the right to fire a dental hygienist for being too "irresistible," the Iowa Supreme Court has agreed to review the case.

Melissa Nelson had worked for Ft. Dodge, Iowa, dentist for 10 years when he fired her, in order, he said, to save his marriage, The Huffington Post reported.

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In December, the all-male Iowa Supreme Court agreed that the dentist had the right to fire her, ABC News reported.

"Dr. Knight's dismissal of Mrs. Nelson was perfectly legal according to all of the well-established case law not only in Iowa but in every other jurisdiction that has considered similar claims," Knight’s attorney told ABC.

The decision was widely publicized and garnered a lot of negative commentary on social media.

But if Nelson was discriminated against because of her femininity, some male hygienists in the woman-dominated profession have discrimination complaints of their own.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 99.3 percent of the nation’s 163,000 dental hygienists in 2012 were women.

In a post about men in dental hygiene, The Free Library quotes several male hygienists claiming they had trouble finding work or were discouraged from pursuing the career.

"Some hygiene schools would not accept males," one wrote. "When I graduated, it took me three months to find a job. I was the first [male dental hygienist] to practice in the Kansas City area. The dentists did not know what to make of a male RDH [Registered Dental Hygienist].”

Another wrote of his training program:

"During my first month in the program, I visited the dental hygiene program as a patient and fell in love with the profession," he said. "I couldn't stop talking to the student hygienist about all she was doing. Later I spoke with an RDH instructor about changing majors from engineering to hygiene. The exchange ended with the instructor saying something like, 'I can't let you ... nobody will hire a guy.'"

Another with a more sanguine attitude said that though dentists sometimes object to hiring a male hygienist, if they do obtain a position, patients don’t have a problem with them:

"While I may have turned off a potential employer or two, I have yet to have a patient refuse to see me because of my gender. As in any job, you have to sell yourself to your employer, be a team player and give 100 percent effort to your patients. Do that, and employers will forget what gender you are."

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Related stories:

Staff Can Be Fired for Being Too Sexy, Court Rules

Public Law School Sued Over Liberal Bias

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