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It is Legal for Men to Fire Women Because They’re Hot

It is Legal for Men to Fire Women Because They’re Hot

Should a man be able to treat his female employees differently based on how sexy he thinks they are? Is it okay for him to give promotions and raises to a subordinate he is sleeping with instead of other, more deserving women? How about firing a woman because he finds her “irresistible?”

Federal courts think that all of this is just fine. The law has no problem with employment being a beauty contest for women.

The latest example comes from Iowa City, where a dentist fired a long-term employee because he  found her attractive. He was afraid he would start an affair with her and did not want to threaten his marriage, so she paid for his inability to control himself by losing her livelihood.

Ironically, there was no chance of an affair: the employee viewed the dentist as “a father figure,” the AP reports. She had no sexual interest in him. The entire thing was in his mind.

This is a crystal clear example of degrading and objectifying women: in the workplace, where people should be judged by merit, they are instead judged by how attractive they are to men. There might as well be wet t-shirt contests to allocate bonuses.

The logic judges apply to these cases is easy to follow. Take the case of the dentist: he had hired the woman and employed her for years, all his other employees were women, and after he fired Ms. Irresistible, he replaced her with another woman. So how could he be discriminating against women or based on gender? He was discriminating solely based on perceived hotness, and that is not illegal.

The same is true of the man who awards a promotion to the woman he is sleeping with. He may have overlooked other women and men who were better qualified, but it wasn’t because of their gender; it was because of his relationship with the worker he promoted.

Laws against sex discrimination aren’t the only ones that protect working women. There are also the more specific rules that prohibit sexual harassment. But they aren’t any help here.

Again, the judges apply those laws to these kinds of cases and find no legal violation. In the dentist’s case, the fired employee didn’t even bring a sexual harassment claim because the few “colorful” or potentially objectionable things the boss said to her didn’t happen to offend her. One example: he told her that if his pants were bulging, her clothing was too revealing. Classy.

Sexual harassment also doesn’t quite apply to the situation of a boss who is sleeping with a female subordinate and favors her over her colleagues. As long as the sexual relationship is consensual, is not tied to the subordinate’s employment (e.g., “sleep with me and I’ll promote you”), and the man is not sexually inappropriate with or around his other female subordinates, then legally there is no sexual harassment.

Still, it feels wrong. Something is off. Being fired for being too pretty is exactly the kind of objectification that feminism abhors. If the laws don’t cover this situation, maybe it is because the laws need some adjusting and not because the situation is acceptable.

Devising an alternative law is tricky. We don’t want to forbid employers from making personnel decisions based on appearance, because it is more reasonable for a boss to fire a salesperson of whatever gender who insists on dressing like a slob, or to ask a receptionist who dresses like she is at the beach to wear more professional-looking outfits. It isn’t focusing on appearance that rubs the wrong way, but focusing on sexual desirability.

Perhaps the solution is as simple as prohibiting bosses from making employment decisions based on their opinion of a worker’s sexiness. This would put the onus for the dentist’s lust on him, instead of punishing his innocent employee for it.

There is no good business argument against this rule. Legally, while it will be difficult to prove what was in someone’s mind when they made a promotion or firing decision, that is true in all discrimination cases and is not reason enough to make discrimination legal.

In addition to protecting the beautiful, adopting this rule might help give the more plain among us a leg up  – no more discriminating against them in order to hire a bombshell.

Related Stories:

Woman Fired From A Lingerie Company For Being Too Attractive

France’s New Sexual Harassment Law Still Too Vague?

Sex Discrimination Constitutionally OK Says Scalia

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Photo credit: Andy Sotiriou

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255 comments

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1:26PM PDT on Apr 30, 2013

I was the only female employee at my company, I was Assistant Supervisor for a security company. Needless to say I was treated differently, and really had to prove myself (my 110lbs compared to the 200lb+ military and ex military coworkers)

1:24PM PDT on Apr 30, 2013

in NC your boss can fire you for ANY reason... hire/fire at will State. I can be fired because I look funny, or because they discover I like spinach and they find that unacceptable.

6:35PM PST on Jan 25, 2013

Interesting thank You

5:08PM PST on Jan 23, 2013

It's disturbing to me that looks are so important to the value of a woman and her role in the workplace. I look forward to the day when a woman's value is based off her personality and her character as opposed to her looks.

9:38AM PST on Jan 18, 2013

:(

9:21AM PST on Jan 17, 2013

Disgusting!

7:56AM PST on Jan 15, 2013

No one will like reading this...but....I have had problems consistently in the workplace because of my looks. The last full time job was a state position, and a very well heeled (and yes, very attractive) male would hang over me when I was at the reception desk. He stared and stared and dropped sexual innuendos (okay...the "juice" was fine by me but I never encouraged him). In fact, I tried to defuse the situation.

I left my first job at age 23 (in a hospital) because of a doctor pursuing me relentlessly.

By far the worst are other women...catty and back stabbing. Psychopathic and stalking behavior...set-ups...dropping hateful remarks and deliberately ignoring me or telling the woman who sat next to me how beautiful she was...obviously meant to undermine me.

I will take a lusting male any day over a catty female. These women are relentless.

8:05PM PST on Jan 7, 2013

The dentist sounds like he needs mental help.

3:06PM PST on Jan 6, 2013

Yikes

1:20AM PST on Jan 6, 2013

Mark said, "We are the descendants of the best fighters and rapists of a past era." Umm, no. That's one contributing group to our genetic makeup. Other groups would be merchants, blacksmiths, scholars, farmers, and herders. People who used their charm, brains, or brawn to secure economic advantage for their families. Nice myth / origin story you're trying to spin there, but it doesn't explain anything about the situation. The guy didn't want to behave professionally and that's his fault, no one else's. Firing her was a solution and it happened to be legal.

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