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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Edwards v. Nicolai: A Possible Follow-Up to Iowa's "Firing-For-Attraction" Case

Last year, in Nelson v. Knight, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that a termination based on the employer's personal attraction to an employee is not unlawful. Ryan Koopmans summarizes the main points of the opinion and the concurrence here. I had blogged about the case here, noting that I hoped that the Court would overturn the original ruling. This hope turned out to be unfounded.

At the National Law Review, James Ehrenberg writes about the Nelson decision:
We were intrigued by the decision – and we discussed it in this blog – because, at first blush, it seems to be counterintuitive. The assistant was only a threat to the dentist’s marriage because of her sex, right? So wasn’t she fired – at least indirectly – because of her sex? That was our thinking. But the Iowa Supreme Court didn’t see it our way, and we wondered if other states would follow its lead. 
One may soon do so. In Edwards v. Nicolai (Case No. 160830/2013), a Manhattan yoga instructor alleges that she was fired by her boss because her boss’s husband found her to be “too cute.” The yoga instructor’s boss and her husband have filed a motion to dismiss which makes the same basic argument that the dentist made in Nelson. Being fired for being “too cute,” they say, is not the same thing as being fired because of your sex.
Ehrenberg points out that the New York trial court has not decided the case yet. But it will be interesting to see how the case turns out. And if the case ends up going the same way as the Nelson case, it will be interesting to see whether the Edwards court looks to Nelson for guidance.

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