Law and Disorder

Let’s talk about sex, baby: Then talk about justice

By A.J. Wagner

One woman was fired for being too sexy, another for being pregnant. Both claim they were discriminated against because of their sex.

The first woman was a dental assistant. She worked in a dental office for ten years. The first nine went smoothly enough, but then the boss began feeling an attraction to his assistant. The boss’s wife also worked in the office. What was he thinking?

Apparently, according to court records, he was thinking with something other than the head on his shoulders. He began to complain to the assistant that she was wearing “distracting” clothes. He asked her to wear a lab coat to cover up the clothes that “accentuated her body.” He even boldly said “if she saw his pants bulging, she would know her clothing was too revealing.”

There were no direct advances and the younger woman did not have a mutual interest in her boss. She saw him as a father figure.

Then a text was discovered by the Mrs., in which her new competition said to the man that she thought his complaint about her clothing was unfair. He, seeking to prove the maxim, “Boys are bad,” responded that it was a good thing she didn’t wear tight pants too “because then he would get it coming and going.”

Upon being confronted by his wife, a decision was made to seek pastoral counseling. Counseling established that the young woman was a “big threat to our marriage.” The dentist returned to the office, with spouse and pastor at his side, to tell the employee that for the sake of both marriages she was fired.

Later, when confronted by the aggrieved husband, the doctor confirmed that his assistant had done nothing untoward, but that he was worried “he would try to have an affair with her down the road if he did not fire her.”

The discrimination lawsuit filed by the fired woman made its way to the Iowa Supreme Court where the seven male justices would only consider the question “whether an employee who has not engaged in flirtatious conduct may be lawfully terminated simply because the boss views the employee as an irresistible attraction.”

The court declared the dentist’s conduct to be “unfair” but not unlawful discrimination based on gender.

On the heels of this decision comes another sex discrimination case filed in Federal Court here in Dayton – the second case mentioned above. This case involves an unmarried young teacher in a Catholic school who reported her pregnancy to the principal. She was handed her walking papers.

The teacher complains that she was fired because of her gender, since a man having premarital sex would not be fired, there being no bulging belly and all.

A Church spokesman said that the teacher was setting a horrible example for her children. In court papers, the Archdiocese added she was fired for violating a contract term which requires teachers to “comply with and act consistently in accordance with” Catholic teachings.

We can discuss law here, but it would result in a modern tragic tale of “Les Misérables” – a pregnant woman suffering an unjust firing at the hands of angry men.

It was not that long ago that the Archdiocese found itself pleading “no contest” to five misdemeanors for failing to report allegations of child sexual abuse involving some of its priests. The actual crime was failure to report a felony after covering for at least five incidents of child molestation by priests. The penalty: a $10,000 fine.

Yet, a young, unmarried woman chooses life, as required by the Church, likely seeks forgiveness for her transgression through confession for which she would be forgiven but is told that she is fired as a “horrible example.”

I digress here from the law, because I wish to show that justice and the law don’t always match up. What is clearly “unfair” does not mean the law was violated. The law can often apply to the lowly while the powerful escape with a slap on the wrist.

My favorite description of justice comes from Martin Luther King, Jr. He stated; “What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best, power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”

This coming Friday, Jan. 11, you can begin the celebration of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. by attending the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Banquet at Sinclair College Ponitz Center. Contact me if you’re interested, I will serve as the co-chair of the dinner.

Or join me for one of the MLK Celebration events that are described at mlkdayton.org. 

If we follow King’s definition, we’d need fewer laws and achieve more justice. That’s worth celebrating.

 

Disclaimer: The content herein is for entertainment and information only. Do not use this as a legal consultation. Every situation has different nuances that can affect the outcome and laws change without notice. If you’re in a situation that calls for legal advice, get a lawyer. You represent yourself at your own risk. The author, the Dayton City Paper and its affiliates shall have no liability stemming from your use of the information contained herein. 

A.J. Wagner is an attorney with the law firm of Flanagan, Lieberman, Hoffman and Swaim at 15 W. Fourth Street in Dayton. A.J. and his firm would be glad to help you with all of your legal needs. You can reach A.J. at (937) 223-5200 or at AJWagner@DaytonCityPaper.com.


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A.J. Wagner is an attorney with the law firm of Flanagan, Lieberman, Hoffman and Swaim at 15 W. Fourth Street in Dayton. A.J. and his firm would be glad to help you with all of your legal needs. You can reach A.J. at (937) 223-5200 or at AJWagner@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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