Hm. I'm of mixed feelings on this. Before y'all jump me, let me explain.
In a larger business setting and you find that you're in an awkward relational or emotional situation with an employee, you kind of have to suck it up... but you also have a built-in support network of other coworkers and management. When you are a small business owner such as a dentist or, as in my own case as a small glass supply business, you are working alone with maybe one to five other employees present at a time.
I am a firm believer in small businesses (under, say, 50 employees) being able to let employees go for issues as trivial as personality clashes or sexual distraction. Working with a guy or chick you hate (or like too much) could make a huge difference in the bottom line... at that level, you're talking about YOUR business, YOUR ability to focus, in relation to your business success. You CAN'T get away from them in a small business that size. I let go of a guy who simply bugged the shit out of me. If I had been unable to let him go (we're still friends BTW) I would have gladly collapsed the whole business and sacked everyone in order to not work with him anymore.
Yeah, I cannot fly with this one, sorry. Mostly because I have been the young girl (17) who was being sexually harassed by her boss (and when I finally worked up the courage to report him I was asked what I did to make him think his behaviour would be welcome, but that's a different story). I cannot get on board with the idea that because Person A finds Person B sexually attractive, a feeling that is not reciprocated, Person B should lose their job. Seriously, why should I be punished -- lost my freaking job -- because my boss has decided I'm fuckable?
I've worked in small businesses where I've been attracted to someone. I've also worked in small businesses with incompetent, bigoted assholes. I think it's harder with the personality clashes, and I do see your point there Nigel, although I think there should be a time limit on it. In this case, the woman had worked in this dental office for ten years, so I'm not sure how she suddenly became such a distraction that he had to let her go. But in cases where you're attracted to a coworker? You suck it the fuck up and move on. It is possible to maintain a professional working relationship with someone you want to drag into bed; I've done it more than once (and hell, Pæs and I work in the same office!)
This woman's argument that she couldn't have been let go if she had been a man is, in this context, flawed because it assumes that business owners are never attracted to men. She presumes that there is never a situation in a small business setting where a business owner could be attracted to a male employee to such an extent that it jeopardizes the well-being of the owner and therefore of the business. That's manifestly incorrect.
Agreed, and that argument struck me as a little odd. I got what she was trying to say -- that it was a gender-based firing because her presumably heterosexual boss wouldn't have wanted to stick it to her if she'd been a man -- but the argument as she made it is flawed.
Here's the thing, though: It's perfectly possible for someone to A) grow bored with their marriage, B)find someone attractive whom they've spent ten years
working with, and C) decide that after having such feelings for a long enough of period that it is affecting their productivity. It's not clear that there was any sort of sexual harassment going on before hand, and the woman claims that there was none. So, it's one of those things where, it's actually, I believe, perfectly acceptable. It SUCKS, but let's be honest here, if I was in a committed marriage, didn't want to fuck it up, and had the option of either not going into work for fear of lacking the self restraint necessary to maintain said professional relationship, or letting the person in question go, then Imma go with option B, sorry.
Maybe you, personally, can maintain that decorum. Not everyone can. Recognizing that and admitting it is not a fault. If the scenario had played out differently, and he spent the next five years making unwanted advances, and fired her anyway, which would be worse?