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Employment tribunal ruling on male baldness

An employment tribunal has recently ruled that it is sex-related harassment to call a man bald, as hair loss is more prevalent among men than women, therefore using it to describe someone is a form of sex-related harassment.

The case was successfully brought by  Tony Finn who had worked for a  Yorkshire based company for nearly 24 years before he was fired.  Mr Finn claimed among other things that he had been a victim of sex-related harassment after an incident where the factory supervisor referred to him as bald followed by a swearword.

The tribunal considered several issues including whether remarking on Mr Finn’s baldness was simply insulting or if it was actual harassment and found: “We have little doubt that being referred to in this manner was unwanted conduct as far as (Mr Finn) was concerned.  Although we find industrial language was commonplace on this  West  Yorkshire factory floor, in our judgement Mr King crossed the line by making remarks personal to the claimant about his appearance.” Mr Finn had not actually complained about the swearing but was upset about being called bald.

It went on to say: “It is difficult to conclude other than Mr King (the supervisor) uttered those words with the purpose of violating (Mr Finn’s) dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for him. Of his own admission, Mr King’s intention was to threaten (Mr Finn) and to insult him. In our judgement there is a connection between the word bald on the one hand and the protected characteristic of sex on the other.”

This is a ruling that business owners should take note of, as while comments about male baldness may be commonplace in ‘workplace banter’, the tribunal has found it is ‘inherently related to sex’. It wouldn’t be tolerated for example to comment on female attributes in a similar way.  This conduct was found to be a violation of the claimant’s dignity, which created an intimidating environment for him.  At the time of writing compensation is yet to be awarded for the claim.

 

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