Calling man bald at work is sexual harassment, rules UK tribunal

The three-member tribunal, led by Judge Jonathan Brain, had to determine whether a reference to someone's lack of hair was simply an insult or amounted to harassment.

PTIUpdated: Friday, May 13, 2022, 07:11 PM IST
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Calling man bald at work is sexual harassment, rules UK tribunal | File Photo

Calling a man bald in the workplace falls within the purview of sexual harassment, an employment tribunal in England has concluded.

The three-member tribunal, led by Judge Jonathan Brain, had to determine whether a reference to someone's lack of hair was simply an insult or amounted to harassment.

The decision relates to a claim of unfair dismissal and sex discrimination brought by Tony Finn against the West Yorkshire-based British Bung Company, where he worked as an electrician for 24 years before he was fired in May last year.

"In our judgment, there is a connection between the word 'bald' on the one hand and the protected characteristic of sex on the other," the judgment said.

The tribunal accepted that the lawyer appearing on behalf of the company, British Bung Manufacturing Company Limited, was right to submit that women, as well as men, may be bald.

"However, as all three members of the tribunal will vouchsafe, baldness is much more prevalent in men than women. We find it to be inherently related to sex," the judgment notes.

The case was heard at Sheffield in northern England over February and April this year.

A future date will be set to determine Finn's compensation after his claims of sexual harassment, unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal were upheld earlier this week.

A related claim of age discrimination was dismissed.

The incident related to Finn's complaint was with reference to an "altercation" in July 2019 when factory supervisor Jamie King reportedly referred to his lack of hair during an argument.

Finn told the tribunal: "I was working on a machine that I had to cover awaiting specialist repair. The covers were taken off, and it was apparent that Jamie King had done this. When I spoke to him about it, he began to call me a stupid old bald cunt and threatened to 'deck me.' "Fearful for my personal safety I retreated to the nearby office of Ady Hudson, supervisor. Jamie continued his tirade of threats and abuse at the office door. This was witnessed by Ady." The tribunal concluded that King "did threaten the claimant with physical violence" and "made pejorative remarks about the claimant's age or appearance".

With reference to a previous case as precedent, they noted that it was held that a woman had been "sexually discriminated against when a manager made a single comment to her about the size of her breasts".

"The tribunal therefore determines that by referring to the claimant as a 'bald cunt' on 24 July 2019 Mr King's conduct was unwanted, it was a violation of the claimant's dignity, it created an intimidating, etc., environment for him, it was done for that purpose, and it related to the claimant's sex," the judgment reads.

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