Calling a man bald is sexual harassment, employment tribunal rules

Commenting on a man’s baldness in the workplace is equivalent to remarking on the size of a woman’s breasts, according to a recent employment tribunal.

The decision relates to a claim brought by a former employee who had worked as an electrician for 24 years before he was fired in May 2021.  He complained that he was a victim of sexual harassment, due to comments made about his lack of hair, including being called a “bald c***” by his supervisor during an argument in 2019.

Describing the argument, the former employer told the employment 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 the supervisor had done this.  When he spoke to the Supervisor, he began to call the employee a “stupid bald c***” and threatened to “deck him”.

The argument with the supervisor, who is 30 years younger than the former employee, left him fearful.  The judgment remarked that “there is a connection between the word ‘bald’ on the one hand and the protected characteristic of sex on the other….baldness is much more prevalent in men than women.  We find it to be inherently related to sex.”

According to the tribunal, the comments were made with the view of hurting the former employee. The supervisor made the remark with a view to hurting the claimant by commenting on his appearance “which is often found amongst men.”

The supervisor’s conduct was unwanted, it was a violation of the former employee’s dignity, it created an intimidating environment for him, it was done for that purpose, and it related to the claimant’s sex.

The tribunal upheld claims of sexual harassment, unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal but dismissed a claim of age discrimination.

A date to determine the claimant’s compensation will be set by the court.

 

This case is yet more evidence of the issue relating to “banter” in the workplace, turning sour.  Consider whether you should develop a code of conduct.  If you need support to do this, contact us today on 0800 9995 121 to discuss your requirements.

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