Being called bald is sexual harassment!

An Employment Appeal Tribunal has upheld a decision from 2022 that calling someone bald amounted to sex-related harassment. The EAT heard the appeal from the employer to establish whether the original employment tribunal decision in 2022 had interpreted discrimination law too broadly by ruling that a man was more likely to be bald than a woman.

The employee had worked for the employer for 24 years without any disciplinary problems before being dismissed in May 2021. This followed two heated arguments between a supervisor and the employee where the employee was referred to as a “bald c***”.

The original tribunal ruled there was a connection between the word “bald” and the protected characteristic of sex.  The employment judge said that employer’s representative was right to submit that women as well as men may be bald but believed that baldness is much more prevalent in men than women. It was founded that it was inherently related to sex. 

The tribunal determined that by referring to the claimant as a bald c***, the conduct was “unwanted, it was a violation of the claimant’s dignity, it created an intimidating environment for him, it was done for that purpose, and it related to the claimant’s sex”. It upheld claims of harassment relating to sex, unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal but dismissed a claim of harassment relating to age.

The employment tribunal was “pertinently pointing out” that men are more likely to be bald and more likely to be on the receiving end of remarks about it, the EAT judge added.

The EAT upheld the tribunal decision, ruling that insulting a man for being bald does count as sex-related harassment.  The key point before the EAT was whether the original tribunal had interpreted anti-discrimination law too broadly by ruling that a man was more likely to be bald than a woman.

Now that we have this decision, the judgment should serve as a reminder of the impact of making remarks about a person’s physical appearance.

Employers should communicate expectations relating to conduct to their employees, and be responsible by providing management with training on Diversity and Inclusion.  Contact enquiries@121hrsolutions.co.uk to find out how 121 HR Solutions can assist with the design and delivery of such training.

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