Calling a man bald counts as sex-related harassment, an employment appeal tribunal ruled.
Electrician Tony Finn brought the case against his bosses at British Bung Company, claiming his factory supervisor called him a “bald c***” during an argument in 2019 before they sacked him. Finn won the case after he claimed that the comment was sexual harassment because his baldness was directly tied to being a man as men are more likely to experience it than women.
The British Bung Company, based in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, appealed the original ruling, saying that the original tribunal interpreted anti-discrimination law “too broadly” when it ruled there was a connection between Finn’s sex and the word “bald”. Meanwhile, a wider judgement also ruled Finn was unfairly sacked in 2021.
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The electrician had given his bosses a “witness statement” about the incident written by his police officer son, on a police-headed notepad before getting fired, the 2021 tribunal found. Whilst it was fair for the company to dismiss him for this, it was wrong to do so before the police decided whether his actions were a crime, the tribunal found.
The company lost its case at the Employment Appeal Tribunal this week which upheld the original ruling. Judge Naomi Ellenbogen dismissed the company’s appeal that his sacking was followed by a fair process.
Regarding the bald remarks, the judge said that their argument “lacks merit” and that while women might be bald by choice or due to a medical condition, the lower tribunal was “pertinently pointing out” that men are more likely to be bald and receive remarks about it.
HR expert Kate Palmer said this ruling is an important reminder that any comments, jokes, or actions displayed at work that humiliate or offend someone will likely be classed as bullying.
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She said: “Men are much more likely to be bald and therefore on the receiving end of remarks about it. This decision is now rooted in case law, and the judgement should serve as a reminder of the impact that remarks about a person’s physical appearance can have.”
The British Bung Company have been contacted for comment.
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