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In considering the claim, the Tribunal ruled that:

  • referring to a man’s hair loss is a form of sex-based harassment as it is an issue that is prevalent among men and thus “inherently related to sex”;
  • there is a connection between the word ‘bald’ on the one hand and the protected characteristic of sex on the other, thus falling within one of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010;
  • Mr King’s conduct was unwanted and was a violation of the claimant’s dignity;
  • His conduct created an intimidating environment for the claimant, and was done for that purpose; and
  • Mr King’s conduct related to the claimant’s sex, as more men suffer from baldness than women.

Comparisons were made between calling a man ‘bald’ to commenting on a woman’s breasts, citing a precedent set in a 1995 case.

The Tribunal ordered the employer to pay Mr Finn compensation the exact figure is not yet known.

The case makes clear that any unwanted comments made within an employment relationship about a physical feature which could be argued as being more prevalent to one gender may amount to harassment related to sex.

As this is a first instance decision (as opposed to one issued by the Employment Appeal Tribunal, Court of Appeal or Supreme Court) it is not binding on other Employment Tribunals. With that said, it is likely to be referenced in future claims for sex-related harassment by both men and women and it has certainly started debate amongst employment law specialists about the legitimacy of the parallels drawn by the Tribunal between, on the one hand, references to a woman’s breasts and, on the other, references to a man’s baldness.

This case is another reminder of the importance of employers ensuring that they have adequate policies and procedures in place to eliminate all forms of discrimination against all genders in the workplace.

If you would like to discuss how we can support you and your business, please give us a ring on 01924 441032

We are available by phone to assist with any operational impacts of new and changing HR decisions.

Let us handle the complexities, so you can focus on running your business. Call us to discuss how we can support you.

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