Tribunal rule that calling a man ‘bald’ is sex-related harassment

Tony Finn was an electrician who had started working for the British Bung Company on the 22nd of September 1997.

In the 24 years of working for the Company, Finn had a good employment record, until the 25th of May 2021 when he was dismissed.

The lead up to this event started with an altercation on the 24th of July 2019 between Finn and the shift supervisor, Jamie King.

Finn was looking after machinery supervised by King.

After Finn asked for help, an altercation arose and the shift supervisor called him bald, amongst other insults, and threatened to hit him.

When Finn raised this incident with his direct supervisor, he was told to drop the issue.

Finn did so and there we no further disputes for some time.

However, during the pandemic in March 2021, Finn was on furlough and only attended work on an ad hoc basis.

On the 25th of March 2021, he had been told to shut down a machine and approached the only supervisor on shift, King for advice.

King went to check with the Production Manager, Chris Hardcastle, who disagreed and swore at Finn, who then swore back.

An argument broke out between the three and King was accused once again of calling Finn bald and threatening violence once more.

However, the Tribunal later found that King didn’t make any such remarks about Finn in this instance but did threaten him with physical violence.

The Company investigated the altercation.

During the investigation in March 2021, Finn and his son, a police officer, wrote a witness statement with a letter headed with ‘West Yorkshire Police’.

Finn presented this statement during the meeting.

The employer took the letterhead as very serious and they invited Finn to a disciplinary hearing during which he was dismissed for gross misconduct as the employer believed that he’d deliberately provided a false witness statement that suggested it was by the West Yorkshire Police.

Finn appealed on this matter but failed.

The case was brought before the Tribunal, which found that Finn was the victim of sex-related harassment in the March 2019 incident.

The Tribunal explained that the insult was unwanted conduct and crossed the line from typical industrial language by referring to appearance and created a hostile environment.

In particular, the Tribunal argued that there was a connection between the use of the term ‘bald’ and the protected characteristic of sex, as they noted the prevalence of male-pattern baldness.

Finn had additional successful claims of suffering a detriment due to health and safety, wrongful dismissal and unfair dismissal.

The Tribunal found that although Finn may have compromised trust between employer and employee with the witness statement, Finn had clearly made multiple attempts to re-assure his employer that there was no police investigation.

Furthermore, the employer wasn’t seen to have acted in good faith during the disciplinary.

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