The Claimant in this case was an electrician who worked for the Respondent for 24 years. He was dismissed in May 2021. During his time at the British Bung Company he had a clean disciplinary record.
There were two instances a few years apart in which the Claimant got into heated arguments with the factory supervisor. On both occasions the Claimant was called a “bald ****”. After the second time the Claimant reported the incident but was dissatisfied with the response. He then drew up a statement with his son who happened to be a police officer, titled West Yorkshire Police. He was dismissed by his employer for this because they took this as intimidation.
One of the questions the Tribunal had to answer was did the “bald ****” comment constitute sexual harassment? The tribunal said yes. While it is true that both men and women can be bald, the Tribunal concluded that since baldness is more prevalent in men, it was a characteristic “inherently” related to sex. This situation was compared to a previous case where a male colleague commented on the size of a woman’s breasts. While there is a condition where men can grow breast tissue, since this was not common the Tribunal still decided that this comment was related to sex.
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.” Therefore, it was sexual harassment.
This case has attracted a lot of media attention given the subject matter and the fact that the members of the Tribunal were also bald men who commented “However, as all three members of the Tribunal will vouchsafe, baldness is much more prevalent in men than women.” It is clear that the use of such language is not appropriate in the workplace, but some have questioned whether it amounts to sexual harassment. The definition of harassment is very broad and as there is no stand alone claim for workplace bullying it is often the case that Claimants have to frame their complaints around some protected characteristic.
For employers it is important that behaviour and language like this is kept under control as far as possible as there is always a possibility it could lead to a Tribunal claim, even on what might seem very tenuous grounds.
If you have any questions on any of the issues mentioned in the above article, please contact Natalia Milne.