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Bald worker was sexually harassed

In a landmark case before the Employment Tribunal in the case of Mr A Finn v The British Bung Manufacturing Company Ltd, the Tribunal found that calling a man bald amounted to sexual harassment. 

Tony Finn worked as an electrician for The British Bung Manufacturing Company Ltd for 24 years without any disciplinary problems until he was dismissed in May 2021.  

Mr Finn had become involved in two arguments with the factory supervisor, Jamie King about maintenance of equipment when during each argument, Mr King had referred to Mr Finn as “a bald c**t” and threatened to “deck him”.    Mr Finn went home and did not return to work leading to some confusion about him being on furlough.   

Mr King was some 30 years Mr Finns junior and Mr Finn feared for his personal safety.  With the help of his son, a Police Officer with West Yorkshire Police, he wrote a letter of complaint to his employer which he delivered to the company with his son who was off duty at the time.   The letter of complaint had been written on the letter head of West Yorkshire Police which the company perceived as an attempt by Mr Finn to intimidate them.   Disciplinary action was taken against Mr Finn in relation to this and he was dismissed for gross misconduct.   Mr Finn appealed but was not successful.  

Mr Finn duly brought claims for unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal, sexual harassment, being subject to a detriment and age-related discrimination.   The Tribunal found that  Mr Kings comments to Mr Finn were made with the intention to hurt him and that referring to Mr Finn as a “bald c**t” was unwanted, violated Mr Finn’s dignity and created a hostile and intimidating environment and that it related to Mr Finns sex.   The Tribunal panel found that baldness is prevalent amongst men and that there is a connection between the word “bald” and the protected characteristic of sex.    The Tribunal found that baldness was “inherently related to sex” with the Employment Judge noting that all three male panel members were bald themselves and that hair loss was more common in men than women.

The claims for unfair dismissal, sexual harassment and wrongful dismissal were upheld, however Mr Finn did not succeed on the age discrimination claim.

Employers should be vigilant about offensive remarks being made in the workplace and ensure that they have clear policies on workplace bullying and harassment which are properly enforced.     The use of the word bald combined with foul language made it worse in this case however the law on harassment will capture a wide range of behaviour and comments in the workplace which can easily result in an employment tribunal claim being made by employees.    

It is always important to deal properly with complaints of bullying or harassment in the workplace and to provide training to employees and managers on anti-bullying and harassment policies.   This case is also another good example of a disproportionate response in dismissing an otherwise good long-standing employee for gross misconduct without taking into consideration the bigger picture. 

To speak to a member of our employment team in complete confidence, please contact 01689 887 812 or email judith.curran@cwj.co.uk.

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