Calling a man 'bald' is sex harassment, tribunal of hairless men rules

13 May 2022, 08:39 | Updated: 13 May 2022, 09:01

A tribunal in Sheffield has found it can be sex harassment to comment on a man's baldness
A tribunal in Sheffield has found it can be sex harassment to comment on a man's baldness. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

Calling someone bald is comparable to commenting on the size of a woman's breasts and amounts to sex harassment, an employment tribunal has ruled.

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The landmark decision - made by a panel of three bald men, according to The Telegraph - relates to a claim bought by Tony Finn, 64, against the British Bung Company, where he worked as an electrician for 24 years before being fired in 2021.

Mr Finn said he was a victim of sexual harassment after comments were made about his baldness, including being called a "stupid bald c***" by his supervisor during an argument.

His supervisor, Jamie King, also threatened to "deck" him, Mr Finn recalled, saying the encounter left him "fearful for my personal safety".

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The three-person panel was asked to decide whether calling someone bald is an insult or amounted to harassment.

They said the remark "crossed a line" and dismissed an argument that the comment was not sexist because women can be bald, too.

The judgement said there was "a connection between the word 'bald'" and "the protected characteristic of sex", nothing that it is "much more prevalent in men than women".

The panel, led by Judge Jonathan Brain, added: "We find it inherently related to sex."

Barrister and LBC presenter Daniel Barnett said he thought the ruling "gives discrimination law a bad name".

"Something is harassment if the employer engages in unwanted conduct... related to a protected characteristic, here the protected characteristic is sex, and that conduct has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating or hostile environment for the employee," he told Iain Dale, adding that the fact the employer had created a "hostile environment" was not controversial.

"But here's the controversial bit - the tribunal also said that because one of the adjectives was 'bald', and men are more likely to be bald than women, the word used, the word 'bald', was related to sex... and so the harassment was sex harassment."

The three-person panel was asked to decide whether calling someone bald is an insult or amounted to harassment
The three-person panel was asked to decide whether calling someone bald is an insult or amounted to harassment. Picture: Alamy

The tribunal then compared the case to a previous one that found a man had sexually harassed a woman by commenting on the size of her breast.

It said that, because the person on the receiving end of the comment is much more likely to be of a certain gender, the same could be said about Mr Finn's case.

The tribunal said the remark was made "with a view to hurting the claimant by commenting on his appearance which is often found amongst men".

It added: "The tribunal, therefore, determines that by referring to the claimant as a 'bald c***', Mr King's 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."

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The tribunal then heard that Mr Finn was fired when he handed his boss a statement about the incident on official West Yorkshire Police paper - given to him by his son, who is a police officer.

The company allegedly accused him of intimidation and fired him for misconduct.

Mr Finn denied trying to make the statement appear as an official police document.

The tribunal upheld claims of sex harassment, unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal.

However it dismissed a claim of age discrimination.

After the judgement, Mr Finn said he hoped the decision would stop other men being "verbally assaulted and intimidated because they are bald".

The company - the British Bung Company - said it was "surprised" by the employment tribunal's comments.

A date to determine Mr Finn's compensation will be set by the court.