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Calling a man 'bald' is sexual harassment, a UK tribunal rules

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Cropped shot of Asian man worried about his hair loss and baldness problem.
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  • A UK tribunal decided that calling a man "bald" is sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • "Making remarks personal to the claimant about his appearance" crossed the line, the tribunal said.
  • The worker's pay out will be determined at a later date.
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Calling a man "bald" in the workplace constitutes sexual harassment, a UK employment tribunal said in a ruling published Wednesday.

The tribunal said that referring to a man's hair loss is a form of sexual harassment as it is an issue that is more prevalent among men and therefore "inherently related to sex." The group cited a case from 1995 where a tribunal determined a woman had been sexually discriminated against based on comments from her manager on the size of her breasts.

The decision, a rare example of a complaint in which comments on a worker's hair loss was directly tied to sexual harassment, is the result of an employment tribunal. Tribunals, a system that the UK uses to resolve issues between employees and employers, are typically made up of a panel of independent judicial bodies that are led by a single judge.

It's unclear whether the case could set a precedent for future sexual harassment cases in the UK, though the verdict could be referenced in future suits.

The case was brought forward by Anthony Finn, who had worked for the manufacturer, The British Bung Company, for nearly 24 years. Finn accused his male supervisor, Jamie King, of harassing him and cited an alleged instance in 2019 when the supervisor called him "old," "bald," and an expletive.

"This is strong language," the ruling said. "Although, as we find, industrial language was commonplace on this West Yorkshire factory floor, in our judgment Mr King crossed the line by making remarks personal to the claimant about his appearance."

Finn argued in the complaint that he was "unfairly dismissed" in 2021 by the company, which manufactures cask closures for breweries. While Finn succeeded in some of his claims of unfair dismissal and sexual harassment, the tribunal determined that his own conduct had contributed to his dismissal and did not give credence to the worker's claims that he had also faced harassment based on his age, which was 30 years older than his supervisor.

The worker's compensation will be determined at a later date, per the ruling. The maximum award the tribunal can give workers for sexual harassment claims is between about $30,000 (R484,000) to just over $50,000 (R808,000), according to Citizens Advice, a UK organization that assists employees filing work complaints.

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