Finn v The British Bung Manufacturing Company Limited – Calling a man “bald” can be considered harassment related to sex - Kuits Solicitors Manchester
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Finn v The British Bung Manufacturing Company Limited – Calling a man “bald” can be considered harassment related to sex

Finn v The British Bung Manufacturing Company Limited – Calling a man “bald” can be considered harassment related to sex

27th May 2022 - Published by Kuits Employment Team

Facts

Tony Finn brought various claims against his employer, The British Bung Manufacturing Company Ltd. He was dismissed in May 2021 for gross misconduct after he falsely suggested to his employer that he had made a witness statement to the West Yorkshire Police following two incidents at work.

These incidents occurred in July 2019, and March 2021. On both occasions Mr Finn had heated arguments with a colleague, where Mr Finn was called a “bald c**t”. After the Tribunal decided it was just an equitable to extend time, given that Mr Finn only presented his claim mid-2021, it had to decide whether this comment was merely insulting, or whether it constituted harassment under the Equality Act 2010.

The Law

Harassment occurs where someone engages in unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, and this conduct has the purpose or effect of either violating the other person’s dignity, or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person.

Protected characteristics for a harassment claim are age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

The Decision

The Tribunal found that the insult was clearly unwanted conduct that had the effect of violating Mr Finn’s dignity and/or created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. The more complex issue was whether the word “bald” was specificly related to the protected characteristic of sex, and whether this then amounted to harassment.

In brief, the Tribunal concluded that although baldness can occur in women, it was considerably more prevalent in men. It followed that being bald in this context is inherently related to sex. As such the claim of harassment was made out.

Compensation will be decided at a later remedy hearing, and elements of the compensation will be reduced due to Mr Finn’s conduct, but this decision means that Mr Finn can expect to receive an award for injury to feeling.

What should businesses consider?

Harassment in the workplace can take many different forms. It may not be immediately apparent that the language used by an individual could relate to a protected characteristic for the purposes of a harassment claim. Comments about an individual’s size, shape or appearance, could be deemed to be sufficiently related to a protected characteristic to give rise to a harassment claim.

An employer may be liable under the Equality Act 2010 if it fails to protect its employees and other workers from harassment in the course of their employment. As such, it is important to have appropriate policies in place, as well as ensuring staff are appropriately trained on such matters. This is essential to ensure that staff are both aware of what is acceptable, and when something isn’t, being confident and supported enough to stop it from happening. It is also important when defending such claims.

Get in touch with an Employment lawyer today

If you would like to discuss this further, or require any assistance with training and the implementation of appropriate policies, please contact Employment Solicitor James Howarth on 0161 832 3434 or email JamesHowarth@kuits.com

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