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U.K. Court Rules Term “Bald” is Form of Sexual Harassment

Emanuel Shirazi

A panel of three judges in the U.K. have ruled that insulting a man for being bald in the workplace can be a form of sexual harassment.

The tribunal, who are all balding themselves, argued that because hair loss is far more prevalent in the male sex than female, the term is then inherently related to sex/gender. So a comment on a man’s hair loss is equivalent to commenting on a woman’s breasts.

This ruling came about in a case of an electrician, Tony Finn, who sued a West Yorkshire-based small business over the use of the term “bald” after one of his supervisors allegedly called him a “fat bald c—” and was later fired.

The judges were then left to deliberate on whether the “bald” comment was simply insulting or if it meets the criteria to be considered harassment. They connected “bald” to the protected characteristic of sex and found it inherently related to sex. And argued that while both men and women bald, baldness is more prevalent in men than women.With this they stated that men like Finn would be most likely to be receiving such a comment.

The finding also added that the remark was degrading and humiliating. Though strong language is common on West Yorkshire factory floors, it was judged that the remark crossed a line by making a personal attack on Finn’s appearance. Therefore, the comment was made with the purpose of violating Finn’s dignity and creating a hostile work environment.

The tribunal upheld the sexual harassment claim and ruled the company unfairly terminated him after 24 years of employment.

Remember, this was one court in England. Under California and U.S. law, gender based or sexual harassment has to be either “severe or pervasive”.So, under American law, a one-time comment of “bald” is extremely unlikely to be “severe” enough to be actionable sexual harassment.

What do you think of the U.K. Court’s reasoning?

Learn More AboutCA Sexual Harassment Law/How to Report Sexual Harassment at Work?

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