Being Told To Wear Makeup Is Sex Harassment Rules ET

Photo Credits - Peter Kalonji via Unsplash

A London Central Employment Tribunal finds that telling women to wear makeup amounts to sex harassment. This is after waitress Jahnaye Henry brought a claim against the restaurant Tattu in Soho, London.

She sued them for direct discrimination due to race and sex, harassment because of race or sex and unlawful deduction from wages. Although the tribunal largely dismissed her case, they held her ‘complaint of harassment related to sex is well found’.

We discuss why her claim came to be, what the tribunal said and how others could claim for sex harassment. If you have experienced something similar, please reach out to Redmans Solicitors today. They can assess the eligibility of your case and advise you on your next possible steps.

Waitress Exposed To Constant Criticism

In March 2022, Ms Henry completed two weeks of training before the restaurant’s opening. The Daily Mail tells how, during the tribunal, Ms Henry painted a particular picture of her boss, the deputy manager, Joanne Huang. She stated that Ms Huang was ‘very strict’, ‘draconian’ and ‘likes discipline’.

READ: British Soldier’s Tragic Death: A Call for Stronger Workplace Sexual Harassment Laws

Ms Henry described how, on her first shift, Ms Huang criticised her voice and told her to ‘liven it up’. This was followed in subsequent shifts with criticism about her effectiveness. The tribunal heard how Ms Huang told Ms Henry that she looked ‘tired and unpresentable’ and ‘should wear makeup’ on her next shift.

As a result, Ms Henry resigned from her role after just five shifts. She wrote that Tattu wasn’t a place she wanted to continue employment after being reduced to tears and experiencing bullying. This led to her bringing the claims decided by the employment tribunal in this case.

Tribunal Holds Sex Harassment But Dismisses The Rest

The tribunal held that Ms Henry’s complaints regarding race failed. This was because although Ms Huang made critical observations about the claimant, her race did not play a part in these criticisms. They also dismissed her claim concerning an unlawful deduction from her wages.

READ: PM Readers Survey: 68% Say They Have Confidence That Sexual Harassment Claims Would Be Properly Investigated

Concerning the complaints related to sex, the tribunal stated that the case involved harassment and not direct discrimination. This was because Ms Huang didn’t make the comment to purposefully harass the client. Instead, the comment created a humiliating environment that undermined the claimant’s self-esteem.

The tribunal went on to say that telling someone that they look ‘tired and unpresentable’ isn’t harassment related to sex, as this could be said to a man just the same. However, telling Ms Henry to ‘wear makeup’ on her next shift does amount to sex harassment, as it’s a sex-specific comment. They explained that although some men wear makeup, this comment wouldn’t ordinarily be aimed at a man.

As a result, Ms Henry was successful with her claim concerning sex harassment and a remedy is set to be determined at a later date.

Can I Claim For Sex Harassment At Work?

Sex is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 (EqA). The EqA 2010 outlines that sex harassment occurs when someone engages in unwanted conduct due to sex, which violates another’s dignity or creates a humiliating environment. For example, a manager could tell an employee that ‘women don’t belong in this profession’. This protects several individuals in the workplace, including employees, workers and job applicants.

In addition to the individual who harassed the claimant, the employer could be liable. This is called vicarious liability and occurs when the employer doesn’t comply with their legal duty of care. As outlined in the EqA 2010, employers must take all reasonable steps to prevent their employees from being harassed. Should they fail to comply with this legal duty, which results in such an act occurring, a claim of sex harassment and constructive dismissal could be brought against them.

If an employee experiences workplace harassment related to sex, they may first want to consider making an informal complaint. A formal complaint could be made if this doesn’t provide a remedy or the employee deems it unsuitable. However, a claim to an employment tribunal could be made if the issue remains. At the tribunal, the judge would consider:

  • The circumstances presented
  • How the person who received the unwanted behaviour felt about it
  • If the claimant was reasonable to feel the way they did

If you believe you have experienced sex harassment and want to make a claim, contact Redmans Solicitors. They are experts in employment law who have helped numerous claimants through the legal process. They can discover the validity of your harassment suit and advise on how to proceed.


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