Man loses sex discrimination case over beard

Employers
have the right to refuse jobs to men with beards if the position requires high
hygiene standards, a tribunal ruled last week. The tribunal held that
supermarket chain Waitrose was right not to employ John Watson, 56, in its
coffee shop because he had a beard.

Watson,
from Semley in Dorset, applied for a job at Waitrose in Gillingham and was told
at the interview he would have to shave if he wanted the job.

He
then walked out of the interview, even though Waitrose was prepared to give him
a different job in the store in which his beard would have been acceptable.

Ex-serviceman
Watson, who has worn a beard since his army days then filed a claim against
Waitrose, claiming that it had sexually discriminated against him.

The
tribunal looked at Waitrose’s employment policies and found they did not
generally discriminate against either sex.

It
also found the supermarket had legitimate reasons under the Food Safety Act
1990 to discriminate against bearded men applying for food counter jobs because
facial hair can host bacteria which cause food poisoning.

Watson
claimed no law or legal principles to support his case, saying he was
"generally aggrieved" that he was not allowed to work in the area he
wanted.

He
said, "In the year 2001, these are archaic rules and should be done away
with."

Waitrose
doesn’t allow bearded staff to work on food counters wearing snoods – beard
covers that hook onto the ears – because they inhibit communication.

Waitrose
head of administration Joseph Pope said, "There is a strong psychological
link between the appearance of the product and the appearance of our selling
assistants."

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