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."