‘Too tall’ man lodges sex discrimination claim

A man has claimed indirect sex discrimination against National Air Traffic Services (Nats) because it refused to employ him on account of his height, despite initially offering him a trainee position.

The Employment Tribunal heard that graduate Ben Sargeaunt-Thomson, who is 6ft 10in, beat hundreds of other candidates to be offered the position, but Nats had second thoughts after seeing the results of his medical check.

He was sent to try the work stations at the National Air Traffic Control Centre in Swanwick, Hampshire. But after a health and safety assessment, Nats informed him that it would be “dangerous” to cram his 38in legs beneath the desks.

Sargeaunt-Thomson suggested alternative arrangements, including a special kneeling seat and modifications to the desks, which the company dismissed as impractical.

Soon afterwards, he received an e-mail informing him that the job offer, which was subject to the results of the medical, was being withdrawn because of his height.

Sargeaunt-Thomson is claiming indirect sex discrimination on the ground that only a man would be as tall as 6ft 10in.

He told the Tribunal: “Bearing in mind the fact that men are generally taller than women, this is indirectly discriminating against men.”

Andrew Hutchinson, head of recruitment at Nats, told the hearing: “I received copies of Ben’s display screen equipment assessments. They clearly indicated that he would have difficulty using Nats equipment, and that there would be health and safety issues.

“I was concerned that it would be dangerous for Nats to employ Ben. I reluctantly came to the decision that we had no alternative but to withdraw our offer of employment.”

Nats has now decided to make its workstations adaptable for taller people, but changes will not be in place until 2012.

Sargeaunt-Thomson has since been given a trainee position with Eurocontrol in Luxembourg, where the desks are adjustable.


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