Stopping men wearing shorts to work but allowing women to wear clothing that stops above the ankle IS sex discrimination, judge rules at tribunal
- The verdict came at a tribunal brought by a male Boots distribution worker
- Mukid Miah protested being told off for wearing shorts in Preston warehouse
- Judge ruled that he was treated ‘less favourably than others because of his sex’
Banning male staff from wearing shorts while allowing their female colleagues to wear above-ankle clothing amounts to sex discrimination, a judge has ruled.
The verdict came at a tribunal brought by a Boots distribution worker who was reprimanded for wearing three-quarter length shorts on a sweltering summer day.
Mukid Miah protested that women working in the warehouse in Preston, Lancs, were permitted to wear garments of the same length and were ‘afforded a greater degree of discretion’ to show their legs.
Although his claim was unsuccessful because he had brought his case too late, Judge Alan Johnson ultimately ruled that he had been discriminated against.
Boots worker Mukid Miah protested that women working in the warehouse in Preston, Lancs, (file photo of Alliance Healthcare warehouse where Boots is based) were permitted to wear garments of the same length and were ‘afforded a greater degree of discretion’ to show their legs
Mr Miah was working at the Preston, Lancs, warehouse of Boots Management Services Ltd where it was his job to distribute medicines to local stores in their area.
The tribunal, held in Manchester, heard managers at the site had acknowledged there was a problem with the temperature in the building and it often got far too hot.
The dress code at the time stated that ‘shorts could not be worn’ but leggings, trousers, jogging bottoms and skirts with opaque tights could.
In the summer of 2018 Mr Miah strolled into work with a pair of three-quarter length black cotton trousers on.
He believed that because they were the same length as some of his female colleague’s leggings they ought to be acceptable.
His manager, Steven Lea, told the tribunal that when he saw the ‘shorts’, which Mr Miah had previously been told not to wear, he stormed over to him and said: ‘I don’t want to see you in those shorts tomorrow.’
The tribunal heard another male colleague was also disciplined for wearing a pair of ‘ankle grazers’ which finished just above the ankle.
Judge Johnson said: ‘The real question was whether this policy was being applied consistently to male and female employees and [Mr Miah] argued that women were able to wear three quarter length trousers or leggings without being subject to management criticism.
‘[A female colleague] said that she was able to come into work wearing what she described as ‘cycling shorts just above the knee’ and that management did not criticise her for doing this.’
Mr Miah claimed that he regularly saw other women who worked in the warehouse wearing three-quarter length trousers or leggings and he ‘struggled to believe they were disciplined’.
Judge Johnson continued: ‘It appeared that at that time, this grey area of what constituted full length trousers, leggings and shorts was a discretion that was more rigidly applied to men than women.
‘The Tribunal is not clear, whether the reason for this practice was because of different historical perceptions of what constitutes full length leg wear for men and women.
‘Whatever the reason, the Tribunal does find that women were afforded a greater degree of discretion when choosing to wear trousers or leggings that ended above the ankle but below the knee.
‘It is therefore not surprising that the respondent replaced this dress code in 2019 with the standard Boots dress code which allowed employees to wear tailored shorts…
‘This was not about the question of “shorts versus leggings” as described by [Mr Miah], but management not applying a coherent and consistent discretion as to when a pair of trousers became a pair of shorts on a man and on a woman…
‘On this basis, the respondent treated the claimant less favourably than others because of his sex and in principle this complaint is well founded.’
However, his case was unsuccessful as his complaint of sex discrimination was presented out of time.
His other claims of victimisation, and constructive unfair dismissal were not well founded and were dismissed.
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