'We don't want a team of bald-headed 50-year-old men'

A former sales director will get more than $86k after his boss allegedly said he didn't want a team of 'bald-headed 50-year-old men' who were a 'mirror image' of himself.

Mark Jones was a sales director at UK-based cell phone company Tango Networks. He began working at the company in January 2019, when he was 59 years old, according to a ruling late last month from the employment tribunal that made the decision in the case. In the UK, an employment tribunal is a judicial body that often handles disputes between employers and workers.

In 2020, the company sought to hire a new salesperson. Jones claims that during that interview process, his boss, Phillip Hesketh, told him, "A lot of the candidates we were interviewing were a mirror image of me, white middle-aged men" and that "it was a shame that we did not attract more diversity into the application process."

"I don't want a team of bald-headed 50-year-old men — I want to change the dynamics," Hesketh allegedly said.

As for Jones' departure from the company, he was put on a performance improvement plan, which he calls a "sham," a few years after joining. Hesketh claimed he was "underwhelmed" by his employee and that Jones "needed handholding," but the tribunal said it was "unable to find that the claimant was actually not performing adequately." 

Jones resigned in March 2021 and subsequently alleged wrongful dismissal and age discrimination. The tribunal ultimately ruled that Tango Networks had unfairly dismissed Jones and breached its contract with him.

"In our view, everything that we have set out as the basis of the claimant's dismissal is tainted by age discrimination," the group said in its ruling. "Whether consciously or unconsciously, Mr Hesketh perceived the claimant as undynamic and he associated more dynamic people with the characteristics of younger people."

Jones will receive £71,441.36, or more than $86,000, in damages. Tango Networks told Insider that Hesketh no longer works at the company.

In a separate ruling from a different case last year, a UK employment tribunal decided that calling a man "bald" constitutes workplace sexual harassment. In the US last year, a white man who said he was fired from his marketing job because of his sex and race was awarded $10 million in damages by a North Carolina jury.

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