We As One
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) is a statutory body established to administer anti-discrimination legislation. Hong Kong's anti-discrimination laws make it possible for those who feel aggrieved, by unlawful discriminatory acts or acts of harassment, to seek the assistance of the EOC. This is done through the complaints process administered by the EOC.
The complaints system is aimed at resolving disputes between parties through conciliation. When a person lodges a complaint in writing with the EOC, it is required by law to conduct an investigation into the complaint and to try to settle it by conciliation unless it exercises its discretion to discontinue the investigation.
The law spells out the conditions under which investigation of complaints can be discontinued. The power to discontinue an investigation is exercised with great care, balancing the rights of the complainant and the rights of the respondent.
The EOC must maintain an independent and impartial role during both the investigation and conciliation process. The EOC does not act for either party of the complaint. Also, it is not the role of the EOC to adjudicate a particular complaint. That is the function of the court.
The purpose of conciliation is to bring the different parties together to look for ways to resolve the dispute. Conciliation looks for common ground to help resolve the matter to the satisfaction of both parties so that both can move beyond the dispute. As the conciliation process allows for both parties in the dispute to have their say, it is possible for each side to come to a better understanding of the other's position. This can help to eliminate misunderstandings based on incorrect assumptions or information and to achieve a real change in attitude. All information gathered in the conciliation process is kept confidential and is not made available to court proceedings.
Conciliation is completely voluntary. Should the parties reach a settlement, the agreement signed by the parties is a contract and is legally binding. Conciliation settlement can be in the form of apology, changes of policies and practices, review of work procedures, re-instatement, monetary settlement, etc.
If conciliation is not successful, complainants can apply to the EOC for legal assistance. All applications for assistance are considered by the Legal and Complaints Committee of the EOC.
Conciliation helps different parties to negotiate a settlement by:
You should take an active part by:
Yes, all information gathered or heard during a conciliation is kept confidential and will not be used for court proceedings.
Terms depend on the circumstances of the dispute. Normally, it is a reversal of the situation that led to the complaint. For example, if a person was dismissed, he could ask to be re-employed. If she was denied a promotion or transfer, she could ask for the promotion or transfer. If training was denied, that could be made as a condition in the settlement term. Other possible items are:
Yes. The agreement is a contract between the two parties and is legally binding.
If the conciliation is not successful, the applicant can apply to the EOC for legal assistance to file civil suit in the District Court. The granting of legal assistance is not guaranteed.
The EOC cannot entertain applications for legal assistance unless the applicants have been through the complaints system and conciliation has proved to be unsuccessful. In such cases, the EOC may, if it thinks fit to do so, grant legal assistance.
Under the law, legal assistance may be granted if:
Aggrieved persons can institute civil proceedings independently.
The EOC is there to help you. There are educational materials on discrimination laws such as "DDO and I", "SDO and I", "FSDO and I", "RDO and I". A series of "Know Your Rights" in Sexual harassment, Pregnancy Discrimination, and other areas are also available.
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