Register of Settlement by Conciliation: Sex Discrimination Ordinance
     
     
  Employment Field  
  Dismissal because of Pregnancy 2009  
  S8 of SDO  
     
 
The complainant (C) worked at a manufacturing company (R) for 12 years. She enjoyed a good working relationship with everyone in the office and never faced any problem with the management during her service. However, when C returned from maternity leave she was dismissed from her job. She also recalled that her boss had once commented that she looked like a pig when she was pregnant.
 
     
 
When C confronted her boss about the dismissal, he cited economic downturn as the reason for her dismissal and denied it had anything to do with her pregnancy. However, her boss refused to accept other options suggested by her and her colleagues, such as retaining her for reduced salary or by accepting the resignation of another staff of same level, or reducing the salary of all staff.
 
     
 
Later C lodged a complaint of pregnancy discrimination against R with the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). The case was resolved through early conciliation after R agreed to pay one year’s salary to C.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
The Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO) makes it unlawful for an employer to subject a woman to a disadvantage or dismiss her on the ground of her pregnancy. While the dismissal of employees during their pregnancy may be an obvious form of discrimination, the dismissal of women upon their return from maternity leave is less obvious. However, if it is clear that the staff would not have been dismissed had she not been pregnant and gone on maternity leave, then the dismissal may be unlawful and a complaint can be lodged.
 
     
     
  Employment Field  
  Termination on the ground of sex 2009  
  S11 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C), a general worker of a restaurant (R), resigned from her job after six years of employment. She was later re-employed by R. But her employment was terminated after three months, and R recruited a man in her place. When asked, her supervisor told C that she was dismissed because of the Head Chef’s refusal to have female staff in the kitchen.
 
     
 
C lodged a complaint with the EOC alleging sex discrimination. The case was resolved through early conciliation. R agreed to reinstate C into her previous position with changes in duty hours but C declined the offer and demanded monetary compensation instead. The case was settled after R agreed to pay C an amount equivalent to C’s half-month salary.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
It is unlawful for a person, in relation to employment, to discriminate against an employee on the ground of his/her sex by dismissing him/her or subjecting him/her to any other detriment. A person who makes the discriminatory decision or instructs others to carry out an act of discrimination is personally liable under the law.
 
     
     
  Employment Field  
  Dismissal because of pregnancy 2009  
  S8 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) was an assistant merchandiser in a company (R). R terminated C’s employment a few days after she returned from her maternity leave citing business slowdown. She was also not provided with the bonus payment, which was given to her colleagues. When C asked her supervisor, she was informed that her bonus payment was deducted for taking maternity leave and other frequent leave related to antenatal checkups.
 
     
 
C lodged a complaint of pregnancy discrimination with the EOC. The complaint was resolved through early conciliation after R provided monetary compensation in a sum equivalent to C’s one and a half months’ salary.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
According to the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO), pregnancy discrimination occurs if a person treats a woman less favourably because of her pregnancy. Under the SDO, it is unlawful for an employer to subject a woman to a disadvantage such as not offering pay rise or bonus consistent with what other employees receive, or dismissing her upon return from maternity leave. Employers can prevent pregnancy discrimination by having clear and consistent policies on prenatal checkup and maternity leave, staff recruitment, transfers, performance appraisals, pay rises and bonus system.
 
     
     
  Employment Field  
  Sexual harassment and victimization 2008  
  S9 and S23 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) was a corporate affairs manager at a trading company (R2) where she had worked for more than 10 years. C had to make overseas trips with her supervisor (R1) for business matters. During these trips R1 harassed her sexually by touching her thighs and arms and asked her to sit next to him. He even commented about the shape of her body in front of others. C claimed that she had complained to the senior manager who promised to transfer her to the subsidiary company in a similar position. However, she was offered a junior position with lesser pay.
 
     
 
C lodged a complaint with the EOC alleging R1 sexually harassing her and R2 of victimizing her by treating her less favourably (i.e. taking up a junior position with lesser pay after lodging a complaint against R1), and also for being vicariously liable for the unlawful acts of its employee. The case was settled through early conciliation after R1 agreed to offer a letter of apology and a reference letter. R2 also provided C with the regular service leaving benefits and an ex-gratia payment equal to three and a half years’salary.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
The Sex Discrimination Ordinance makes it unlawful to sexually harass another person. Sexual harassment is any unwanted or uninvited sexual behavior which a reasonable person regards as offensive, humiliating or intimidating. The employers are responsible for preventing sexual harassment at workplace. They may be vicariously liable for the acts of sexual harassment committed by their employees in the course of employment unless they have taken reasonably practicable steps to prevent sexual harassment at workplace.
 
     
     
  Employment Field  
  Termination because of pregnancy 2008  
  S8 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) used to work for a furniture manufacturer (R). She informed R about her pregnancy and took three months’ maternity leave. A week after she resumed work, C was handed over the letter of redundancy and dismissed from work.
 
     
 
C claimed R did not have any need for redundancy programme and lodged a complaint with the EOC alleging R of pregnancy discrimination. The case was settled through early conciliation after R agreed to provide a good reference letter and a monetary compensation which was equivalent to C’s half-month’s salary.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
According to the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO), pregnancy discrimination occurs if a person treats a woman less favourably because of her pregnancy. Under the SDO, it is unlawful for an employer to subject a woman to a disadvantage such as not offering pay rise or bonus consistent with what other employees receive, or dismissing her upon return from maternity leave. Employers can prevent pregnancy discrimination by having clear and consistent policies on prenatal checkup and maternity leave, staff recruitment, transfers, performance appraisals, pay rises and bonus system.
 
     
     
  Employment Field  
  Discrimination on the ground of sex 2008  
  S11 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) joined a company (R) as a clerk. But soon after, she was informed by her supervisor that the employer wanted to hire a male clerk and dismissed her. Upon her dismissal, C learned from her former colleagues that R had recruited a male clerk in her place.
 
     
 
C lodged a complaint of discrimination on the ground of sex with the EOC against R. Although C admitted during conciliation that she had refused to perform accounting tasks as requested by her supervisor, she claimed that she believed the primary reason for her dismissal was her sex. The case was settled through conciliation after R agreed to provide C with a letter of apology.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
It is unlawful under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance to discriminate against an employee by dismissing him/her or subjecting him/her to any other detriment on the ground of that person’s sex. Although there could be many reasons for dismissal, if sex is one of the reasons for a less favourable treatment, it could constitute sex discrimination.
 
     
     
  Education  
  Sexual harassment in an educational establishment 2008  
  S39 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) was a student at a local educational establishment (R1). She alleged that her foreign teacher (R2) sexually harassed her on three occasions by lifting her skirt and commenting that her legs were sexy. C claimed that she complained to R2’s supervisor but no action was taken against R2. Later when C applied for a position at R1, R2 refused to recommend her for the job. C claimed that R2 victimized her for refusing the sexual advancement and reporting the matter to his boss.
 
     
 
C lodged a complaint of sexual harassment and victimisation against R2 and of vicarious liability against R1. The case was settled through conciliation after R1 and R2 agreed to take several measures. As part of the settlement, R1 agreed to formulate equal opportunities policy and a code of conduct for staff and students, and arrange training on equal opportunities for staff and students. At the same time, R2 apologized to C. Both C and R2 agreed to behave courteously with each other in future.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, it is unlawful for a teacher to sexually harass a student. Sexual harassment refers to any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, which a reasonable person regards as offensive, humiliating or intimidating. It is important to be sensitive to cultural differences. Behaviour and speech that may seem innocuous to one person may be offensive or uncomfortable to someone else.
 
     
     
  Employment Field  
  Pregnancy discrimination in dismissal 2007  
  S8 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) worked as a senior administrator at a company providing security systems (R). When C went on maternity leave, R recruited another administrator to take up C’s responsibilities during her absence. C claimed that when she resumed work after maternity leave, she was asked to resign and get a good reference letter in return, or be dismissed since R could not afford to keep two administrators.
 
     
 
C lodged a complaint of pregnancy discrimination with the EOC against R. The case was settled through early conciliation after R agreed to pay a sum almost equal to C’s two months’salary.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
It is unlawful under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO) to discriminate against a woman by dismissing her on the ground of her pregnancy. Employers have to be able to provide performance evaluation if an employee is dismissed on the ground of poor performance. Employers should maintain proper performance evaluation records.
 
     
     
 
Employment Field
 
  Refusal for job interview on the ground of sex 2007  
  S11 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) was in lookout for a job when he saw a recruitment advertisement seeking a female candidate posted outside a shop (R). Since the advertisement mentioned female candidates specifically, C claimed that he could not apply and was thus deprived of the opportunity of a job interview.
 
     
 
C lodged a complaint with the EOC alleging sex discrimination against R. The case was settled through early conciliation after R agreed to provide walk-in interview opportunity to C. Both sides were clear that the interview opportunity did not guarantee the job.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
It is unlawful under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO) for employers to single out men only, or women only, for a job. They can only do so in exceptional circumstances where being a man or being a woman is a genuine occupational qualification (GOQ) for a particular job. GOQ applies only when the essential nature of the job requires a person of a particular sex for reasons of physiology, including physical strength or in dramatic performances, or to preserve privacy and etc.
 
     
     
  Provision of goods, facilities and services  
  Pregnancy discrimination in insurance provision 2007  
  S28 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) registered for a tour package and bought travel insurance from an insurance company (R). Six days before the tour, C had to visit a doctor due to abdominal pain. The doctor informed C that she was pregnant for more than a month and could not travel in the following few months due to bleeding complications. The travel agency expressed inability to refund the tour fees since the cancellation date was too close to the departure date. C then claimed her losses from R since the insurance package included reimbursement of fees due to journey cancellation. C claimed that R refused to compensate her stating that the package contained a general exclusion relating to pregnancy, delivery and any injury or sickness associated with delivery.
 
     
 
C lodged a complaint with the EOC alleging pregnancy discrimination. The company said that the decision to exclude pregnancy from coverage in travel insurance products is a matter of risk assessment. C and R opted for early conciliation in order to save time and to avoid a lengthy process of investigation. R agreed to reimburse 60% of the tour fees and provide travel coupons through a travel agency.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
It is unlawful under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance to treat a pregnant woman less favourably than they would treat another person who is not pregnant. It may amount to pregnancy discrimination if an insurance company excludes all pregnancy-related claims in the provision of insurance coverage without considering the special circumstances of the claim. Anti-discrimination ordinances, however, permit differential treatment based on reasonable and reliable actuarial or statistical data.
 
     
     
  Employment Field  
  Alleged pregnancy discrimination 2006  
  S8 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) worked as a clerk at a shipping company (R1). Since C’s direct supervisor was based outside Hong Kong, a manager of R’s sister company (R2) was responsible for dealing with C on human resources matters. A year after joining office, C was made permanent staff. Seven months becoming permanent, C informed R2 about her pregnancy. Around the same time she made a mistake at work. C claimed that since then R2 began picking up on her mistakes and also digging her past mistakes. Although C agreed that she had made mistakes before pregnancy, she said she was never warned by R1 or R2.
 
     
 
C alleged that R2, on behalf of R1, asked her to sign on new contract documents which divided her employment into two periods with the second contract ending after her maternity leave. R2 told her that her contract would not be renewed upon the conclusion of the second contract. C refused to sign on the new contracts and went on maternity leave. A day after C resumed work, she was made redundant and dismissed from work. C lodged a complaint with the EOC alleging of pregnancy discrimination. The case was resolved through early conciliation after R1 agreed to provide monetary compensation worth 6 months’ salary, a reference letter and a letter of apology.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
According to the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO), pregnancy discrimination occurs if a person treats a woman less favourably because of her pregnancy. Employers have to take note of their different practices in handling staff prior to and after pregnancy. Any unfavourable treatment meted to pregnant staff could be inferred as unlawful pregnancy discrimination.
 
     
     
  Provision of goods, facilities and services  
  Discrimination in providing service 2006  
  S28 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) wanted to learn knitting from a shop (R) that sold woolen yarns and also provided classes on knitting. However R rejected C’s request saying that it only provides classes to females.
 
     
 
C lodged a complaint of sex discrimination with the EOC against R. The case was settled through early conciliation after R agreed to provide a written apology and a written undertaking to review its enrolment policy of its knitting class and a symbolic monetary compensation of $1.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, it is unlawful for any person concerned with the provision of goods, facilities and services to the public to discriminate against a person on the ground of his/her sex by refusing to provide him/her with services, even though there may be traditional stereotypes about the recipient of such services.
 
     
     
  Employment field  
  Sexual harassment 2005  
  S23 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant, a primary school teacher, alleged that the Principal (Respondent 1) had sexually harassed her on various occasions from 1999 to 2004 by making sexual advances towards her. The incidents included making obscene jokes and comments about her dresses and appearance and once making close bodily contact with her. The Complainant turned down Respondent 1's sexual advances after which he began nitpicking her work with a view to forcing her to resign. She also alleged that the school (Respondent 2), as the Respondent's employer, should be held vicariously liable for its employee's sexual harassment acts for it did not take reasonably practicable steps to prevent sexually harassment in the workplace.
 
     
 
The parties agreed to resolve the complaints through early conciliation without going through a full investigation. Respondent 1 undertook in writing not to mention these complaints or make negative comments about the Complainant in future, including comments on the Complainant's performance. Respondent 2 undertook to issue an advisory letter to Respondent 1 advising him to improve his use of words in daily encounters with colleagues and to respect the feelings of his subordinates. Respondent 2 would also provide a reference letter to the Complainant and a designated supervisor to be the Complainant's referee when approached by prospective employers.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO), it is sexual harassment if an employee makes an unwelcome sexual advance to a fellow worker, or engages in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to the fellow worker. Conduct of a sexual nature includes making a statement of a sexual nature, whether it is made orally or in writing. Unwelcome verbal conduct of a sexual nature includes obscene jokes, sexually derogatory remarks, or persistent questioning about a person's sex life.
 
     
 
It can amount to victimization if an employer treats an employee less favourably by reason that the employee has alleged that another person has committed an act which would amount to a breach of the SDO.
 
     
     
  Employment field  
  Pregnancy discrimination 2004  
  Differential treatment and dismissal  
  S8 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant was formerly a site clerk with the Respondent, a building contractor. She alleged that the Respondent had discriminated against her on the ground of her pregnancy by (a) rejecting her application to join an overseas company trip while she was pregnant; and (b) terminating her employment immediately after her return from maternity leave on a shorter notice period than the contractual terms.
 
     
 
The Respondent denied the allegations and claimed the overseas trip was a team-building exercise with limited vacancies. It involved a lot of physical activities that were considered unsuitable for pregnant woman, and the Respondent was able to show that it did make enquiries with the travel agent and the airline regarding the Complainant's suitability to travel given her condition at the time. The Respondent also claimed the Complainant did not have adequate annual leave balance to cover the trip and was not selected to go together with a few others. However, the Respondent could not explain satisfactorily why three employees with insufficient annual leave balance were allowed to participate. As for the dismissal, the Respondent claimed it was due to the completion of a project and that the Complainant had agreed to a shorter notice period. The Complainant disputed this and claimed other site clerks remained employed despite the reduced volume of work.
 
     
 
The parties agreed to settle their dispute through conciliation. The Respondent apologised in writing for any misunderstanding concerning the overseas trip and paid the Complainant a nominal sum to compensate for the shorter dismissal notice and for causing injury to feelings.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, it is unlawful to treat a pregnant staff less favourably than those who are not pregnant. When designing company activities, the selection criteria for employees to participate should be made known and consistently applied.
 
     
     
  Employment field  
  Sexual harassment 2004  
  S23 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant and the Respondent were former colleagues. The Complainant alleged that when they worked together as security guards in the same building, the Respondent had sexually harassed her on three occasions by touching her face and hands. In addition, she alleged that their employer should be vicariously liable for the sexual harassment act of the Respondent. In her view, the employer did not take reasonably practicable steps to prevent sexual harassment in the work place, such as promulgation of sexual harassment policy, provision of training on anti-sexual harassment to staff, etc.
 
     
 
The Respondent and the employer denied the allegations. The employer explained that an equal opportunities policy was given to the Respondent when he first joined the company in 2002 and produced the Respondent's acknowledgment receipt. However, the employer admitted that no special training was provided for its staff on the prevention of sexual harassment.
 
     
 
The complaints proceeded to conciliation and were resolved by the Respondent offering a written apology to the Complainant, and the employer reinstating the Complainant upon expiration of her current employment contract.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, it is unlawful to sexually harass a co-worker. Unwelcome sexual advance or conduct of a sexual nature made in circumstances in which a reasonable person would have anticipated that a person would be offended, humiliated or intimidated may amount to an act of sexual harassment. Employers are vicariously liable for the unlawful acts of its employees in the course of their employment unless they have taken reasonably practicable steps to prevent such acts in the workplace. Examples of these steps include promulgation of equal opportunities principles and anti-sexual harassment policy, periodic training of staff on the subject, and effective mechanism taken to address staff complaints.
 
     
     
  Employment field  
  Pregnancy discrimination 2004  
  Dismissal upon return from maternity leave  
  S8 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant joined the Respondent, an electronic manufacturer, as merchandiser in 1997. She took maternity leave between July and September 2004 and during this period, a temporary staff was hired to take up her duties. On the first day the Complainant resumed duty from maternity leave, the Respondent dismissed her without giving any reasons and the temporary staff took up the Complainant's position. The Complainant alleged that the dismissal was based on her pregnancy.
 
     
 
The Respondent claimed that the performance of the Complainant fell short of expectation and she did not have good working relationship with other colleagues. They had planned to terminate her but would be in breach of the labour law since by then the Complainant had served her pregnancy notice. The termination was hence postponed until the Complainant returned from maternity leave. The temporary staff was found to be more capable and retained to replace the Complainant. The Respondent had never given any warnings to the Complainant regarding her work and was not able to demonstrate her performance problems. Both parties agreed that work-related clashes between different sections were not uncommon.
 
     
 
The parties agreed to settle their dispute through conciliation. The Respondent agreed to pay two months' salary to the Complainant as settlement term.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, it may be unlawful to dismiss an employee on the first day of her resumption of duty from maternity leave if the reason for dismissal can be attributed to her pregnancy. Whether the employee is pregnant at the time of the dismissal may be immaterial.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/1/May/2003  
  Employment Field  
  Sex discrimination and dismissal  
  S11 of SDO & S11 of DDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) had worked as a waitress for the Respondent Club (R1) for almost 9 years before she was summarily dismissed in January 2003. C alleged that her supervisor (R2) frequently scolded her for her inability to perform heavy duties. R2 also insisted that C clean dirt on the floor with pieces of cloth in a squatting posture instead of using broom. As she needed to wear a skirt at work, C found it unacceptable to expose her thigh in carrying out the duty. The instruction was considered denigrating to C as a female. C's request to wear trousers at work was refused. C considered R2 subjected her to detriment on account of her sex. On one occasion, her request to take leave for medical treatment for work injury was also rejected. C considered that R1, being the employer of R2, should be vicariously liable for the alleged discriminatory acts done on account of C's disability.
 
     
 
Rs denied the allegations of sex and disability discrimination. Although there were arguments between C and R2 over the moving of heavy objects and methods of cleaning, the issue of sex discrimination was not raised. C was not barred from seeking treatment. C was dismissed for misconduct.
 
     
 
The matter was settled by conciliation in May 2003. R1 agreed to pay C $15,000 as full and final settlement of the complaints. R2 gave a verbal apology for distress caused to C, if any.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
What seems to be even-handed work instructions and dress code for both sex may expose staff of a particular sex to detriment in a disproportionate manner. They should be set with consideration given to the impact on staff of different genders'.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/7/April/2003  
  Non-employment field  
  Allocation of secondary school places  
  S38 of SDO  
     
 
The Representative Complainant (RC) complained on behalf of her son against a government bureau for sex discrimination. Allegedly, the Respondent bureau (R) was unable to allocate to her son a place in a school that uses English as the medium of instruction (EMI) in the central allocation mechanism under the Secondary School Places Allocation System of 2002. There were more places for female students in EMI schools than for male students in the relevant school-net. Her son was allocated to a school using Chinese as the medium of instruction.
 
     
 
R denied to have taken into consideration the sex of RC's son in the allocation exercise. However, R agreed that the numbers of school places for female and male in EMI schools within the relevant school net were of 251:144; and female students of equivalent or lower ratings could be allocated to EMI schools in that school-net.
 
     
 
The complaint was amicably settled in April 2003 when R undertook to arrange an examination for admission to Form 2 in an EMI school. R also issued a letter of encouragement to C's son.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
A system which results in students of either sex being deprived of a choice and therefore treated less favourably may amount to sex discrimination.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/6/April/2003  
  Employment Field  
  Sex discrimination in recruitment  
  S11 of SDO  
     
 
In March 2003, the Complainant (C) read a recruitment advertisement for a senior security officer by the Respondent (R), a security services company. When C telephoned R to arrange for a job interview, a staff member of R told C that only male applicants would be accepted for the post without telling her any reason.
 
     
 
R expressed willingness to attempt early conciliation with C during the investigation.
 
     
 
It was agreed that R would offer C a job interview regarding the post of supervisor. Agreement was reached in April 2003.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
It is unlawful to discriminate against a person on the ground of his / her sex, unless the requirement of a particular sex is a genuine occupation requirement of the job. Employers are encouraged to adopt a set of consistent selection criteria in recruitment consisting of relevant and essential personal requirements, such as education, experience, knowledge, skills and abilities.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/5/April/2003  
  Employment Field  
  Sexual harassment in verbal form  
  S23 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C), an employee of an advertising company, received a warning letter from her supervisor, the Respondent (R), for her habitually being late for work and disobeying instructions. She did not agree with the warning on disobedience and had an argument with R. In their argument, R made remarks to C that ‘We would not ask you to be a “chicken”.’ C felt humiliated because R linked her to a ‘chicken’, which meant a prostitute in slang language. She lodged a complaint of sexual harassment against R and her employer on the ground of its vicarious liability for the act of R.
 
     
 
Parties agreed to resolve their dispute by way of early conciliation. They reached an agreement in April 2003 whereby R verbally apologized to C in addition to sending an apology card (the content of which was not meant to be disclosed to a third party), and agreed to refrain from making personal remarks about C in future. Employer agreed not to victimize C as the result of the sexual harassment complaint.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Unwelcome remarks of a sexual nature in circumstances where a reasonable person would reasonably feel offended, humiliated or intimidated amount to sexual harassment under the law. Employers are vicariously liable for acts of sexual harassment committed by employees at the workplace. They are encouraged to provide employees with training on the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/4/April/2003  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged sex discrimination in relation to recruitment  
  S11 and S12 of SDO  
     
 
In February 2003, the Complainant (C) read a recruitment advertisement for a property officer by the Respondent (R), a security services company, in the office of the Labour Department. When C telephoned R for details of the post, a staff member of R told C that R only accepted male applicants without giving her any explanation.
 
     
 
R was willing to attempt early conciliation with C during the investigation. A job interview regarding the post of property officer was offered to C and C accepted it as the term of settlement. A conciliation agreement was reached in April 2003.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Unless the essential nature of the job was for a person of a particular sex for reasons of physiology, authenticity, presentation or decency or privacy, and other reasons set under S12 of Sex Discrimination Ordinance, it is unlawful for employers to refuse or deliberately omit to offer a woman the chance of an interview for reason of her sex. Employers are encouraged to adopt a set of consistent selection criteria consisting of relevant and essential personal requirements, such as education, experience, knowledge, skills and abilities, in recruitment.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/2/April/2003  
  Employment Field  
  Act done because of sex and for other reasons  
  S4 and S11 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C), who was the purchasing officer of a company (R1) that handled orders of cosmetic products placed by Japanese customers, alleged that he was dismissed on the ground of his sex. He said that the company director (R2) told him that he was dismissed because R1 considered it was more appropriate for a woman who could speak Japanese to take up the post. R1 did employ a Japanese- speaking woman to replace C after his departure.
 
     
 
R1 and R2 denied the allegations of sex discrimination and they explained that C was dismissed because of his poor performance, his inability to communicate in Japanese and his misconduct in handling cash purchase and customers’ data.
 
     
 
The case proceeded to conciliation and was concluded in April 2003 with R1 giving C monetary compensation of $5000 as full and final settlement of the claims.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
If an act is done for two or more reasons and one of the reasons is the sex of a person (whether or not it is the dominant or a substantial reason for doing the act), for the purpose of the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, the act is taken to be done on the ground of sex. In this case although poor performance, misconduct and inability to speak Japanese might have contributed to the dismissal of C by R1, if one of the reasons for the dismissal was his sex, it would still amount to sex discrimination.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/1/April/2003  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged pregnancy discrimination after resuming duty from maternity leave  
  S8 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) had worked as a marketing executive of a plastic materials trading company (R1) for three years. A few days after she resumed duty from maternity leave, she was dismissed. The reason provided by R1 was to cut cost. However, the male replacement employed to take up C's duties during her maternity leave continued to work at R1. The decision to dismiss C was made by two directors (R2 & R3) and implemented by R3.
 
     
 
Rs denied the allegations. They claimed that C had been dismissed due to decline in business and C's unsatisfactory performance. They claimed that C had been given a few verbal warnings in the past.
 
     
 
The complaints were resolved in April 2003 whereby Rs provided C monetary compensation amounting to about $43,000 (roughly equals to 5 months' salary of C).
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Having a substitute permanently replace an employee who was on maternity leave may be regarded as evidence of pregnancy discrimination. It is unlawful for an employer to dismiss an employee on the ground of her pregnancy. Whether the discriminatory act takes place during the employee's pregnancy is immaterial.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/4/March/2003  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged pregnancy and disability discrimination  
  S8 of SDO and S11 of DDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C), a pregnant graphic designer, worked for almost two years for the Respondent (R), a wholesaler of decorative items. She alleged that R discriminated against her on the ground of her pregnancy and for her sick leave due to enteritis. R imposed unrealistic deadlines on her and publicly humiliated her for taking sick leave by circulating memos with offensive words relating to her. R also reprimanded her in a staff meeting for hindering the progress of others. The Merchandizing Manager also treated her badly with verbal abuses and throwing objects at her.
 
     
 
R and C entered into early conciliation. Parties mutually agreed to terminate their employment relationship with immediate effect. R paid C a sum of $56,000, equivalent to 4 months' salary of C, as settlement. The payment was effected in March 2003.
 
     
  Remarks:  
  Imposing standards on a pregnant staff that were obviously beyond her ability to accomplish due to her physical condition could amount to indirect discrimination.  
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/3/March/2003  
  Employment  
  Alleged pregnancy and disability discrimination  
  S8 of SDO and S11 of DDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) was a sales coordinator of a technology company (R1). A few days after she joined R1, she occasionally took sick leave due to fever, bronchitis and rashes. In less than a month's time after her employment with R1, she was found pregnant and informed R1 accordingly. The next day, she was hospitalized because of threatened abortion. The Deputy Sales Manager, who was C's supervisor (R2), visited her in the hospital. He suggested that C resign or take no pay leave. She chose the latter. She continued to be on sick leave because of unstable physical condition. While C was still on sick leave, R2 called her and told her that R1 had decided to dismiss C with immediate effect due to her frequent sick leaves.
 
     
 
Rs claimed that C was dismissed due to inappropriate conduct (smoking in the office), inability to carry out her duties faithfully and properly (sick leave frequency) and habitual neglect of duties (sick leave pattern).
 
     
 
The complaints were resolved in March 2003 whereby R1 provided C with a monetary compensation amounting to $16,000 (roughly equal to 2 months' salary of C) and R2 provided C with a written apology for having accused her of inappropriate conduct, inability to carry out her duties faithfully and properly and habitual neglect of duties.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
If an act is done for two or more reasons, it is sufficient for one of the reasons to be unlawful under the anti-discrimination ordinances, to render the act unlawful for that reason. Taking sick leave by itself cannot constitute a ground of dismissal unless performance is affected or the staff cannot perform the inherent requirement of the job even with reasonable accommodation.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/2/March/2003  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged marital status discrimination  
  S7 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) was a teacher of the Respondent School (R1). When she joined R1, she was single. She was later married to a fellow teacher working in the same school. Her husband had three children by his former marriage. According to R1's policy, in the event of marriage between its two employees, the benefits accorded to both should be reviewed and one should be deemed the dependant of the other. After marriage, C gave birth to two children. R1 denied C's new-born baby, her second child and the fifth in the family, medical benefits because the scheme in C's husband's employment contract covered up to four children. C alleged that R1 had discriminated against her on the ground of her marital status. She claimed that had she not been married to R1's employee, her new-born baby would not have been deprived of the medical benefits, which was part of her benefits as an employee. She also claimed that the Human Resources Manager (R2) had aided R1 to discriminate against her.
 
     
 
The complaints were resolved by early conciliation in March 2003 whereby R1 allowed C's new-born baby to enjoy the medical benefits.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Employers, when deciding on the terms and conditions of employment, should note that differential treatment on grounds of one's marital status may be discriminatory. Under the school medical scheme, C would not have lost the medical benefit to her second daughter if she was single.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/1/March/2003  
  Non-employment field  
  Provision of goods, facilities or services  
  Alleged sex discrimination in vocational training  
  S28 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) applied to a training and development centre (R) for enrolment in the domestic helper training course it organized. A staff member of R later called C informing him that R would not admit him to the course because he is a male.
 
     
 
The complaint was resolved by early conciliation in March 2003 whereby R agreed to admit C to the course.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Any assumption that certain jobs and their training are gender specific is dangerous and unnecessary. Rejecting an application for enrolment to a course on the ground of the applicant's sex can amount to sex discrimination. Consistent and non-discriminatory selection criteria must be applied.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/5/February/2003  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged sexual harassment in employment  
  S23 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C), secretary to the Manager of the Quality Control Department (R) of a manufacturing company, alleged that R sexually harassed her on various occasions including touching her hand and body, commenting on her figure when talking with colleagues, proposing to buy her a sexy night-gown, inviting her to lunch, etc. The sexual harassments started since her employment with the company in December 1999. C was still working in the company at the time of complaint. Statements of many witnesses corroborated C's version of the incidents. Some of the witnesses still worked at the company.
 
     
 
R denied the allegations. He said most of the alleged incidents did not happened. For incidents which had taken place, he explained that the contexts were not as alleged and they were not of a sexual nature. He contended that the physical environment of the office made it not possible for him to do some of the alleged acts.
 
     
 
The complaint was resolved in February 2003 whereby R donated $30,000 to the voluntary organizations nominated by C. He also provided C with a written apology for having touched her, gazed at her, invited her to lunch alone, etc. In addition, he undertook not to do such acts in future.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Sexual harassment can be one single incident or a series of on-going events of a sexual nature which according to a reasonable person would offend, humiliate or intimidate the victim.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/4/February/2003  
  Non-employment field  
  Education  
  Alleged sex discrimination in allocation school place  
  S25 of SDO  
     
 
The Representative Complainant (RC), on behalf of her son (AP) who had participated in the Secondary School Places Allocation exercise 2001/2002, alleged that the responsible government bureau (R) had discriminated against her son on the ground of his sex in the allocation. She alleged that there were fewer places to schools using English as the medium of instruction (EMI schools) available to male students than female students in her son's designated school net.
 
     
 
R denied the exercise was sex discriminatory. Nevertheless, it agreed to settle the matter through conciliation with RC. The complaint was settled in February 2003 whereby R undertook to explore with three EMI schools named by RC to see whether if Form 2 vacancies for the following academic year would be available for which her son could apply for admission. There was no guarantee that a place for RC's son in these schools would be secured.
 
     
  Remarks:  
  A system which results in students of either sex being deprived of a choice and therefore treated less favourably may amount to sex discrimination.  
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/3/February/2003  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged sex harassment in recruitment  
  S23 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) applied for the post of procurement executive with an airline company but her application was unsuccessful. Through a mutual friend, the Project & Engineering Manager of that airline company (R) assisted her in preparing for the recruitment interview. After her application failed, R sent her two emails in which he told her that he could help her get a job in a subsidiary airline company if she agreed to spend the night with him. C had also made a complaint to R's employer and R was dismissed subsequently.
 
     
 
R denied having sent C the emails. Nevertheless, he was willing to resolve the matter by early conciliation. The complaint was settled in January 2003 whereby R provided C with a written apology for the uneasiness, fear and unpleasantness the emails had caused her.
 
     
  Remarks:  
  It is unlawful for an employee of a prospective employer to sexually harass a person seeking to be employed by that employer.  
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/2/February/2003  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged sex discrimination in recruitment  
  S11 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) enrolled in a full-time masters program. He read a recruitment advertisement in his university's website. The advertiser (R) was looking for a part-time private tutor for a junior secondary school student. He called R to arrange for an interview. However, R told him that she only wanted to hire a female.
 
     
 
The complaint was resolved by early conciliation in February 2003. R explained to C that she had not employed C for the job because though the job holder was expected to give private tuition to her son at home, she had a daughter staying at home as well. This would cause inconvenience to her daughter if she employed a male for the job. C accepted her explanation.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Gender specific job requirement is unlawful unless sex is a genuine occupational qualification for the job. The circumstances of this case may not be sufficient to amount to a genuine occupational requirement.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/1/February/2003  
 

Employment Field

 
  Sexual harassment  
  Alleged sexual harassment and victimization in dental clinic  
  S9 and S23 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) was a part-time dental surgery assistant. She alleged that during her employment with a male dentist (R), R had sexually harassed her by touching her body on several occasions, showing her a nude picture of a female singer and commenting on her appearance. She confronted R and asked him not to touch her anymore. Shortly after the confrontation, she resigned. She also complained of victimization against R. She said R had refused to provide her with a good reference letter because she had confronted him.
 
     
 
R said that he had affection for C and claimed that he had not been aware that C did not like the physical contacts. If he had known, he would have avoided the contacts.
 
     
 
The complaints were resolved by early conciliation in February 2003. R provided C with a written apology for any injury to feeling caused and a reference letter stating that C's performance was satisfactory and that she was a competent dental surgery assistant. In addition, R provided monetary compensation of $16,000 to C.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
If an employer engages in unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to an employee, the employee may claim sexual harassment against the employer. Further, if an employer treats the employee less favourably by reason that the latter has alleged unlawful discrimination or harassment against the employer, the employee may also claim victimization against the employer.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/7/January/2003  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged sexual harassment and victimization  
  S23and S46 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) worked as a clerk in the Respondent law firm (R) for a few years. She alleged that her supervisor, the Legal Executive of R, had frequently touched her back since the early days when she joined the firm. She complained to R of sexual harassment. A partner advised her to tolerate the sexual harassment and not to make any complaints if she wanted to keep her job. C was later dismissed without being provided with any reason.
 
     
 
R denied the allegations but was willing to attempt early conciliation before going for a thorough investigation. The complaint was settled in January 2003 whereby R provided C with monetary compensation of $24,000.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
It is unlawful to sexually harass a subordinate. It is also unlawful for an employer to treat an employee less favourably by reason that the employee had complained of sexual harassment or other unlawful acts under the law. Less favourable treatment includes dismissal. Employers are vicariously liable for discriminatory and unlawful acts done by employees in the course of his / her employment.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/6/January/2003  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged marital status discrimination in recruitment  
  S7 of SDO  
     
 
C was a job seeker. Through an employment agent, it was arranged for him to attend a job interview with a trading company (R1). He alleged that R1 and its director (R2) discriminated against him on the ground of his marital status (single) by rejecting his application for the post of a salesperson. C claimed that in the recruitment interview, R2 asked him about his marital status.
 
     
 
The complaints were resolved by early conciliation in January 2003 whereby Rs provided C with a letter of apology. In addition, R1 undertook to take measures to prevent acts of marital status discrimination in future.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Only questions relevant to work requirements should be asked at job interviews. Decision to hire should be based on the assessment of one's capability in fulfilling the job requirements.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/5/January/2003  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged pregnancy and disability discrimination  
  S8 of SDO and S11 of DDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) was a transport supervisor of a Respondent Company (R2), a logistics company. A few days after she notified R2 and the General Manager cum shareholder (R1) of her pregnancy, she took a few days' sick leave due to gastro-enteritis and cystitis. Immediately after she resumed duty from sick leave, she was dismissed. The reasons for dismissal stated in the dismissal letter included unsatisfactory performance, insubordination and not properly reporting to the management or providing proof for absence from duty during her sick leave. C had never received any verbal or written warning about her performance in the past. She had submitted the medical certificates in relation to her sick leave to R2. She believed the actual reasons for her dismissal were her pregnancy and disabilities.
 
     
 
In the course of the EOC's complaint handling, it was noted that R2 requested R1 to step down from the post of General Manager. In addition, R2 ceased operation during our investigation handling due to financial difficulties. Notwithstanding its status, R2 was willing to attempt early conciliation with C. The complaints against R2 were resolved in January 2003 whereby R2 provided C compensation of $46,000 (C's monthly salary was $7,000). C withdrew the complaints against R1.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Although an employer may state certain reasons for an employee's dismissal a reasonable inference may be drawn from of the circumstances and previous performance records and requests for post change may provide indications.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/4/January/2003  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged pregnancy and disability discrimination  
  S8 of SDO and S11 of DDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) used to be the account & administration manager of a garment trading company (R2). The Regional Manager was her immediate supervisor (R1). C applied for sick leave because she needed to attend a prenatal check-up, R1 required her to take annual leave instead, commenting that C had already taken too many sick leaves (due to upper respiratory infection, vertigo and back pain) in the past. C was dismissed three days after resuming duty from maternity leave. C alleged that her dismissal was due to her pregnancy and pregnancy-related sickness.
 
     
 
Rs claimed that there had been an internal restructuring and C's position no longer existed. Nonetheless, C's substitute employed during C's maternity leave was offered an extension of contract after C's departure.
 
     
 
The complaints were resolved by early conciliation in January 2003 whereby Rs provided C monetary compensation of $50,000, roughly equaled to 2.5 months' salary.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Having a substitute permanently replace an employee who was on maternity leave may be regarded as evidence of pregnancy discrimination. It is unlawful for an employer to dismiss an employee on the ground of her pregnancy. Whether the discriminatory act takes place during the employee's pregnancy is immaterial.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/3/January/2003  
  Non-employment field  
  Provision of goods, facilities or services  
  Alleged pregnancy discrimination regarding medical examination  
  S26 of SDO  
     
 
The Respondent (R) was a doctor engaged by C's employer to provide medical check-up service to its employees as part of the recruitment process. Shortly after C joined the company, she attended the medical check-up to complete the recruitment process. When attending the medical check-up, C was found pregnant. She alleged that when R informed her of her pregnancy, he had discriminated against her on the ground of her pregnancy by making a remark that it was unfortunate that she was pregnant and that he did not know what C's employer would do upon knowing that she was pregnant. C was worried about the possible effect of such remark on her employment. Despite the test result, C's employment was not affected.
 
     
 
R denied the allegation but was willing to attempt early conciliation with C to resolve the matter quickly. The complaint was resolved in January 2003 whereby R apologized in writing for causing C distress as a result of R's remarks regarding her pregnancy.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Making adverse remarks in relation to a client's pregnancy resulting in a detriment in the course of provision of goods, facilities or services amounts to pregnancy discrimination. In this case, however, no detriment occurred but providers of goods, facilities or services should avoid making irrelevant remarks and observe equal opportunity best practices.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/2/January/2003  
  Non-employment field  
  Provision of goods, facilities or services  
  Alleged sex discrimination in training course  
  S28 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) applied to an organization (R), which organized domestic helper training courses for members of the public. The receptionist of R told C that R would not admit male applicants to the course.
 
     
 
The complaint was resolved by early conciliation in January 2003 whereby R verbally explain to C that R would never refuse any applications for its courses on the ground of the applicants' sex; and that the staff in question was a temporary staff who might not have fully understood its policy and therefore had given the wrong information to C.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Rejecting an application for enrolment in a course on the ground of the applicant's sex can amount to direct sex discrimination. Having consistent and non-discriminatory selection criteria when considering applications is advisable.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/1/January/2003  
  Employment Field  
  Sexual harassment  
  Alleged sexual harassment and victimization in accounting firm  
  S9 & S23 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C), who used to be an audit trainee of an accounting firm (R2), alleged that her supervisor (R1), who was a senior auditor, had touched her body and made remarks to her with sexual connotations on various occasions. She also complained against R2 that it should be held vicariously liable for R1's sexual harassment acts. C said that when she asked R1 not to sexually harass her again, R1 victimized her by immediately reporting to R2 that she had framed him and that she was incompetent with her work. On the same day, C complained to R2 of sexual harassment against R1. R2 dismissed C on the same day.
 
     
 
R2 denied the allegations. It explained that C was dismissed because of poor performance. The complaints against R2 were resolved by early conciliation in January 2003 whereby R2 provided a verbal explanation of C's dismissal and monetary compensation of $6,500, a month's salary.
 
     
  After conciliating with R2, C withdrew the complaints against R1.  
     
  Remarks:  
 
A person sexually harasses a fellow worker if he/she engages in unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to the fellow worker. Conduct of a sexual nature includes oral statements. A person victimizes another person if he/she treats the latter less favourably due to the latter alleging unlawful discrimination / harassment against that person.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/6/December/2002  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged pregnancy discrimination  
  S8 and S11 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) was a clerk in a shipping company (R1). She alleged that after she served the pregnancy notice to R1, her manager (R2) became picky on her work. She was given more work and a lower salary increase as compared to another non-pregnant shipping clerk. On the first day of resuming duty from maternity leave, C was dismissed.
 
     
 
Rs denied the allegations. They explained that C was dismissed because of inability to meet the job requirements, poor work attitude and customer relationship her. C had a workload similar to the other colleague. As salary increase was performance-based, the lower pay rise reflected C's unsatisfactory performance.
 
     
 
The complaints were resolved in December 2002 whereby R1 provided C with a reference letter and monetary compensation of $25,000 (roughly equals to 2 month salary of C).
 
     
  Remarks:  
  It amounts to pregnancy discrimination if a pregnant staff is treated less favourably when compared with other staff who are not pregnant. Comparison of less favourable treatment needs to be made between persons who are pregnant and those who are not and takes into consideration all relevant circumstances.  
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/5/December/2002  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged pregnancy discrimination  
  S8 and S11 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) joined a trading company (R1) as a trading executive. After working for half a year, she was found pregnant. She informed the Director (R2) accordingly. R2 made a remark, "How terrible". Thereafter, R2 was picky on C's performance. C was the only staff in R1 not paid any bonus for that year although she got it in the previous year. No warning on performance was received before her notification of pregnancy. She was dismissed on the first day she resumed duty from maternity leave.
 
     
 
Rs denied the allegations. They explained that C did not get the bonus and was subsequently dismissed because of poor performance. R2 did not remember what exactly was said to C when she was informed about C's pregnancy. In any event, she did not mean anything negative.
 
     
  The matter was resolved in December 2002 whereby Rs provided C with a reference letter and monetary compensation of $20,000 (roughly equals to a month's salary).  
     
  Remarks:  
 
It is unlawful to discriminate against a person on the ground of her pregnancy. Inference of pregnancy discrimination can be drawn from a series of events, such as adverse comments, less favourable treatment and dismissal. Discriminatory act is not confine to one single incident but can take place over an extended period of time.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/4/December/2002  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged marital status discrimination  
  S7 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) was a printing worker of a printing company, the Respondent (R). She got married after having satisfactorily passed the 3-month probation period. One month after, R went through an internal restructure and all printing workers were asked to list their preference of work in order to reassign them to three different teams. C listed a particular team as her favorite. C's supervisor, the Manager, refused to assign her to the preferred team telling her that, being a married female, she was not suitable for that team. Two months after, C was dismissed. The Manager told C that since she is a married woman, the job was not suitable for her as it required night shifts and strenuous duties. All printing workers had to perform night shift on a rotational basis.
 
     
 
C claimed that R discriminated against her on the grounds of her sex and marital status by not assigning her to the team in accordance with her preference and dismissing her. R, on the other hand, claimed the dismissal was due to substandard performance, lack of initiative and need for close supervision. Her supervisor was on a 9 to 5 shift and this made close supervision difficult.
 
     
 
Case was conciliated in December 2002 with the provision of a sum of $2,000 paid as gesture of good will, "letters of regret" from R and her supervisor and a reference letter of her service.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Adverse treatment and making assumptions regarding suitability of a job based on a person's marital status or sex may amount to unlawful discrimination
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/3/December/2002  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged pregnancy discrimination in contract renewal  
  S8 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) had worked as a tutor in an education centre (R2) for four years. Her employment contract was renewed on an annual basis. She informed a director (R1) of her pregnancy in mid June. R1 suggested her taking a rest for two months after her contract expired in end of June. R1 believed that she would not be able to help organize the summer activities due to her pregnancy. R1 also told her that R2 wanted to get someone to replace her because it was anticipated that she would take a lot of leave during her pregnancy. Her employment contact was subsequently not renewed upon expiry.
 
     
 
R1 admitted having told C that she could take more rest and did not need to help organize the summer activities. However, she claimed that it was C who proposed to take two-month no pay leave for a rest. In response to C's questions on whether R1 would expect her (C) to take leave frequently due to her pregnancy, R1 only said that a substituting tutor would be hired if C needed to take leave. R1 denied having said that she would find someone to replace C because of her pregnancy. Rs explained that C's employment contract had not been renewed because of R2's financial difficulties and C's unsatisfactory performance.
 
     
 
The complaints were settled in December 2002 by way of conciliation whereby Rs provided C a reference letter and $5,000.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
References in the Sex Discrimination Ordinance to the dismissal of a person from employment include references to the termination of that person's employment by the expiration of any period. Accordingly, non-renewal of employment contract on the ground of an employee's pregnancy amounts to pregnancy discrimination.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/2/December/2002  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged sexual harassment related to obscene photos  
  S23 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) was a clerk of a construction company. Apart from her male supervisor and sole proprietor of the company (R), she was the only staff in the company. On one occasion, R asked her to download the photos he had taken by using the company's digital camera and save them in the company's computer. In the process, she found the photos contained three photos of a naked woman's buttocks and private parts. Feeling offended and humiliated, she resigned the following day.
 
     
 
R denied the allegation. He claimed that he had never taken or seen the photos. However, he was willing to attempt early conciliation with C. The complaint was settled in December 2002 whereby R provided C with HK$3,000. In addition, R provided C with an apology letter for any distress those photos had caused. R would also display the EOC's anti-sexual harassment publication materials in the company.
 
     
  Remarks:  
  Obscene photos fall within the definition of conduct of a sexual nature and may offend and humiliate others exposed to them.  
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/1/December/2002  
  Non-employment Field  
  Providing goods, facilities or services
 
  Alleged sexual harassment in service provision  
  S40 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainants (C) were window shopping with a friend in a shop which sold old photographs. When introducing to them some photographs displayed in the shop, a shopkeeper (R) said to C "barbecued pork bun". C asked R the meaning of the term. He looked at C's chest and told her that the term related to her bosomy figure.
 
     
 
R denied the allegation but was willing to resolve the complaint by early conciliation. The case was settled in December 2002 whereby R verbally apologized to C.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
It is unlawful for a provider of goods, facilities or services to sexually harass a customer. Conduct of a sexual nature includes making verbal remarks of a sexual nature.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/6/November/2002  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged pregnancy discrimination  
  S8 and S11 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) joined the Respondent advertising company (R1) as the Art Director. After working for six months, she took a few days' sick leave. About the same time, she was found pregnant. She notified her supervisor, a Senior Art Director (R2), and two Directors (R3 and R4) accordingly. Thereafter, Rs transferred her assistant to another department and removed her access to equipment that was necessary for performing her work. She was accused of unpunctuality and failing to complete her tasks. She was not paid extra salary as previously agreed.
 
     
 
Rs denied the allegations. R1 explained that the staff deployment was reasonable in view of the workload.
 
     
 
Rs were willing to attempt early conciliation and the complaints were resolved in November 2002. The supervisor and one director provided C with written apologies for the inconvenience caused by the removal of computer access. The other director provided C with monetary compensation of $4,000 and the company paid C $60,000 (roughly equal to one month's salary in total). In addition, R1 and C mutually agreed to cease their employment relationship and R1 would provide C with a good reference letter.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
It is unlawful for an employer to treat a staff less favourably on the ground of her pregnancy and/or disability. Individuals involved in discriminatory acts are personally liable and the employer is vicariously liable for the unlawful acts of the employee.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/5/November/2002  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged sexual harassment  
  S23 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) was an apprentice in a printing company in which she worked for over four years. She alleged that one of the directors of the company (R) kissed her forehead when she was about to get off work on one Saturday. They happened to be alone when the incident took place.
 
     
 
R was willing to attempt early conciliation with C. The complaint was resolved in November 2002 with R providing C with a verbal apology for injuring C's feelings, a statement on her employment with R and monetary compensation of $36,000 (roughly equal to 6-month's salary of C). It was also agreed that C could leave the company with advance notice waived.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Conduct of a sexual nature includes unwelcome physical advance and verbal remarks, which according to a reasonable person would offend, humiliate or intimidate the victim. It could be a single incident or a series of events.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/4/November/2002  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged sexual harassment  
  S23 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) worked as a security officer in a security company for a brief period. She alleged that her supervisor (R) sexually harassed her by touching her hands and staring at her breasts on several occasions.
 
     
 
R denied the allegations and claimed that the events were fabricated by C.
 
     
 
The complaint was resolved in November 2002. C agreed to settle the matter because R had demonstrated his sincerity by attending the conciliation meeting. She believed that R had learnt a lesson from this complaint and would not sexually harass other colleagues in future.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
It is unlawful to sexually harass co-workers. Conduct of a sexual nature includes bodily touches and sometimes staring of a sexual nature.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/3/November/2002  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged pregnancy and family status discrimination  
  S8 and S11 of SDO & S5 and S8 of FSDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) had worked as a customer service manager in a communications company (R1) for a few years. She got pregnant twice during the period. When she informed the division manager and her supervisor (R2) of her second pregnancy, R2 remarked that he felt astonished at the short duration between the two pregnancies. Shortly afterwards, R2 suggested to C to change from fixed monthly salary to commission-based remuneration. C refused. R1 later asked C to consider taking up a position left vacant by another manager. C declined the offer because the new position required outdoor duties which she considered not suitable for her in view of her physical condition. Three days after C resumed duty from her second maternity leave, R2 asked how C was coping with her family needs such as taking care of her children. In the same meeting, R2 told her that she would be made redundant due to company downsizing. Though other staff were also made redundant a few months later, C was the only staff made redundant at that time. C was of the view that she was discriminated against due to pregnancy and her family status in having to take care of her children.
 
     
 
Rs denied the allegations. They claimed that other managers were also urged to alter the basis of remuneration. R2 denied having made the alleged remarks on C's second pregnancy. The vacant position C was asked to consider was a promising one. C's employment was terminated because of business downturn.
 
     
  The complaints were resolved in November 2002 whereby Rs provided C with monetary compensation of $35,000 (roughly equals to one month salary of C).  
     
  Remarks:  
 
Decision to dismiss on the ground of an employee's family responsibility such as, having to take care of a new born child can amount to both pregnancy and family status discrimination.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/2/November/2002  
  Employment  
  Alleged sexually harassment in employment  
  S23 and S46 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C), a female officer of the Respondent Company (R2), a security services company, served R2 from April 2000 to March 2002. C alleged that her male supervisor (R1) sexually harassed her in the course of his employment by touching her hands and staring at her breasts on several occasions during the period from November 2001 to March 2002. C also considered that R2, as the employer of R1, should be liable for the unlawful act allegedly done by R1 in the course of his employment.
 
     
 
R2 stated that it had not received any complaint from C against the alleged behaviour of R1 before it received C's statement of complaint from the EOC. R2 admitted that it had no policy on sexual harassment. C and R1 were in dispute about whether the alleged acts of sexual harassment had taken place. R2 was in dispute of its responsibility for the sexual harassment alleged against R1.
 
     
 
Parties agreed to settle their cases through conciliation in November 2002. C did not want to pursue the matter after she had expressed her concerns and dissatisfaction to R1. R2 undertook to develop a policy on sexual harassment and establish a complaint-handling procedures.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Employers should take reasonable and practicable steps to prevent sexual harassment. A set of procedures to handle complaints against discrimination and sexual harassment can help an employer to reduce its vicarious liability for the unlawful acts of its employees.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/1/November/2002  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged pregnancy discrimination in employment  
  S8 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) was an accounting clerk of a trading company (R2). Three to four months after she had joined R2, she informed R2 of her pregnancy. A few months later (before she took maternity leave), she was dismissed. The Administration Manager (R1) told her that she was not suitable for the job. In addition, as R2 would have to hire a replacement when she took maternity leave, R2 preferred dismissing her sooner. She had not been given any warning about her performance in the past.
 
     
 
Rs denied the allegations. R1 said he had only acted upon R2's instruction to dismiss C. R2 explained that C was dismissed because of unsatisfactory performance and no improvement was shown despite repeated requests having been made.
 
     
 
The complaints were resolved in November 2002 whereby R1 provided C with a written apology for not being aware of the anti-discrimination ordinance when dismissing her and thus causing C distress. In addition, R2 provided C $5,000 (roughly equivalent to half month salary of C).
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
An employer discriminates against an employee if it dismisses her on the ground of her pregnancy. Staff taking part in the dismissal may be held personally liable for the discriminatory act even if she / her was carrying out an order from the employer.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/2/October/2002  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged sexually harassment in employment  
  S23 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) worked as an administration officer of a shipping company. She had a loving relationship with the manager of the shipping division (R). After they broke up, R allegedly insulted her with remarks of a sexual nature on three occasions.
 
     
 
R denied the allegations and any loving relationship between them. He said they worked in different departments and he seldom talked to C.
 
     
 
The complaint was resolved in October 2002 whereby the parties undertook to communicate through email in the workplace in future. In the event of face-to-face communications, they would be conducted in the presence of a colleague.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
It is unlawful for an employee to sexually harass a fellow employee. Conduct of a sexual nature includes oral statements of a sexual nature.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/1/October/2002  
  Non-employment field  
  Provision of goods, facilities or services
 
  Alleged pregnancy discrimination in training service  
  S28 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) had applied for enrollment in the Shipping and Import-Export course organized by a non-governmental organization (R2). She was in the mid-stage of pregnancy at the time she attended an enrollment interview. R1, an officer of R2, was the sole interviewer. C alleged that R1 had told her in the interview that since she (C) was pregnant, R2 would not use its resources to admit her to the course. This was because no one would hire her, a pregnant woman, after she had completed the course. C complained to the re-training board which funded the course organization the next day. With the arrangement of the re-training board, C attended another interview with R2, which was conducted by another officer. C lodged her complaint with the EOC after the second interview. At that time, the result of the second interview was not yet announced.
 
     
 
The complaints were resolved by early conciliation in October 2002. R2 explained to C that she had been admitted to the course after the second interview. However, as it could not be anticipated when the course would commence, R2 therefore had not informed C of the result of her second interview. R2 undertook to inform C as early as possible if the commencement date of the course in question was fixed. If the course commencement date was close to C's expected date of confinement, R2 would reserve the offer for a course available at the next earliest opportunity.
 
     
  Remarks:  
  Rejecting an application for a course enrollment on the ground of the applicant's pregnancy amounts to pregnancy discrimination. Staff of the service provider may be held personally liable for the act.  
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/2/September/2002  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged dismissal on ground of pregnancy discrimination  
  S8 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) had worked as a clerk in a cleaning company (R2) for seven years. Shortly after she had informed R2 of her pregnancy, upon the recommendation of her supervisor (R1), R2 forced her to clear her leave balance in a month's time. According to her, other staff were not asked to clear their leave balance. In addition, C had taken an average of four to five days of pregnancy-related sick leave in the first three months of her pregnancy. R1 criticized her for taking frequent sick leaves. On the second day of her resuming duty from maternity leave, C was dismissed. The reason given by Rs was C's poor performance. C had not received any warning about her performance in the past.
 
     
 
Rs denied the allegations. They explained that C was dismissed because of poor attitude and performance. The complaints were resolved by early conciliation in September 2002 with Rs paying C $5,000. In addition, R2 withdrew the letter of termination of employment and undertook not to say anything on C's past performance to any prospective employers of C.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Adverse treatment of a pregnant staff may amount to pregnancy discrimination under law. Acts of employer which do not breach the pregnancy-related provisions under the Employment Ordinance can nevertheless be unlawful under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance. An employer should formulate a standard leave policy for general application to staff to maintain consistency in clearing employees' leave balances.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/1/September/2002  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged pregnancy discrimination in employment  
  S8 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) was an Accounts Clerk at the Respondent Company (R), a printing company. She was dismissed on the second day after she resumed duty from maternity leave. R told her that this was because R had been facing financial difficulties and C was highly paid. The two clerks who were employed to take over her work during her maternity leave continued to work at R after her dismissal.
 
     
 
The complaint was resolved by early conciliation in September 2002 whereby R provided C monetary compensation of HK$100,000, approximately 7 months' salary. In addition, R provided C with a reference letter. In return, parties agreed to state in the Conciliation Agreement that C accepted R's explanation that her dismissal was due to restructure.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
A discriminatory act amounts to pregnancy discrimination if it was done by reason of an employee's pregnancy, irrespective of whether the employee was pregnant at the material time.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/6/August/2002  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged sex discrimination  
  S5 and S11 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) was the only female security guard working in a property management company (R). She had worked alongside ten male security guards in an industrial building for two years. She alleged that R had transferred her alone to another industrial building. She was told that the Chairperson of the Incorporated Owners of the building she used to work with disliked female guards. As the result of the transfer, she spent more time and money traveling to the new work place.
 
     
 
R was willing to resolve the matter through early conciliation. The complaint was resolved in August 2002 whereby R undertook to transfer C back to the original post.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
It is unlawful to discriminate against a staff on the ground of his/her sex by subjecting him/her to any other detriment, which could include longer travelling time and higher travel cost. A person who makes the discriminatory decision or instruct others to carry out an act of discrimination is personally liable under the law.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/5/August/2002  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged pregnancy discrimination in employment  
  S8 and S11 of SDO  
     
  The Complainant (C) was a quality inspector who had worked for a few years in a plastic manufacturing company (R). After she notified R of her pregnancy, R issued two warning letters to her. On the first day she resumed duty from maternity leave, she was dismissed. The reason provided by R was unsatisfactory performance.  
     
 
R denied the allegations. It explained that the business downturn attributed to the redundancy. C was chosen to be laid off because of her unsatisfactory performance, negative attitude towards fellow colleagues and poor attendance record since the beginning of her employment with R. C was warned for insubordination and poor manner towards supervisor.
 
     
 
The complaint was resolved in August 2002 whereby R provided C with monetary compensation of $12,000 (roughly equals to 1.5 month's salary) and a reference letter. In addition, R was to retract the two warning letters from C's personal file.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Dismissing a pregnant employee on the first day of her resuming duty from maternity leave can amount to unlawful discrimination if the reason for dismissal can be attributed to her pregnancy. Whether the employee is pregnant at the time of dismissal is immaterial.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/4/August/2002  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged sexual harassment  
  S23 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) underwent vocational training in a public organization. She alleged that her supervisor (R), a senior architect, sexually harassed her on various occasions during her one-year employment with the organization. The alleged acts included verbal remarks, unwelcome sexual advances and inappropriate bodily contacts.
 
     
 
R denied the allegations. He was of the view that C made these complaints following their heated argument over a work-related issue. On that occasion, R pointed out to C her weaknesses for the first time. The event resulted in C losing control of herself.
 
     
 
The complaint was resolved in August 2002 whereby R provided C with monetary compensation of $45,000 (roughly equals to 2-month's salary of C) and an apology (both verbal and written). Under their agreement, parties would keep the alleged incident confidential.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Under the anti-discrimination law, employment context include the relationship between employer-employee, supervisor-subordinate, principal-contractor, trainer-trainee relationship.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/3/August/2002  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged pregnancy discrimination upon resuming duty from maternity leave  
  S8 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) was a purchasing clerk having been working for a trading company (R) for three years. On the first day of resuming duty from maternity leave, she was dismissed. R told her that the reason for dismissal was unsatisfactory performance. A male replacement who was hired to take up C's duties during her maternity leave continued to work at R.
 
     
 
R denied the allegation. It stated that C was dismissed because of consistent unsatisfactory performance despite repeated warnings having been given to her. Notwithstanding the above, R was willing to attempt early conciliation with C. The complaint was resolved in August 2002 whereby R provided C monetary compensation of HK $28,000 as full and final settlement of all claims.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Having a substitute permanently replace an employee who was on maternity leave may be regarded as evidence of pregnancy discrimination. It is unlawful for an employer to dismiss an employee on the ground of her pregnancy. Whether the discriminatory act takes place during the employee's pregnancy is immaterial.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/2/August/2002  
  Non-employment field  
  Provision of goods, facilities or services  
  Alleged sex discrimination in approval of credit card application  
  S28 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C), who was unemployed, failed in his application for a credit card from a bank (R). He contacted R for reason of having his application rejected. A staff of R told him that R had to take into account of an applicant's income when considering a credit card application. C later learned from a female relative of his, who was a housewife, that she had successfully applied for the same credit card from R. She had not been required to provide financial proof. C called R and asked why there were different treatments between his female relative and him. A staff of R replied that it was common for women to be housewives but uncommon that men were unemployed.
 
     
 

R denied the allegation but was willing to attempt early conciliation with C. The complaint was settled in August 2002 whereby R explained to C its criteria, including creditworthiness of applicants for approving applications for its credit card and that gender was not a considering factor. Other criteria included whether applicants have used its service before. R had instructed its front-line staff not to express personal opinion when dealing with customers. In addition, R would consider letting unsuccessful applicants for its credit card know the reason for rejection. It also undertook to follow up C's case and try its best to let C know the reason for rejecting his application.

 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Gender stereotyping may result in unlawful discrimination. Approval of credit card facilities is a form of service covered by the law and requires non-arbitrary and consistent approval criteria.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/1/August/2002  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged sex discrimination in recruitment  
  S11 of SDO  
     
 
A Representative Complainant (RC) learned from a female friend ,who had worked for a health product company (R), that R was hiring staff to distribute promotional leaflets. RC accompanied her younger brother (AP) to R's office for a recruitment interview. RC and AP were however told by an employee of R that the job was not open to men.
 
     
 
The complaint was resolved by early conciliation in August 2002 whereby R provided AP with an apology letter and $300. In addition, R had taken disciplinary action against the employee in question. It also undertook to review its recruitment policy to enforce fair selection of new staff.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Formulation of consistent selection criteria relevant to the job requirements is advisable. Training of staff responsible for recruitment process on the anti-discrimination law can help avoid discriminatory practices.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/3/July/2002  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged pregnancy discrimination  
  S8 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) worked as a marketing manager for the Respondent (R), a retailer of shoes. R had operation in Hong Kong and Mainland China. On the day she informed R of her pregnancy, the Deputy Managing Director suggested her to resign. C alleged that, a few days later, she was told by the Executive Director to travel to the Mainland on business. She was warned that action would be taken against her if she refused to leave the company of her own accord. C had made occasional business trips to the Mainland China in the past. In the following few days, she took sick leave because of threatened abortion and the doctor advised her that she was not fit for traveling. When she resumed duty from sick leave, the Executive Director asked her to travel to the Mainland again and told her that she would be regarded as absent from duty if she refused to make the trip. According to C, the trip was to do market research without a specified objective. She had not been assigned of work of this nature previously. She refused. Shortly after that, she was asked to move out of her room because she had to stay in China on a long-term basis and all her original duties were assigned to another staff. Since then, she had not been given any work and her newly assigned workstation was not provided with a computer or telephone. Finally, she could not tolerate the acts of R anymore and left R, considering herself constructively dismissed.
 
     
 
C claimed that R discriminated against her on the ground of her pregnancy. R, on the other hand, attributed C's dismissal to poor performance.
 
     
 
Parties agreed to early conciliate and came to a settlement in July 2002. A reference letter was issued in addition to monetary compensation of $170,000 as full and final settlement of all claims.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Treating a woman less favourably on ground of her pregnancy amounts to direct pregnancy discrimination. Less favourable treatments include asking employees to resign, causing hardship or providing adverse treatment.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/2/July/2002  
  Sexual Harassment  
  Employer's vicarious liability for employee's alleged sexual harassment acts  
  S23and S46 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) used to be a senior accountant of a computer software company (R). She alleged that the principal consultant of R had sexually harassed her on a few occasions. The incidents she raised included ordering to book a room in a hotel for them to share when they were having a business trip in Guangzhou (they did not share a room in the end); asking C to go to his room if she could not sleep on the same trip; making an analogy that C were a soldier and he were a horse on which C had to ride (C perceived the remark as having sexual connotation) and having unusual eye contact with her which made her feel uncomfortable. She alleged that R should be held vicariously liable for the principal consultant's sexual harassment. R did not have an anti-sexual harassment policy. Neither had it provided any relevant training to staff. C also complained of victimization. She alleged that after she had complained to the principal consultant of sexual harassment, she was dismissed.
 
     
 

R denied the allegations but was willing to attempt early conciliation with C. The complaints were resolved in July 2002 whereby R provided C with monetary compensation of $44,000, about two months' salary. It undertook not to make adverse comments on C's performance if approached by prospective employers. In addition, R undertook to formulate an anti-sexual harassment policy.

 
     
  Remarks:  
 
An employer may discharge its vicarious liability for an employee's sexual harassment/unlawful discriminatory acts if it can show that it has taken such steps as were reasonably practicable to prevent the employee from doing the alleged unlawful acts. "Reasonably practicable steps" include formulation of an anti-discrimination / sexual harassment policy and provision of training.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/1/July/2002  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged pregnancy discrimination in redundancy exercise  
  S8 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) joined an engineering company (R2) as Secretary. About a month later, she resigned because she found the job unsuitable for her. The director of the company (R1) told her that she had been performing quite well and asked her to stay. She did stay. A week passed, she was certified pregnant and informed Rs of the news. Another month or so later, R1 informed C that she was dismissed with immediate effect because of poor business encountered by R2.
 
 
 
 
The complaints were resolved by early conciliation in July 2002 whereby Rs provided C monetary compensation amounted to $16,000 (C's monthly salary was $8,000).
 
 
 
 

Remarks:

 
 
Although the employer did not expressly state that the reason (or one of the reasons) for dismissal was the employee's pregnancy, a reasonable inference may be drawn on the basis of the circumstantial evidence.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/3/June/2002  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged pregnancy discrimination  
  S8 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) joined the Respondent Company (R), operator of a karaoke chain, as a receptionist. While she was still on probation, she was certified pregnant. In a staff meeting held just before C notifying R of her pregnancy, she was assigned to handle additional duties as one of her colleagues would soon leave the service of R. After the meeting, C informed her supervisor and the Human Resources (HR) Manager of her pregnancy and then submitted a doctor's certificate. Two days later, the HR Manager told C that, because of the reorganization of the company, she was made redundant. After the dismissal, C's ex-colleague told her that R had recruited a new employee to take up her duties. The HR Manager emphasized that the decision to terminate her employment was unrelated to her pregnancy. It was due to C's inability to carry out certain functions, such as operating digital equipment and computers.
 
     
 
The case was conciliated in June 2002 with R paying C monetary compensation of $8,000.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Although the employer did not expressly state that the reason (or one of the reasons) for dismissal was the employee's pregnancy, a reasonable inference may be drawn on the basis of the circumstantial evidence.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/2/June/2002  
  Non-employment field  
  Alleged sexual harassment in service provision  
  S40 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) alleged that her doctor, the Respondent (R), sexually harassed her by touching her breasts and nipples while he was examining her alone at his clinic in 1999. C had also reported the case to the police. R was tried for indecent assault in 2000 and was acquitted.
 
     
 
At EOC, R denied C's allegation and claimed that the incident was purely a misunderstanding. Both parties were in dispute about whether the conduct of R was of a sexual nature. R all along claimed proper medical procedure while C maintained that touching sensitive female parts, i.e. the breasts and the nipples, was beyond ‘proper’.
 
     
 
The complaint proceeded to settlement in June 2002. C accepted the payment of a sum of $33,000 and a letter of understanding from R as full and final settlement of her complaint against R.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
It is unlawful for a person to sexually harass other person in the course of offering to provide, or providing goods, facilities or services to the latter. Parallel criminal and tort actions can be instituted against the harasser to redress criminal and civil wrongs.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/1/June/2002  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged sexually hostile working environment  
  S23 & 46 of SDO and S11 & S49 of DDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C), who used to work as a Security Guard for the Respondent company (R2), a television broadcasting company, alleged that both R2 and her supervisor (R1) had discriminated against her on the ground of her physical disabilities. With problems in her legs, she could not stand for long hours. Without prior notice, she was transferred to a more strenuous post with a view of forcing her to resign. In addition, she complained against R2 that it should be held vicariously liable for the alleged sexual harassment of her by the security guards and the carpenters. The alleged sexual harassment included discussion of their sexual experiences in C's presence, changing clothes and going to toilets with the door opened when C was patrolling there, posting of nude posters, placing pornographic magazines in the workplace, discussing pornographic pages of newspapers and commented on the figures and attire of women, etc.
 
     
 
R1 disputed the allegation of constructive dismissal but agreed that no prior notice was given. The transfer was in response to a grievance raised by C. R2 contended that there were no obscene posters and magazines found at the workplace. An anti-sexual harassment and anti-discrimination policy was in place in the company.
 
     
 
The complaints were resolved in June 2002 by early conciliation whereby R1 provided C with a written apology for his failure to provide prior notice to C and to consult her before transfer. R2 agreed to introduce the anti-discrimination and anti-sexual harassment concept in its internal communication to staff. It also agreed to consider providing relevant training to staff.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
It is unlawful to discriminate against a person on ground of his/her disability. Subjecting the person to detriment can be discriminatory. A person sexually harasses another person, if he/she, alone or together with other persons, engages in conduct of a sexual nature which creates a sexually hostile or intimidating working environment for the other person. Employers are vicariously liable for such sexually hostile working environment created by its employees.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/1/May/2002  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged pregnancy discrimination  
  S8 of SDO and S11 of DDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) was a salesperson of the Respondent (R), a retailer of pens and writing instrument. C informed R of her pregnancy. Thereafter, she had taken sick leave intermittently for three months because of threatened abortion and gastritis. She was dismissed upon her return from maternity leave. She was given a warning letter at the time she was dismissed. Allegedly, she was considered having disobeyed reasonable orders of R and failing to submit medical certificates as requested. C claimed that the dismissal amounted to discrimination on ground of her pregnancy and disability. R, on the other hand, claimed that C had not reported her sick leave as early as expected. As a small shop, he needed to arrange for a replacement worker on the days when C fell sick. R also claimed that medical certificates were not submittedas requested. C claimed that she was admitted into hospital in emergency situations and reporting to employers was not possible.
 
     
 
Parties agreed to early conciliate and came to a settlement in May 2002 with a monetary compensation of $45,000 and service certificate provided by R to C.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
It is unlawful to terminate an employee on ground of her pregnancy or pregnancy-related disability. Reasonable accommodation should be given to employees who are sick, in particular under emergency situation. For efficient operation, it is advisable to have prior agreement on leave application and procedures to deal with unexpected events, such as sick leave, adverse weather, accidents, etc.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/1/January/2002  
  Non-employment field  
  Alleged sex discrimination in insurance coverage  
  S51 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) alleged the Respondent Bank (R) had turned down his application for a Domestic Helper Insurance Plan because his domestic helper was a male.
 
     
 
R explained that the reason for declining C's application was due to the job nature of C's domestic helper, i.e. to perform extra duties beyond household work, such as gardening. R also expressed willingness to attempt early conciliation with C for settling the complaint.
 
     
 
Knowing that R was willing to attempt early conciliation, C considered he had achieved the purpose of arousing R's attention to the anti-discrimination ordinances. The case was settled in January 2002.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
Differential treatment should not be based on assumptions that jobs are necessarily gender specific. Job in the same group may also vary in scope and additional risks, if any, can be covered by additional premium.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/1/May/2001  
  Employment Field  
  Alleged sexual harassment  
  S9, S23 and S46 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) joined a manufacturing company as an accounting clerk in 1995 and she was transferred to the design department in August 1997. The Respondent (R) was a director and an employee of the company.
 
     
 
The alleged sexual harassment started in September 1997 when there were only C and R in the design room. R touched C's thigh and told her not to shout as there were people outside the room. A few days later, R did the same despite C's objection. Since then, the harassment continued and became more serious and frequent, from once a week to almost every day in November and December 1997. Although with reduced frequency, the harassment continued throughout 1998. One day in January 1999, R indecently assaulted C and was pushed away.
 
     
 
Since then, R stopped harassing C. However, he often picked on C's work and commented on her designs negatively. On one occasion, he even made embarrassing remarks about C's wrinkles. C claimed that R kept on attacking her dignity and confidence with a view to force her to resign. In December 2000, a staff member informed C that she would be made redundant because R's daughter, who returned from overseas, would take over her post.
 
     
 
R was eager to settle the case with C before investigation. An early conciliation meeting was arranged in May 2001 and monetary compensation of $1,000,000 was paid to C.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
It is unlawful for a director who is an employee to sexually harass his/her employee. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advance, unwelcome request for sexual favours or other conduct of a sexual nature made in relation to a person (including verbal remarks). Treating the victim of sexual harassment less favourably after he/she complained about the harassment is an act of victimization, which is also unlawful under the law. Employers are vicariously liable for the unlawful act of its employee.
 
     
     
  Register Ref: SDO/1/July/2000  
  Non-employment field  
  Insurance - alleged martial status discrimination  
  S51 of SDO  
     
 
The Complainant (C) was a customer service supervisor of Company A (R1). She had got pregnant four months before she got married. When she tried to claim medical expenses for her pregnancy, she was rejected by Company A's insurer agent (R2). C considered that she was discriminated against on the ground of her marital status.
 
     
 
R1 admitted that it provided C with a medical plan in which no maternity benefits were covered for female staff members who were unmarried.
 
     
 
Conciliation was attempted. R1 and R2 settled the complaints in July 2000 with C by giving her monetary compensation of $7,000.
 
     
  Remarks:  
 
The need for maternity protection is not confined to those married. Marital status is a ground of discrimination under SDO.