Equal Opportunities Commission


E-news Issue 199


EOC gives legal assistance in pregnancy discrimination case

On 4 December 2018, the EOC issued legal proceedings under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO), Cap. 480 in the District Court, on behalf of a woman (the Claimant) who previously worked for a company (the 1st Respondent) as a Manager. The Claimant alleged that the 1st Respondent discriminated against her on the ground of her pregnancy, adding that her former direct supervisor (2nd Respondent) knowingly aided the 1st Respondent to commit the unlawful discriminatory acts, including, but not limited to, extending the Claimant’s probation without any valid reasons; removing her main duties; relocating her to a new workstation near the washroom; denying her access to office email and printing machines; removing her from all work-related communication channels and platforms; requiring her to take unpaid leave to attend medical examination in relation to her pregnancy; and terminating her employment upon return from maternity leave.

Pregnancy discrimination means treating a woman less favourably because of her pregnancy. The SDO protects women from pregnancy discrimination in various public domains, such as employment and the provision of goods, services or facilities. Under the SDO, it is unlawful for an employer to subject a woman to any detriment or dismiss her on the ground of her pregnancy.

Pregnancy discrimination in the field of employment has consistently accounted for a significant proportion of SDO-related complaints received by the EOC. From 2015 to 2017, the EOC received 200 complaints on pregnancy discrimination, representing 38% of all complaints received during this period under the SDO. Evidently, pregnant women in Hong Kong continue to suffer considerable levels of discrimination in the workplace. By taking this case to court, the EOC hopes to raise public awareness of the rights of pregnant workers under the SDO, and to remind employers that it is unlawful to discriminate against an employee because of her pregnancy.