The EOC Issues Statement on District Court Ruling on Sex Discrimination
With regard to the District Court judgment for the case of YIU Shui-kwong (assisted by Equal Opportunities Commission) v Legend World Asia Group Limited, handed down on 27 October 2016, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has issued the following statement today (28 October 2016):
The judgment reiterated that the claimant’s complaint is one of direct discrimination, which cannot be justified, under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO). There is no suggestion that the respondent can avail itself of any of the exceptions provided under the SDO in setting a discriminatory fee for the claimant. While the materials supplied by the respondent to the EOC suggested that it is a norm for bars and clubs in Hong Kong to offer special discounts to female customers, the judgment clarified that setting a fee difference on the ground of sex in the provision of the same service would amount to sex discrimination under the SDO. By giving legal assistance and taking this case to court, the EOC has intended to raise public awareness that less favourable treatment given on the ground of sex in the provision of services is unacceptable even for the purpose of business promotion. The judgment serves to educate the public that setting a fee difference on the ground of sex in the provision of the same service would amount to sex discrimination under the SDO.
It was mentioned in the judgment that the EOC had the power to issue an enforcement notice to require a person or an entity to stop any discriminatory practice. However, this suggestion is not applicable in this case. Under the SDO, the EOC can conduct formal investigations on systemic discrimination and the scope and method of investigation should be endorsed by the EOC Board. Upon the completion of a formal investigation, the EOC should prepare a report of its findings, release the report and provide recommendations. Since its establishment in 1996, the EOC has conducted two formal investigations, namely the Formal Investigation on Secondary School Places Allocation System and the Formal Investigation on Accessibility in Publicly Accessible Premises, and released the findings of the investigations in 1999 and 2010 respectively. The concerned case, being an individual case, does not fulfil the requirements for the launch of a formal investigation. Thus, the suggestion of issuing an enforcement notice to the respondent is not applicable.
Through its regular public education and training programmes, the EOC publicises the protection offered by the four anti-discrimination ordinances, which cover such areas as employment, education, and the provision of goods, services and facilities. Under the SDO, both men and women are protected from discrimination when they acquire goods and services and use facilities. Such public education efforts and the provision of legal assistance in individual cases are not mutually exclusive. Rather, they complement each other in achieving the objective of educating the public on the protection offered by the anti-discrimination legislation.
While continuing to educate the public on their rights under the anti-discrimination legislation, the EOC will strengthen communication with the related trades and industries. If the trades or members of the public have any enquiries related to the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, they can contact the EOC via its hotline 2511-8211.
For media enquiries, please contact Mr. Sam HO at 2106-2187.
Equal Opportunities Commission
28 October 2016