In response to the allegation made by a complainant accompanied and supported by Mr LEE Cheuk-yan that the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has not provided legal assistance to the complainant for his claim of disability discrimination by his former employer, the EOC today (7 March 2018) made the following statement:
- Under the anti-discrimination ordinances, when a complaint lodged with the EOC cannot be resolved through conciliation and the complainant wishes to initiate court proceedings, the complainant may apply to the EOC for legal assistance for taking the case to court. The EOC has set up a Legal and Complaints Committee (LCC), which is composed of the Chairperson of the EOC and Members of the EOC Board who are from different sectors. LCC Members are empowered to make decisions on whether legal assistance should be provided in respect of each application after considering the following factors:
- Whether the case raises a question of principle;
- Whether the complexity of the case or parties’ relative positions makes it too difficult for the applicant;
- Strength of the evidence and likelihood of success;
- Whether the case can set important legal precedent;
- Whether litigation can lead to effective remedy for the applicant, and whether the case can be effectively used to enhance public awareness and promote equal opportunities.
- In view of the lack of sufficient evidence, the LCC initially decided in August 2016 not to provide legal assistance to the complainant. In response to the complainant’s request, the LCC later reviewed his application and agreed to provide legal assistance by way of seeking more information from the respondent and other persons involved to further assess the strength of the evidence. The Legal Service Division of the EOC thus asked the respondent to disclose additional information under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance and met with the complainant and the witnesses he lined up to collect more information.
- Subsequently, to further ensure the validity of the assessment on the merits of the complaint, the LCC decided to seek independent advice from external counsel. In this regard, advice was obtained from a Senior Counsel, who maintained the view that the evidence was insufficient and the prospects of winning the case low.
- After considering the Senior Counsel’s advice and all the information gathered for the complaint, the LCC decided to discontinue legal assistance and informed the complainant accordingly in February 2018.
- For confidentiality reasons, the EOC cannot disclose details of the case. All along, the EOC has actively assisted the complainant in handling his claim as far as possible. Regrettably, both the EOC’s Legal Service Division and the external Senior Counsel consulted are of the view that the evidence of the case is insufficient. As a statutory body funded by public money, the EOC is not in the position to provide legal assistance in cases where evidence of discrimination remains insufficient. The EOC therefore was unable to continue its legal assistance to the complainant.
Equal Opportunities Commission