EOC Welcomes District Court Ruling on a Sexual Harassment Case
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) today (28 July 2023) welcomes the District Court’s judgment on the assessment of damages in a case (DCEO10/2021) where a female Event Coordinator of a recreation club (the Claimant) was sexually harassed on multiple occasions by the male Operations Manager (the Respondent) at the time when they were both working at the club.
The Claimant alleged that the Respondent abused his senior position to sexually harass her in the workplace for over a year, including making unwelcome physical contact such as stroking her back, and giving her unwelcome attention of a sexual nature by staring at her chest when her clothes got wet in the rain during a workplace event. The Claimant alleged that she resigned from her job which she cherished as a result of the distress caused by the continuous acts of sexual harassment.
Under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (Cap. 480) (SDO), which covers the field of employment, sexual harassment occurs when a person makes an unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature to the victim in circumstances in which a reasonable person would have anticipated that the victim would be offended, humiliated or intimidated. In addition, it is unlawful for a person, alone or together with other persons, to engage in conduct of a sexual nature which creates a hostile or intimidating environment for the victim.
In providing legal assistance to the Claimant, the EOC’s in-house lawyers acted as the legal representatives of the Claimant in conducting the case, issuing legal proceedings under the SDO and attending court hearings on her behalf.
Mr Ricky CHU Man-kin, Chairperson of the EOC, said: “This ruling sends a strong reminder to all employees and employers that there should be zero tolerance of sexual harassment in the workplace. For employers, it is also pertinent to put in place mechanisms for preventing and handling sexual harassment, and to take decisive action when such incidents occur.”
“Eliminating sexual harassment is one of EOC’s top priorities. Between 2018 and 2022, the EOC received 792 sexual harassment complaints, which represented 48% of all complaints received under the SDO. We hope that this ruling will encourage more victims of sexual harassment to come forward and seek redress for unlawful, discriminatory acts,” said Mr CHU.
Following a default judgment entered against the Respondent, the Court awarded a sum of $80,000 for injury to feelings to mark the degree of embarrassment, humiliation, emotional distress and anxiety caused to the Claimant by the Respondent’s sexual harassment acts. The Court also awarded exemplary damages to the Claimant in the sum of $10,000.
Equal Opportunities Commission
28 July 2023