EOC Welcomes District Court’s Ruling on a Pregnancy Discrimination Case
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) welcomes today (17 August 2023) the District Court’s ruling (DCEO 16/2019) in favour of a woman (the “Claimant”) unlawfully discriminated against by her employer because of her pregnancy.
The Court awarded loss of income in the sum of HK$306,680 and year-end bonus in the sum of HK$489,500, both with interest, to the Claimant. Further, the Court provisionally awarded a sum of HK$130,000 for injury to feelings on the basis that the Respondent will issue to the Claimant an apology and a reference letter. The Court also ordered the Respondent to pay the Claimant’s legal costs.
The Claimant began working for the Respondent, a logistics company, in September 2007 and was promoted to department head in March 2017. Shortly after, she was pregnant. The Respondent then refused to provide the Claimant an end-of-year bonus and not renewing her employment contract right before her maternity leave on the pretext that she had bad performance and for cost-saving/operational purposes. But the Claimant understands that the real reason is that the Respondent was not happy about her pregnancy.
Treating a woman less favourably because of her pregnancy and/or related maternity leave constitutes pregnancy discrimination. The Sex Discrimination Ordinance (Cap. 480) (SDO) protects women from pregnancy discrimination in areas such as employment. Under the SDO, it is unlawful for an employer to subject a woman to a disadvantage or dismiss her on the ground of her pregnancy.
In providing legal assistance to the Claimant, the EOC’s in-house lawyers represented the Claimant to conduct the case and attend court as trial Counsel on her behalf.
Mr Ricky CHU Man-kin, Chairperson of the EOC, said: “This judgement sends a strong reminder to all employers that there is no place for pregnancy discrimination in the field of employment. It is essential for employers to avoid making assumptions about the abilities of pregnant women in carrying out their job duties, and take active steps to foster inclusive, family-friendly work environments that enable all employees to thrive.”
“For years, pregnancy discrimination remains the second highest number of complaints lodged under the SDO. The EOC has received 223 complaints on pregnancy discrimination, representing 23% of total complaints received under the SDO, from 2020 to 2022. To tackle the issue, the EOC not only enforces the law vigorously and conducts strategic litigation, but also calls for enhancement to the anti-discrimination ordinances. Specifically, we have suggested the introduction of a statutory right for women to return to their work position after maternity leave under the Discrimination Law Review, the report of which was submitted to the Government in March 2016,” said Mr CHU.
Equal Opportunities Commission
17 August 2023