EOC Gives Legal Assistance in a Disability Discrimination and Dismissal Case Related to COVID-19
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) today (14 November 2023) issued legal proceedings under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO), Cap. 487 in the District Court, on behalf of a person (the Claimant) who worked as a head chef for the Respondent, a company within a Restaurant Group (Group) which operates multiple restaurants in Hong Kong. The Claimant alleged that the Respondent discriminated against him by terminating his employment on the ground of his disability (i.e. fever and upper respiratory tract infection “URTI” and manifestation of the COVID-19 infection).
The Claimant was employed by the Respondent to work as a head chef in a restaurant. About two months after his employment started, there was an increase in COVID-19 cases among staff members in different restaurants of the Group.
After working with co-workers infected with COVID-19, the Claimant subsequently became unwell and went to the hospital, where he took the PCR test and was given two days of sick leave due to URTI. The Claimant informed the Respondent and sent his sick leave certificate to the Respondent through WhatsApp. Following the two-day sick leave, the Claimant attended the hospital again twice and was given further sick leave due to fever and URTI. In both instances, he sent his sick leave certificates to the Respondent through WhatsApp.
The Claimant believed that, as he displayed symptoms of COVID-19 infection for a week, he was infected with such illness. His belief was later supported by the fact that he was tested positive for COVID-19 by a self-test on the date when he returned to work. Yet upon returning to work after eight days of sick leave, the Claimant was informed that his employment was terminated.
The DDO protects persons with disability against discrimination, harassment and vilification. Under the DDO, it is unlawful for an employer to dismiss an employee on the ground of the employee’s disability.
This is the third COVID-19 related disability discrimination case that the EOC took to the court. By taking this case to the court, the EOC hopes to raise public awareness and remind employers that disability discrimination in the workplace is unlawful.
Equal Opportunities Commission
14 November 2023