Equal Opportunities Commission


EOC Policies

Sexual Harassment Policy & Procedures for Interfaces between External Parties and EOC Staff

1 The Principle

Everyone has the right to be respected and be equally treated. Sexual harassment is a discriminatory and unlawful act, which may entail civil liability and even criminal consequences. Sexual harassment will not be tolerated under any circumstances in the EOC. The EOC is committed to preventing and eliminating sexual harassment.
For the purpose of this policy, service users and external parties such as vendors and external stakeholders are collectively referred to as “External Party/ies”1. Both the EOC employees and External Parties have the obligation and responsibility for preventing and eliminating sexual harassment. All EOC employees should treat External Parties with respect and vice versa.
All forms of sexual harassment between the EOC employees and External Parties that occur in the course of providing goods, services and facilities, such as meetings, work contacts and participation in official events (collectively referred to as “Interfaces”) will be handled seriously by the EOC. Once an act of sexual harassment occurs in an interface, each party has a right to lodge a complaint with the EOC. Complainants and witness(es) are protected from victimisation under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance. The EOC will regard such complaints seriously and take corrective actions against any sexual harassment which happens in any of the Interfaces.
Not only the harasser(s) will be personally liable for their acts of sexual harassment, their employer(s) may be vicariously liable for the unlawful harassment if the act is committed in the course of the harasser’s employment.


2 Definition of Sexual Harassment


Sexual harassment means that a person makes an unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature to another person. The unwelcome conduct includes unwelcome sexual attention, physical contact, talking about issues of a sexual nature, or making a sexual advance. It also amounts to sexual harassment if a person finds the environment sexually hostile, in which the person feels intimidated.

Section 2 (5) of the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO) defines sexual harassment as follows:

"... a person (howsoever described) sexually harasses a woman if –

  1. the person –
    1. makes an unwelcome sexual advance, or an unwelcome request for sexual favours, to her; or
    2. engages in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to her;

    in circumstances in which a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated that she would be offended, humiliated or intimidated; or

  2. the person, alone or together with other persons, engages in conduct of a sexual nature which creates a hostile or intimidating environment for her."
“Conduct of a sexual nature” includes the making of a statement of a sexual nature to a woman; or in her presence, whether the statement is made orally or in writing (section 2(7) of the SDO).
Although the SDO states in terms of sexual harassment against a woman, all provisions in the SDO in relation to sexual harassment are applicable to both men and women (section 6 of the SDO). All provisions of the SDO and this policy related to sexual harassment are applicable to both sexual harassment between men and women as well as between persons of the same sex.
A person who knowingly aids another person to do an act of sexual harassment shall be treated as himself/herself doing an act of the like description (section 47 of the SDO). It is unlawful for a person to instruct, to procure, or attempt to procure, another person to sexually harass a third person (section 44 of the SDO). It is also unlawful for a person to induce or attempt to induce another person to sexually harass a third person by providing or offering to provide that person with any benefit, or subjecting or threatening to subject that person to any detriment (section 45 of the SDO).


3 Examples/Acts of Sexual Harassment

Acts of sexual harassment can be manifested in many forms, including acts targeting a particular individual or group of individual, and acts that create a sexually hostile environment without targeting any particular individuals. Sexual harassment can involve physical, visual, verbal or non-verbal and online conduct of a sexual nature which is uninvited and unwelcome.
The following are examples of sexual harassment acts:
  1. Repeated attempts to make a date, despite being told "NO" each time
  2. Comments with sexual innuendoes or suggestive or insulting sounds
  3. Jokes about sex which are unwelcome
  4. Sexual propositions or other pressure for sex
  5. Implied or overt threats for sex
  6. Obscene gestures or inappropriate touching (e.g. patting, touching, kissing or pinching)
  7. Phone calls or messages asking for a personal sexual relationship
  8. Display of sexually obscene or suggestive photographs or literature
  9. Sexual assault or forced sexual intercourse (rape)


4 Clarification

Single Incident

While a series of incidents may constitute sexual harassment, one single incident may be sufficient to constitute sexual harassment depending on the circumstances at issue.

Intention is Irrelevant

If the act of sexual harassment is not intentional or there is no evidence to prove the intention, it still amounts to sexual harassment once the act falls within the definition of sexual harassment. Hence, no matter whether the act is intentional or not, or even if the act is of a playful nature, it may amount to sexual harassment.


5 Complaints and Enquiries

Complaints of a sexual harassment involving External Parties and EOC employees should be made in writing to the attention of Chief Equal Opportunities Officer, Complaint Services Division of the EOC. Please refer to the ‘Complaint Handling Procedures’ section on the EOC’s website under the heading of “Enquiries & Complaints”.
Enquiries about sexual harassment, either by External Parties or by EOC employees, could be made with the EOC.


6 On-going Interface while a Complaint is In Progress

If an alleged harasser is an EOC employee, the division head concerned shall assign another EOC employee to provide service to/interact with the complainant who is an External Party in the course of investigation of the complaint. If a division/unit head or above is the alleged harasser in a complaint, his/her supervisor or above will designate an appropriate EOC employee to interact with the complainant.
If an alleged harasser is an External Party, the same way of assigning another EOC employee to provide service to/interact with an External Party in the course of investigation of the complaint. The EOC will demand the External Party to stop the alleged harassing behaviours.
If the External Party does not stop his/her behaviours which may constitute sexual harassment, the EOC shall decide on whether or not to put on hold the service/interaction which is in progress until the time when the External Party agrees to stop the alleged behaviours.

1For the purpose of this policy, EOC Members and Co-opted Members in EOC Committees are regarded as External Parties.

Revised in June 2020