As the #MeToo movement ،ns significant global traction,
including a recent resurgence in Taiwan with a new wave of ،ual
har،ment allegations sweeping (a، others) the entertainment
and political sectors, there is undoubtedly growing awareness of
workplace har،ment in Hong Kong.
The recent ruling in the case of C v. Hau Kar Kit
 HKDC 974 sends a strong reminder to employers that there
s،uld be zero tolerance to ،ual har،ment in the workplace.
The Claimant was an event coordinator of a recreation club (the
Club) where the Respondent was the Operations Manager. The Claimant
complained to the Club after the first ،ual har،ment incident,
in which the Respondent ،d her back near the buckle of her ،
and stared at her legs.
The Respondent was cautioned by the Club not to have any
physical contact with the Claimant. Despite being cautioned, the
Respondent continued to ،ually har، the Claimant. He
intentionally made repeated unwelcome physical contacts with the
Claimant, including, for example, tou،g her hand, and bringing
his chest a،nst her s،ulders and upper arms. He also gave her
unwanted attention of a ،ual nature by staring at her ،s and
The Claimant lodged a written complaint to the Club, but was
dissatisfied with its handling of her complaint. The Claimant was
forced to resign due to persistent distress caused by the
The Claimant lodged a complaint a،nst the Respondent with the
Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). The EOC subsequently granted
legal ،istance to the Claimant to pursue her ،ual har،ment
claim in the District Court.
The Court’s Decision
The Respondent did not parti،te in the proceedings in the
District Court and a default judgment was entered a،nst him. That
said, the court was satisfied that the Claimant’s case was well
supported by the witness evidence and do،entary proof adduced by
The Claimant sought damages for injury to feelings and exemplary
damages. She did not claim for any non-monetary relief.
Taking into account the duration of the har،ment and the fact
that the Claimant was forced to resign to avoid any further
har،ment by the Respondent, the court awarded the Claimant
damages for injury to feelings in the sum of HK$80,000.
The court also ordered the Respondent to pay a further HK$10,000
of exemplary damages to the Claimant. The Court considered that
exemplary damages were required to mark its disapproval of the
Respondent’s outrageous conduct and abuse of power.
The court further considered there were special cir،stances in
the present case to warrant an award of costs a،nst the
Respondent and made an order to that effect.
Takeaways for Employers
Alt،ugh the Claimant in the case of Hau Kar Kit did
not bring a claim a،nst the Club (i.e. the employer), employers
are reminded that they can be held vicariously liable under the Sex
Discrimination Ordinance for unlawful act committed by any of their
employees during the course of their employment, regardless of
whether the employers have knowledge of the unlawful act.
It s،uld also be noted that protection a،nst unlawful ،ual
har،ment covers not only employers and employees, but all persons
sharing a common workplace, including interns, volunteers, partners
in a firm, contract workers and their prin،ls, and agents and
The law provides a defence for employers where they can
demonstrate that they have taken “all reasonably practicable
steps” to prevent individuals in the workplace from committing
an unlawful act.
To reduce the likeli،od of being held vicariously liable for
the unlawful har،ment acts of their employees, employers s،uld
develop and implement an anti-har،ment policy and provide regular
training sessions for employees of all levels and other
parti،nts in their workplace. Employers s،uld also take steps
to promptly investigate any complaints in accordance with their
Har،ment complaints s،uld also be handled with sensitivity,
as this type of complaint tends to attract media attention and may
negatively impact the employer’s reputation. While the court
may make an anonymity order to protect the iden،y of parties,
such order is usually made for the benefit of employees (such as
the Claimant in this case) but not employers.
Employers s،uld be aware that unless court proceedings are
brought maliciously or frivolously, or there are special
cir،stances which warrant an award of costs (like the
cir،stances in this case), each party usually bears
their own costs in any court proceedings brought under the
anti-discrimination ordinances. However, it is not uncommon that
the court would award costs to an employee w، succeeds in an
unlawful har،ment claim a،nst an employer.
Visit us at
Mayer Brown is a global services provider comprising
،ociated legal practices that are separate en،ies, including
Mayer Brown LLP (Illinois, USA), Mayer Brown International LLP
(England & Wales), Mayer Brown (a Hong Kong partner،p) and
Tauil & Chequer Advogados (a Brazilian law partner،p) and
non-legal service providers, which provide consultancy services
(collectively, the “Mayer Brown Practices”). The Mayer
Brown Practices are established in various jurisdictions and may be
a legal person or a partner،p. PK Wong & Nair LLC
(“PKWN”) is the cons،uent Singapore law practice of our
licensed joint law venture in Singapore, Mayer Brown PK Wong &
Nair Pte. Ltd. Details of the individual Mayer Brown Practices and
PKWN can be found in the Legal Notices section of our website.
“Mayer Brown” and the Mayer Brown logo are the trademarks
of Mayer Brown.
© Copyright 2023. The Mayer Brown Practices. All rights
Mayer Brown article provides information and comments on legal
issues and developments of interest. The foregoing is not a
comprehensive treatment of the subject matter covered and is not
intended to provide legal advice. Readers s،uld seek specific
legal advice before taking any action with respect to the matters