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Policy Statement on Equal Opportunities

1. HKEAA Policy Statement

The HKEAA is firmly committed to equal opportunity in employment as well as in the provision of services, and to eliminating any form of discrimination against all staff, customers and other persons who have dealings with the HKEAA. Hence, the HKEAA would not tolerate sexual harassment and harassment on the ground of sexual orientation. The sexual harassment policy applies to both men and women. All staff members of the HKEAA should be acquainted with this Policy and are encouraged to report cases of sexual harassment to the Committee on Handling Sexual Harassment. Any staff member who is found to have contravened the HKEAA's Policy will be subject to disciplinary action. Third parties acting on behalf of the HKEAA are also required to abide by this policy.

2. Definition of Sexual Harassment

According to the definition under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO), “sexual harassment” consists of any unwelcome sexual behaviour in circumstances where a reasonable person would have anticipated that the harassed person would be offended, humiliated or intimated. It includes unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome requests for sexual favours, and other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. It also includes creating a sexually hostile work environment.

 (The above definition is taken from the “Code of Practice on Employment under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance” issued by the Equal Opportunities Commission.)

3. Examples of Sexual Harassment

The following may constitute sexual harassment: 
  1. Repeated attempts to make a date, despite being told "NO" each time
  2. Comments with sexual innuendoes and suggestive or insulting sounds
  3. Relentless humour and jokes about sex or gender in general
  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. Persistent phone calls or letters asking for a personal or sexual relationship
  8. Displaying sexually obscene or suggestive photographs or literature
  9. Sexual assault or forced sexual intercourse (rape)

(The above examples are taken from the pamphlet "Preventing & Dealing with Sexual Harassment" issued by the Equal Opportunities Commission.)

4. Dealing with Sexual Harassment
  1. Speaking up at the time. Tell the harasser that his/her behaviour is unwanted and has to stop.
  2. Keep a written record of the incidents, including dates, time, places, presence of any witnesses, nature of the harassment (what the harasser said and did) and own responses.
  3. Consult your supervisor, Division / Unit Head or any other supervisor with whom you feel comfortable. You and/or the person you consulted may seek initial advice from the Head of Human Resources and Administration or the Manager  Human Resources (Human Resources Service Team). (see paragraph 8.1).
  4. If conciliation and other informal measures could not resolve the problem, you can formally lodge a written compliant with the Chairperson of the Committee on Handling Sexual Harassment (see paragraph 8.3).
5. Committee on Handling Sexual Harassment

The composition of the Committee is as follows:
Chairperson: Director – Corporate Services
Members: Head of Human Resources and Administration
Two members at directorate / Division/ Unit/ Head level appointed by the Chairperson of the Committee
Secretary: Manager – Human Resources (Human Resources Service Team)

If any member or the Secretary of the Committee has an actual or potential conflict of interest in the complaint, he / she will be dismissed from the Committee and the Chairperson shall appoint a replacement as appropriate. If the Secretary General / any Director has an actual or potential conflict of interest in the complaint, then the Chairman of the HKEAA Council shall form another committee to handle the complaint. 

6. Conflict of Interest

Any person who has an actual or potential conflict of interest in the complaint shall declare his/her interest and shall not take part as a member (or Secretary) of the Committee on Handling Sexual Harassment. 
7. Victimization

Victimization or penalization of a staff for initiating a good faith complaint or providing information in the complaint investigation processes will not be tolerated by the HKEAA. Staff members will be protected from intimidation, victimization or discrimination should such occur as a result of filing a complaint or assisting in an investigation. If it can be demonstrated that an act of victimization has been committed, the Authority will take action according to the prevailing disciplinary procedures or other appropriate rules and regulations of the Authority. 
8. Procedures and Regulations

The following means of resolving claims of sexual harassment endeavour to strike a balance between early resolution and the need for a thorough investigation. Alternative procedures, informal and formal, are proposed but first the accuser needs to be advised of these alternatives. As a matter of principle, all information related to claims of sexual harassment should be kept confidential by persons who handle the claims. The HKEAA will not normally handle anonymous complaints.
8.1 Initial Advice

When a person feels sexually harassed, a request for initial advice concerning the procedures which may be followed to resolve the claim, may be made to the Director - Corporate Services or Head of Human Resources and Administration or the Manager Human Resources (Human Resources Service Team) who will explain to the accuser that there are two procedures for resolving such claims, conciliation and a formal complaint, and the differences between these procedures. An accuser may then decide to take no further action at that point in time, request conciliation or make a formal complaint.

If the claims of sexual harassment involve staff members at directorate level and above, the Director - Corporate Services or Head of Human Resources and Administration or Manager - Human Resources (Human Resources Service Team) should forward the case to the Chairman of the HKEAA Council directly. The committee appointed by the Council Chairman shall determine the means of resolving the complaint with reference to paragraph 8.2, 8.3 and 9 below.

8.2 Conciliation

The process of conciliation should involve the following:

  1. The Head of  Human Resources and Administration or the Manager – Human Resources (Human Resources Service Team) will serve as the conciliator. When the conciliator meets with the accuser, the accuser may request any person to act as his or her 'friend' except that a person with legal qualifications may not act as such a 'friend'.
  2. If requested by the accuser, the conciliator may meet with the accused. The accused may invite a person to act as a 'friend' at such a meeting provided that the person does not possess legal qualifications.
  3. Both the accuser and the accused may invite persons who witnessed the alleged act of sexual harassment to attend any meeting in the conciliation process.
  4. The conciliator should record the name of the accuser, the date(s) and time(s) when meetings are held and, if disclosed, the name of the person or persons accused of the sexual harassment, together with a written record of the major points discussed in the conciliation process. The record must be sent under confidential cover to the Chairperson of the Committee on Handling Sexual Harassment, i.e. the Director – Corporate Services.
  5.  When conciliation fails to resolve a situation that the accuser feels is sexually harassing, or if the accuser forms the opinion that only a formal complaint can provide relief, he/she may lodge a formal complaint in accordance with the procedures stated in paragraph 8.3 below. 
8.3 Formal Complaint
  1. A person who feels sexually harassed and chooses to make a formal complaint must report the matter in writing to the Chairperson of the Committee on Handling Sexual Harassment (the Committee), or the Council Chairman as appropriate.
  2. On receipt of a formal complaint, the Chairperson of the Committee must convene a meeting to determine whether there is merit in the complaint.
  3. When appointing members of the Committee, the Chairperson will take into account the gender and language preferences of both the accuser and the accused, i.e., ascertain from them whether a male or female member is preferred and whether the meetings are preferred to be conducted in Chinese or English.
  4. Complaint(s) lodged by person(s) from outside the HKEAA should also be referred to the Chairperson of the Committee for consideration.
  5. The Committee must proceed to investigate the complaint and should convene at least a meeting with the accuser and a separate meeting with the accused.
  6. If the accuser and the accused so choose, they may each invite a 'friend' to attend the meetings. These friends may answer questions on their behalf.
  7. The accuser and the accused may request any person to act as his/her 'friend' except that a person with legal qualifications may not act as such a 'friend'.
  8. Both the accuser and the accused may invite persons who witnessed the alleged act of sexual harassment to attend a meeting of the Committee.
  9. The Committee may interview witnesses, request access to and review relevant documents which have not been supplied by either the accuser or the accused.
  10. If the accused is invited but fails to attend the meeting(s) arranged by the Committee without acceptable reasons, the Panel may nevertheless form an opinion as to whether the accused sexually harassed the accuser and determine the appropriate action.
  11. A written record of the major points discussed at the meetings must be compiled and signed by all the persons present in each meeting as representing a true and accurate record of what was said.
  12. The Committee must endeavour to determine whether sexual harassment has occurred and the seriousness of the sexual harassment.
  13. If at any stage of the investigation it is found that the accuser's claim is malicious, the accuser will be subject to disciplinary action, regardless of whether the claim has been withdrawn.
  14. If the Committee forms the opinion that the accused sexually harassed the accuser, it must proceed to determine the appropriate action and inform the accuser, the accused and the Secretary General of the HKEAA accordingly.
  15. If at any stage of the investigation it appears to the Committee that the accused may have committed a criminal offence, the Committee must immediately inform the Secretary General and advise the accuser to make a report to the Police.  
9. Investigation
  1. Upon receipt of a written complaint, the Committee will conduct a full and impartial investigation. At least two members of the Committee shall be appointed by the Chairperson to investigate a complaint. Under special circumstances, a non-staff Council member may be invited to join the Investigation Team to assist in the process and secure the confidence of the parties.
  2. In the course of the investigation:
    1. The complainee will be given a copy of the complaint by the Investigation Team and will be provided with an opportunity to respond to the allegation.
    2. The complainant, complainee, witnesses and any other parties concerned will be interviewed individually, separately and in private by the Investigation Team.
    3. The parties concerned may produce any documents and/or evidence they find relevant.
    4. A contemporaneous record will be kept of all oral evidence given to the Investigation Team.
10. Appeal
  1. Both the accuser and the accused should be advised that they may appeal against a decision of the Committee.
  2. An appeal must be lodged within 30 calendar days of receiving the Committee’s decision setting out the reasons/substance of the appeal, e.g., on the basis of the facts found or additional information, the inquiry process and/or the decision. Evidence in support of the appeal must also be provided.
  3. The decision of the Secretary General is final within the HKEAA. Should the case be handled by the Council, the decision of the Council Chairman is final. 
11. Confidentially

All complaints and associated correspondence and interviews must be treated in strict confidence. Breaches of confidentiality will be dealt with in accordance with the disciplinary procedure. 

 

 

 

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