Policy and Guidelines on Prevention of Sexual Harassment
(i) A person sexually harasses another person if:
- (a) makes an unwelcome sexual advance, or an unwelcome request for sexual favours to that person; or
- (b) engages in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to that person;
in the circumstances in which a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated that that person would be offended, humiliated or intimidated; or
(ii) the person, alone or together with other persons, engages in conduct of a sexual nature which creates a sexually hostile or intimidating work environment for the person.
(iii) “Conduct of a sexual nature” mentioned in Paragraph 12.2 (i)(b) and 12.2 (ii) above includes making a statement of a sexual nature to another person, or in the presence of that person, whether the statement is made orally or in writing.
(iv) Although each case would have to be determined on its own facts, the following are general examples of sexual harassment:
- (a) Unwelcome sexual advances – for example: leering and lewd gestures, touching, grabbing or deliberately brushing against another person;
- (b) Unwelcome requests for sexual favours – for example: suggestions that sexual co-operation or the toleration of sexual advances may further a person’s career;
- (c) Unwelcome verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature – for example: sexually derogatory or stereotypical remarks, persistent questioning about a person’s sex life; and
- (d) Conduct of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or intimidating work environment, for example: sexual or obscene jokes around the workplace, displaying sexist or other sexually offensive pictures or posters.
(v) A series of incidents may constitute sexual harassment. However, depending on the circumstances, it is not necessary for there to be a series of incidents. One incident may be sufficient to constitute sexual harassment.
(vi) However, a person may be the victim of a hostile work environment where he or she is harassed in a pattern of incidents that may not be, in and of themselves, offensive but when considered together amount to sexual harassment,
(i) It is unlawful for a staff member of the Secretariat to sexually harass a fellow staff member, a fellow part-time staff or a potential fellow employee of the Association, who may include, inter alia, a supervisor, a potential supervisor, a co-worker, a potential co-worker, a subordinate, a potential subordinate. It may also be unlawful for a staff member of the Association to sexually harass a worker of agencies contracted by the Association or a client. Staff members may be personally liable for acts committed by them in the course of their employment.
(ii) 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. It is unlawful for a person to instruct, to procure, or attempt to procure, another person to sexually harass a third person. 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.
(iii) A staff member of the Secretariat who has committed an act of sexual harassment, whether or not it is made u lawful under the Sexual Harassment Ordinance, may be liable to disciplinary action.
(i) If a person considers that he/she is being sexually harassed, there are various ways to handle such a situation. The most straightforward way is to tell the alleged harasser that the latter’s acts are unwelcome and should be stopped. The person may also choose to lodge a complaint to the Secretariat, the Association, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) or to institute civil proceedings in the District Court. The following paragraphs describe the procedures relating to the handling of complaints lodged with the management of the Association.
(ii) The most undesirable way to respond to an act of sexual harassment is to go along with it, to avoid the person or to ignore the behavior and do nothing. Indeed, such action can exacerbate the complainant’s situation.
(i) There are two (2) approaches in handling a sexual harassment complaint. In this regard, a sexual harassment complaint can be classified as either formal or informal, depending on whether an investigation is conducted into the case. The two (2) approaches are both valid, and the exact approach to be adopted depends on the wish of the complainant. To avoid misunderstanding on the part of the complainant, the subject officer, on receiving the complaint, should explain to the complainant the two different ways of handling a complaint and ascertain whether he/she requests an investigation into the complaint.
(ii) Generally speaking, it may be appropriate for minor and single incidents but not more serious and repeated acts of sexual harassment to be dealt with informally. Informal actions in line with those set out in Appendix I would normally be taken. The main objective of an informal complaint is to stop the alleged harassment at the earliest possible stage without going into the details of the case, rather than to establish whether a sexual harassment act has been committed. As such, no formal investigation as detailed in Appendix II will be convened to ascertain the facts of the case.
(iii) When the complainant requests an investigation into his/her allegation, the complaint should be dealt with in a formal manner according to the procedures laid down in Appendix II.
(i) The procedures for handling informal and formal sexual harassment complaints are detailed in Appendices I and II respectively.
Principles commonly applicable to the handling of both formal and informal sexual harassment complaints
(ii) Regardless of whether a complaint is formal or informal, the following principles should apply:
- (a) Level of Officers Handling the Complaint
Officers handling the complaint should be at an appropriate level of seniority having regard to the rank and seniority of the individuals involved in the complaint. The officer handling the complaint should have appropriate knowledge of the law and expertise in investigating and resolving complaints.
- (b) Confidentiality
Any information relating to a complaint of sexual harassment must only be given on a need-to-know basis. It gives assurance to the individuals involved in the complaints that management appreciates the sensitive nature of sexual harassment and details of the complaint will not be disclosed to other colleagues.
- The complainant and the witnesses should be protected against victimisation (which in itself is an unlawful act of discrimination under the Ordnance for making or being involved in the complaint. In general terms, this means that they should not be treated less favourably than other persons incomparable circumstances.
- As a general rule, a complaint should normally not be removed from his/her usual duties or treated in an unusual manner whilst awaiting the outcome of the complaint as this may constitute less favourable treatment to the complainant which is not justified and may constitute a ground fir a complaint of victimization. There may however be cases where it is difficult to keep the parties working together until the outcome is known. Under such circumstances, Head of Secretariat should take appropriate measures to deal with the situation but the wishes of the complainant and the alleged harasser have to be taken into account.Prevention of Victimisation
- (d) Other General Principles
- a common-sense approach will be adopted to resolve the complaint;
- prompt handling of the complaint to ensure that they are quickly resolved;
- ensure that the complaints are treated seriously and handled objectively and the parties involved in them are treated fairly;
- ensure that the process of bringing a complaint does not unnecessarily expose the complainant to further distress and humiliation; and
- all complaints should be assumed to be made in good faith and care should be taken not to causer unnecessary distress to anyone involved.