Hong Kong’s equality watchdog has provided a migrant domestic worker with legal assistance to sue her former employer over alleged sexual harassment.

The case was filed to the District Court on Wednesday under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) announced in a press statement.

Equal Opportunities Commission. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The domestic worker alleged that her employer sexually harassed her on several occasions during her employment, “including coming up close to sniff the fragrance of her hair and body after she had taken a shower,” the EOC statement read.

Additionally, the ex-employer was said to have “became furious” and used “severely abusive language” to demand sex with the worker, after she rejected the employer’s requests to have sex with her.

district court
Photo: Almond Li/HKFP.

By law, migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong must live with their employers. Although the government has said the rule exists to prevent exploitation, domestic workers’ rights advocates have said the rule “promotes modern day slavery.”

Sexual harassment during employment

The EOC also said that there continued to be a “considerable number” of cases where staff members faced sexual harassment at work.

Between 2020 and 2022, among all complaints filed under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, 504 complaints, or 51 per cent of the total number, were sexual harassment complaints.

The Sex Discrimination Ordinance also outlaws discrimination on the grounds of sex, marital status, pregnancy or breastfeeding in areas including employment and education.

“By taking this case to court, the EOC hopes to raise public awareness and remind employers that sexual harassment against employees, including foreign domestic helpers, during their employment is unlawful and will attract serious legal consequences,” the statement read.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.