Consequent to the amendment to the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO) that came into effect on 3 October 2008, a sexual harassment act committed by any person that creates a hostile or intimidating environment also applies to educational settings. It is the responsibility of schools to ensure that all individuals (including all students, staff members, voluntary helpers, contract workers/ service providers/ agents) are able to study, to conduct extra-curriculuar activities or work or provide services in a safe and sexually hostile-free environment. At the same time, apart from the personal liability to be borne by individuals for an unlawful acts of sexual harassment, the schools being employers of the staff concerned, may also be vicariously liable.
As advised by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), schools are encouraged to take reasonably practicable steps to ensure that the school is free from any sexually hostile or intimidating environment and to avoid the possible vicarious liability on the employers, including developing a school policy (in written form) to eliminate sexual harassment, raising the understanding and awareness of both staff and students about sexual harassment and setting up complaint handling mechanism to resolve sexual harassment complaints.
Schools may refer to the relevant amended sections of the SDO at the EOC's website ( http://www.eoc.org.hk).