Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC)

Hong Kong club-goer who won legal battle against ladies’ night discrimination is denied payout for ‘injured feelings’

Judge who ruled in favour of aggrieved drinker says it would be ‘absurd’ if he received a ‘windfall’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 October, 2016, 8:02am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 October, 2016, 11:23am

A disgruntled disco-goer who took a club to court for offering women cheaper drinks has failed in his bid to claim compensation for “injury to feelings” because he was not ruled to be a true “victim”.

In a decision handed down on Thursday, acting chief district judge Justin Ko King-sau wrote it would be “absurd” if the claimant obtained a “windfall” of as much as HK$50,000.

This was despite the same judge previously ruling in favour of Yiu Shui-kwong in what was said to be the first sex discrimination case taken to court by Hong Kong’s equal opportunities watchdog over “ladies’ night” discounts.

The Equal Opportunities Commission filed the case in the District Court in October last year on behalf of Yiu, who accused a karaoke and disco club of breaching sex discrimination laws by charging men more for a drink than women.

Despite having received similar complaints dating back to at least the late 1990s, the commission said earlier that this was the first time it had taken such a case to court.

The court accepted the watchdog’s application for a judgment after Legend World Asia Group, named as the respondent, failed to give notice of opposition.

Yiu said he paid HK$300 to enter the Legends Club on July 28, 2014, while women customers were charged HK$120 for the same facilities and services. He claimed he was treated less favourably by Legend World Asia on the grounds of his sex.

I do not regard [Yiu] as a true ‘victim’ of the respondent’s discrimination. He obtained what he had bargained for in terms of the enjoyment
Judge Justin Ko King-sau

But he later abandoned his claim for a declaration that the club was in breach of the Sex Discrimination Ordinance and for a change of the firm’s pricing policy. Instead, Yiu would seek damages only for injury to feelings, suggesting an award of HK$50,000.

After considering his evidence, Ko rejected the claim that Yiu had suffered any injury to his feelings as a result of the “less favourable treatment” he received from the company.

The judge found that Yiu had enjoyed the facilities and services after spending about four hours in the club consuming free drinks, singing karaoke, dancing and playing darts.

The club-goer felt “disappointed and aggrieved, angry and helpless and disappointed and distressed afterwards” because the club operator denied discrimination and claimed its pricing policy was a form of market strategy that was common in the industry, Ko wrote.

The judge ruled that the hurt feelings alleged by Yiu resulted from the club’s discriminatory acts towards men, which had “nothing to do with the treatment he received” on July 28, 2014.

“I do not regard [Yiu] as a true ‘victim’ of the respondent’s discrimination. He obtained what he had bargained for in terms of the enjoyment,” Ko stated.

The judge ordered Yiu to foot the legal bills for his compensation claim.

In reply to a Post inquiry, the Equal Opportunities Commission said it would study the court decision.