Is the move indirect discrimination?
Cathay Pacific has announced that it fired a "small number of aircrew" who refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Hong Kong's largest airline told the South China Morning Post in a statement last week that it "decided to part company with a small number of aircrew who had decided not to receive either of the two available COVID-19 vaccines."
The company added in the statement that the said employees did not provide proof of medical exemption from the jabs. The termination comes after the airline instructed its Hong Kong-based flight attendants and pilots to get the jabs by August 31 or risk losing their jobs.
"We will review the future employment of those who are unable to become vaccinated and assess whether they can continue to be employed as aircrew with Cathay Pacific," they earlier warned.
However, the airline's move to terminate its staff could constitute potential violations, according to Hong Kong's anti-discrimination watchdog.
Equal Opportunities Commission Ricky Chu Man-kin told a local radio show that the termination may constitute as indirect discrimination. However, Chu clarified that it still warrants further investigation, and the affected staff should reach out to the body for assistance.
"If the vaccination requirement is justifiable and at the same time, employees could not produce relevant medical proof for exemption, along with the airline no longer having the capacity to accommodate them, the airline has not violated the discrimination rules," Chu was quoted as saying by The Standard.
Reports claim that among Cathay's terminated employees include a breastfeeding mother who was a flight attendant and another who had heart conditions. A spokesman from the airline said it acknowledges that some cases were already filed with the Labour Department, and that it would no longer comment further.