Tsang v. Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd.

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The plaintiff, Helen Tsang, was employed by Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. (“Cathay”) as a flight attendant in 1979. According to the retirement policy at the time of her employment contract, the retirement age for a female attendant was 40, while the retirement age for a male attendant was 55. Ms. Tsang was required to retire in 1992 when she reached 40. Cathay offered consecutive one year extensions of her employment thereafter till 1997 when she reached the age of 45. During that period, Cathay adopted a new retirement policy in 1993, which changed the retirement age of both the female and male cabin crew to the age of 45 and provided that female employees already on extension may choose to further extend the employment with Cathay till the age of 45 if Cathay agreed so. After 1997 (when Ms. Tsang was 45), Cathay did not offer Ms. Tsang any extension of her employment. Ms. Tsang sued Cathay alleging that the retirement policy implemented by Cathay was discriminatory and that she was discriminated on the ground of her sex. The court held that it constituted direct sex discrimination against Ms. Tsang because a male employee in the similar situation would be in a much better position than Ms. Tsang as he would have been entitled to remain employed with Cathay until the age of 55, or would at least have had the option to retire at 45 if he chose so and would have received more favorable benefits than Ms. Tsang had. In reaching such conclusion, the court upheld the view that the employment contract does not form the basis of a discriminatory claim and the discrimination is continuing and actionable if the discriminatory policy has been in place and implemented during subsequent extension(s) of employment.



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