Ex-employee to receive HKD1 million sexual harassment payout from performing arts academy

The former head of acting at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA), Peter Jordan, is due to receive a HKD1 million payout after he sued the academy and its dean under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, which protects victims of discrimination or their advocates.

HKFP reports that Jordan, who was HKAPA’s head of acting from 1998 to 2013, sued the academy and the chair of its School of Drama, Ceri Sherlock, in April 2015 after he reported that Sherlock was sexually harassing students.

Court documents obtained by HKFP detail that Jordan confronted Sherlock over rumours that the Sherlock sexually harassed students while directing a production called “The Park” in 2011, which Sherlock denied.

Later, Jordan and multiple members of the academy’s management staff reportedly received a message from Sherlock. In it, Sherlock allegedly said to Jordan, “Your antagonism and insubordination toward me have become more than an irritant and have had a negative and detrimental effect on School meetings and morale… I have no confidence in your ability to execute the role of Head of Acting and manage the Acting Department.”

Jordan later compiled written statements from nine students who had either allegedly been harassed or discriminated by Sherlock, or witnessed his misconduct, and filed a complaint against Sherlock, accusing him of professional misconduct and discrimination.

A staff member investigated the sexual harassment claim, while a disciplinary committee of internal and external was set up to investigate Jordan’s claim that he had been personally victimised. In the meantime, Sherlock was not suspended, the SCMP reports.

Following the investigation, the committee deemed that no professional misconduct had occurred, and made no mention of victimisation, Jordan told the SCMP.

The teacher, who now works at CityU, alleged that Sherlock continued to defame him variously until his termination in August 2013, calling him “disgruntled” and “extremely lazy” in response to a support campaign started by alumni, and dubbing him “evil, unhinged and unpredictable” as well as “an out of control human being”.  

Speaking to the SCMP, Jordan expressed that he hadn’t wanted a settlement, but rather an apology. “I am concerned that the academy [does] not have robust enough procedures,” Jordan said, and encouraged students to speak out against discrimination without fear. 

HKAPA told the SCMP on Friday that the case had been resolved, declining to comment further. The academy has refused to divulge its policies for sexual harassment and victimisation, as such documents are “for internal use”. Sherlock reportedly declined to answer “several enquiries” from the SCMP and HKFP.

 


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