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DH scores initial win, but alleged drug use spoils day

16 November 2016

By Vir B. Lumicao

A domestic helper seeking to claim more than $150,000 from her employer for alleged termination has found herself in a trickier situation.

First, the employer said in a hearing at the Labour Tribunal on Nov 1 that she did not fire the maid, Gemma Farro, following her brain surgery.

Secondly, employer Ng Fung-ping revealed that the maid was found to have traces of the dangerous drug “ice” in her blood.

This led presiding officer David Chan to exclaim that this could be ground for Farro’s immediate dismissal and criminal prosecution.

The employer claimed that the maid had insisted on staying in a friend’s house after leaving hospital following a brain surgery, instead of returning to her  employer's home.

The Filipina resigned after the employer told her she would allow her to stay out but without pay.
Chan ordered Farro to secure a medical certificate from the head of the team of surgeons at Queen Elizabeth Hospital who operated on her brain in August and submit it to the tribunal by Dec 1.

Chan initially awarded Farro a total of $7,702, representing payment in lieu of one month’s notice, the cost of an air ticket back to the Philippines, and unpaid leave.

But the maid’s main claim of $150,000 for illegal termination would be decided on after Farro had produced the additional medical certificate.

The presiding officer raised his eyebrows at the huge sum and asked the claimant how she reached that amount.

“I just followed what the book says that it was the maximum amount I could claim for illegal dismissal,” Farro replied.

The Filipina claimed that on Aug 27, while recovering in hospital from the surgery, Ng had visited her and asked if she had her Hong Kong ID. Then Ng reportedly asked for their house key, telling Farro she wouldn’t be able to use it to gain entry as she had the door lock changed.

But the employer said she never intended to fire her maid. She said that when she visited the maid, she asked the Filipina’s agent, Ms. Wong, what Farro was planning to do after leaving the hospital.
When Wong told her about the maid staying in the friend’s house, Ng said that would be in breach of her contract. Ng met the agent the next day and asked her to let Farro go to the friend’s house.

“I said I will not terminate her contract but will let her take a one month unpaid leave,” she said.
In reply, the agent reportedly told Ng to prepare to pay $8,300 to Farro, an amount that would include one month’s salary in lieu of notice.

The employer told the court that was “unbelievable” and accordingly told the agent to be professional in dealing with her and with the employee. She

Chan told both parties to return to court on Dec 15.

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