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Boss-helper friendship ends over pay, sacking issues

22 March 2017

At first they were the best of friends, but a Filipino maid and her Malaysian employer soon became protagonists in a two-day Labour Tribunal trial after the helper filed a claim for alleged illegal dismissal and nonpayment of wages and leaves.

The case, filed last year by domestic helper Nena Torrado against her former boss, Ellu Daphne Teo, went to trial on Mar 1-2 after both parties failed to settle their dispute in the first hearing.

At the center of the case is Torrado’s claim that Teo had terminated her work contract without paying her one month’s wage in lieu of notice, only paid her partially for three months, and paid nothing on the fourth month until her dismissal.

Torrado was also claiming maternity leave and holiday pay from her former employer.

Giving evidence on Mar 2, Torrado said her monthly salary according to the contract she submitted to Immigration was $9,500, but alleged that the employer paid her only $5,000 in the first three months.
The claimant said that she went home for a vacation on March 29, 2016, and was terminated in the middle of April, allegedly because she left without Teo’s consent.

But Torrado denied that, saying it was Teo herself who sat beside her before the computer and booked her flight online using her credit card.

Teo denied she booked the air ticket for her, saying it was a common friend, Eric Leung, who booked the ticket and paid for it.

But when Tang asked her for proof of payment to Leung, she could not produce it.

Teo insisted she had paid the maid her wages but admitted that she did not keep records of her payments. The defendant also said Torrado still owed her $19,000, for the maid’s bank loan that the employer paid.

“She said I did not pay her salary at all. If I did not pay her salary at all, how could I pay her loan from Public Finance?” the employer said.

“That’s what I can’t understand because there was no agreement between us whether you are going to deduct the loan payment from my salary,” Torrado retorted.

Even the presiding officer was perplexed: “She said she paid your $19,000 loan. How come she could not pay your salary?”

From their testimonies, the court heard that the two women were good friends before their dispute, with Torrado saying she called her boss by her first name “Ellu”, and they had no written agreements, just trust.

“The reason why there is no black and white on my money going out is because of the special relationship between me and her. She was a friend of my husband,” Teo said.

After hearing the two parties’ sides, Tang adjourned the hearing to Mar 21 for his judgment.
– Vir B. Lumicao

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