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Lustful boss ordered to pay maid $210K

27 April 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao

A Hong Kong employer who was convicted in a magistrate’s court last year of an indecent assault attempt on his Filipina domestic helper was ordered by the District Court on Apr 13 to pay the maid $210,000.

Judge KW Wong dismissed the appeal of Shek Kwok Ngai and his wife against a court ruling on the consolidated discrimination case and civil claim made by the maid, identified only as “D”, and said the couple’s acts amounted to oppression.

The Apr 3 decision, as well as a High Court ruling on March 24 rejecting Shek’s appeal against his criminal conviction for his indecent acts, was a double victory for the 29-year-old helper, whose complaint was initially thrown out by the Chief Prosecutor’s Office for insufficiency of evidence.
The case stemmed from six occasions between Feb 26 and Mar 3, 2014, when Shek either masturbated, fondled his genitals or exposed his penis behind D, making her “very frightened… that she would be raped or sexually assaulted by him”.

Using her mobile phone, the maid video-recorded the sixth occasion, in which Shek can be seen drawing his genitals out of his shorts and holding it in his hand behind the claimant for about three seconds while watching her, before she fled.

D made her claims under the Sexual Discrimination Ordinance and common Law tort following the sexual assault, and the sexual harassment she suffered from her male employer and her summary dismissal by the man’s wife.

The respondent couple resisted the claim, citing there were no “special circumstances” in the case as required under section 73B(3) of the District Court Ordinance.

Rejecting this claim, Judge Wong said in his written judgment:  “Circumstances qualified as discriminatory or unwelcome advances or harassment are of infinite variety.”

He added,  “In the present case,… this Court cannot believe, at any rate and by any standard, the exposure of one’s penis before a lady and playing with it can be argued as conduct not unwelcoming! Further, the evidence is overwhelming.”

Despite acknowledging that Shek had done wrong, the couple initially tried to get D to leave Hong Kong, sign a letter of resignation and delete the video, Wong said.

Although D subsequently left the Sheks’ home, the couple refused to let her bring along her own belongings until she agreed to sign a resignation letter against her will.

“One has to remember that the claimant is an overseas Filipino leaving her home to take up employment here. She does not have a home here… She looked upon her employer and family for protection and shelter…She is in a vulnerable position. What the respondents have done to her amounted to oppression,” the judge said.

Reviewing the counsel’s submission, Wong ordered Shek and his wife to pay the claimant all costs of the consolidated proceedings.

The judge noted that no settlement could be reached between the parties during the two-year limitation period and that the couple did not explain why the case could not be settled without litigation.

“The only inference is that the respondents are prepared to fight further the litigation, or were making another holding defense to protect (Shek’s) contemplated appeal,” he said.
This amounted to further oppression of D, who is of limited means and under great pressure to yield, he said.

He added that the proceedings should have been avoided totally.
“This court is satisfied that there are special circumstances that warrant an award of costs against the respondents,” the judge said.

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