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DH falsely accused of theft pursues claim vs employer

19 August 2018

By Vir B. Lumicao

An employer who falsely accused her Filipina domestic worker of theft has opted for a trial of the $10,200 claim against her by the maid at the Labour Tribunal, instead of just paying up.

Joan Sham Yi-king told the Tribunal during a hearing of the case on Jul 31 that she would contest the claim of her former maid, Jackelyn Cornejo.

The Filipina was acquitted in Tuen Mun court on Jun 21 of stealing two rings from Sham. Before this, she spent 40 days in jail until the Mission for Migrant Workers bailed her out and gave her shelter.

Cornejo, 30, came to Hong Kong on Sept 8 last year for her first overseas employment, but decided to terminate her contract after just over two months because Sham and her mother allegedly subjected her to verbal abuse and treated her badly.

She said they provided her little food, made her work from 7am to 12 midnight, delayed paying her salary, gave her just two days off a month and on returning at night, made her do all the house chores.

The helper called the police on the evening of Nov 30, saying she could no longer take the maltreatment. The officers left when Sham said the helper needed only to write a termination letter. But as soon as the police had left, the employer told Cornejo she couldn’t leave unless she paid her a month’s salary.

The two went to an ATM at Siu Hong MTR station to get cash, but even after Cornejo had paid up, Sham still refused to let go of her so the maid ran away and sought refuge in a neighbor’s flat.

Sham then called the police, and caused them to arrest Cornejo on the trumped-up charge of stealing her two rings.

At the Tribunal, Presiding Officer Jacqueline Lee rebuked Sham after noticing the employer’s attempt to delay proceedings by first, denying that she received a registered letter from Cornejo; and second, by not bringing an important document with her to court.

“I want you to make sure, Ms Sham, and I want you also to make a copy of all the documents by Aug 7,” Lee told the defendant sternly. She said the case had been stuck in for too long and she did not want any more delay.

Cornejo is claiming a month’s wage of $4,310 in lieu of notice for constructive termination, a return of the $4,310 that Sham had forced her to pay so she could be released from her employment, a one-way plane ticket and $200 travel allowance.

During a conciliation hearing at the Labour Department earlier, Sham only agreed to pay the helper $3,117.18 for arrears in wages.

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