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What happens when your employer dies owing you?

19 August 2018

By Vir B. Lumicao

What will happen if your employer dies?

Ordinarily, this ends your employer-employee relationship. And based on that, you can find a new employer and have your papers processed without having to leave Hong Kong.

But what it your employer owes you your salary and long-service pay.

For two Filipinas, the answer needs to come from the court, because they have failed to find a relative of their deceased employer who could help them claim more than $100,000 in unpaid wages and other money due them.

The question also goes beyond the jurisdiction of the Labour Tribunal, so their case was transferred to the District Court.

Cleofe Quintella and Amalia Tongga returned to the Labour Tribunal on Aug 7 for a hearing of their claim against the estate of the late Fung Yuk-mei, who took her own life in January.

Presiding Officer Eric Tam told the two domestic helpers that since no executor or administrator of Fung’s assets had come forward, he was transferring their case to the District Court.

Tam told the claimants they would have to find a solicitor who would represent them there in pursuing their claim against the estate of the deceased.

Quintella and Tongga’s claims were first heard at the Tribunal on Apr 6, but no representative came on behalf of the late employer, who was said to be single and childless.

Presiding officer Catherine Cheng told the claimants their case could not be heard until they found out who was Fung’s estate executor or administrator.

The two went to the Probate Registry in Admiralty to find out if anyone had applied for a probate of Fung’s assets, but their search was futile.

Quintella, who had worked for Fung since 1982, is claiming a total of $65,438 for three months of arrears in wages, long service pay, unused statutory holidays, annual leave and air ticket.

Tongga, who is claiming $41,039 for one month’s unpaid wages, long service pay, unused statutory holidays and air ticket, said she began working for Fung in 1985.

The two told the Tribunal the claims were computed by Labour officers who they consulted after Fung was found dead in her bedroom on Jan. 29 with a pan of burnt charcoal beside her.

Tongga said Fung had been living alone when she hired them. Fung’s only relative was a niece, who allegedly told them she knew nothing about her aunt’s assets.

The Filipina told the court that police investigators had collected cash and jewelry they found in Fung’s room, as well as a letter whose contents were not disclosed to them.

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