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‘Abused’ maid set to re-file dismissed labour claim

26 December 2019

By The SUN
Rosareal was allowed by Immigration to process a new work contract after leaving Leung's house

A Filipina domestic helper who had complained of abuse against her former employer more than two years ago is set to re-file her claim at the Labour Tribunal, after it was dismissed by presiding officer Timon Shum on Dec. 23 for her non-apprearance.

Lanie Grace Rosareal, 28, said she did not receive any notification of the hearing, nor did anyone call her on the number she supplied in her letter to the Tribunal dated Dec. 1 asking to restore her claim against her employer, Leung Shet-ying.

Rosareal’s claim was put on hold last year pending a police investigation into her case against Leung.

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On Nov. 4, Leung was fined a total of $33,000 and ordered to do 160 hours of community service after admitting in Shatin court that she failed to pay Rosareal’s wages on time and made her do illegal work in her partner’s son’s flat.

Following the judgment, Rosareal sought help from the Mission for Migrant Workers to refile her claim.

Apparently without her knowledge, her claim was set down for hearing before officer Shum on Dec 23 at 11:30am.

Leung, 63, was duly notified and was present in court when the hearing began just before 1pm. Shum’s clerk called out Rosareal’s name inside the courtroom and outside, but received no response.

After poring over the case documents and asking questions from Leung in Cantonese, Shum said the claimant was absent for unknown reasons. He said the hearing was about two remaining claims by the helper against her former employer – unpaid wages and terminal pay.

But as a result of Rosareal’s absence, he ordered the remaining claims dismissed and released Leung from any liability. No order was made as to costs.

Rosareal said she first heard about the hearing when a pro-bono lawyer assisting her in a separate case was notified about the Tribunal order.

She was advised to immediately seek a reconsideration of the order dismissing her claim on the ground of lack of notice. Rosareal says she will file the application on Dec 27, when government offices are set to resume services after the Christmas break.

Rosareal and Au during happier times

Rosareal is seeking more than $200,000 from Leung and her partner, Au Wai-chun, 65, for unpaid wages, one month salary in lieu of notice and damages.

At a hearing at the Tribunal in January 2018, she accepted just over $2,400 in unpaid  wages and the cost of a return air ticket from Leung, and asked that her remaining claims be put on hold pending the police investigation against her former employer and Au.

Rosareal had alleged in her police complaint and labour claim that Au, 65, had subjected her to physical and mental abuse, and Leung did not do anything to stop her partner. 

She fled their house on Nov. 17, 2017 along with a fellow Filipina helper who sent out appeals for help via social media.

Rosareal said in her claim that after Leung had paid her salary for the last six months of her employ, Au took it all back as “penalty” for supposed infractions, such as failing to take the thread out of an underwear, or scowling when scolded.

To back up her claim, Rosareal showed a “penalty notebook” listing down the supposed violations, along with the corresponding payment and Au’s written comments.

The helper's 'penalty' notebook with Au's comments

But after more than a year of investigation, the police decided not to file charges against Leung and Au, citing advice from the Justice Department.

Rosareal’s pro bono counsel at Patricia Ho and Associates are looking at seeking a review of the police decision and a possible filing of a civil case after her labour claim is dealt with.

But while police opted not to pursue an investigation, the Immigration and Labour Departments filed 11 charges of failing to pay wages on time, and four counts of abetting illegal work against Leung and Au.

The charges were subsequently dropped against Au, while Leung pleaded guilty to all the 15 counts of labour and immigration offences.

She was fined $3,000 for each of the 11 counts of failing to pay wages on time; and ordered to do 160 hours of community service for each of the four counts of aiding and abetting illegal work, but to be served concurrently.

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