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Maid loses long service claim, ordered to pay costs to employer

09 January 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

The Labour Tribunal rejected the maid's claim that she signed a blank paper instead of a receipt for her long service pay

Not only did Filipina domestic worker Lani Sangel lose her claim for long service pay against her former employer of six years, she was also ordered to pay court costs.

Sangel sought the Labour Tribunal’s help in collecting long service pay of $15,840 from her employer, Annice Ma Yuk-ngor, during a trial on Jan. 9.

But Ma rejected the claim, saying she had already paid the maid two years before their third contract ended on Nov 26, 2018.
The employer produced a receipt bearing Sangel’s signature dated Oct 1, 2016. Sangel admitted the signature was hers, but said she was asked to sign a blank paper as a condition for the employer to sign her up for a third contract. She said she was not paid any money.

Presiding officer Cheng Lim-chi asked why Sangel did not tell the Tribunal in previous hearings about the blank paper.

Cheng then rejected the maid’s claim but also said he found it strange that Ma had decided to pay for long service two years ahead of time.
“I believe the defendant (Ma) paid the long service pay in advance on Oct 1, 2016 before the claimant put down her signature on the blank sheet of paper,” Cheng said.

On the issue of costs, he decided that, based on an estimated $70,000 monthly salary of Ma, the maid must pay her $4,500 for having to attend two days of litigation.

He said it was up to Ma if she wanted to write off her costs considering the financial condition of Sangel. But the employer insisted on being paid, saying “the rule of law must be upheld”.
When Sangel sought to talk to Ma, the former employer angrily refused to do so.

The helper looked shocked after the trial. “Ganito pala ang pakiramdam ng natalo sa kaso,” she uttered. “Alam ng Diyos na wala akong natatanggap na $15,000,” she said.

Sangel began working for Ma on Nov 27, 2012 mainly to take care of the employer’s wheelchair-bound elder sister. The three of them lived in Ma’s house in Tseung Kwan O.

Before the first contract ended in 2014, Ma renewed it. When the second contract was about to run out in 2014, Ma gave Sangel a blank contract and asked her to sign it, saying she won’t rehire her if she didn’t.   

Sangel said that on Oct 1, 2016, a staff at the agency that placed her asked her to sign a blank sheet of paper, purportedly a receipt for her long service award to be paid at the end her third contract. She said she signed because Ma said “no sign, no new contract.”

Ma, giving evidence, said she gave the long service pay at home in the presence of her sister on the same day. She then showed the receipt which had Sangel’s signature.

It is not clear when or how Sangel could be made to pay costs to her former employer.

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