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Trial set as ‘abused’ Filipino DH and ex-employer fail to settle claims dispute

18 August 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

Rosareal is shown with a big lump on her forehead in this photo taken just before she left Leung's house 2 years ago

The Labour Tribunal is set to hold a four-day trial in November of a Filipina domestic worker’s claim against her former employer whose partner allegedly tortured her and deprived her of six months’ wages nearly three years ago.

Lanie Grace Rosareal and her ex-employer, Leung Shet-ying, failed to settle their dispute at the hearing today, Aug. 18, so Presiding Officer W.K. Ling set down the trial from Nov 23 to 26.

Rosareal, 30, had originally sought more than $200,000 in unpaid wages, one month’s salary in lieu of notice, return air ticket and damages from her former employer, Leung Shet-ying.

She has been paid a total of $42,517 so far, but at today’s hearing, Leung, 66, offered only $5,000 more.
For her part, Rosareal was willing to settle for an extra $12,000 as payment for arrears in wages and long service pay, as well as a one-way air ticket to her hometown costing $2,265.

After spending more than an hour trying to convince the two parties to settle their dispute, the presiding officer gave them a further 15 minutes to talk outside the courtroom.

When they returned, Leung told Ling that the claimant had rejected her offer.

The presiding officer said she was suggesting that both parties settle instead of going to a trial because the amount being disputed was not big.
She reminded Leung in particular that in a trial, details of the case would again be brought back in the open, including the claimant’s allegation that she had been abused by the employer’s partner, Au Wai-chun.

In Rosareal’s case, Ling said her credibility would be put to test because she will not have a witness to support her allegations if she could not convince her former co-worker at Leung’s house to come to Hong Kong and testify.

Rosareal's notebook in which Au allegedly made her write down her 'mistakes' with corresponding penalties

Asked by Ling whether she has a new employer and if she would be allowed by the employer to attend the trial, Rosareal said yes. She said her employer knows about her case.

The police investigation of Rosareal’s complaint and the ensuing prosecution of Leung by the Immigration and Labour Departments held up the hearing of her claim for nearly two years.

Leung was charged along with Au in Shatin court on 11 charges or failing to pay wages on time, and four counts of abetting illegal work. Prosecutors alleged that the two had forced Rosareal do illegal work in the house of Au’s son.

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

On Nov. 4, Leung was sentenced to 160 hours of community service and fined a total of $33,000.  She was also ordered to pay Rosareal $39,617 in compensation.

When the hearing of her labour case resumed on Jun 8, Presiding Order Timon Shum restored Rosareal’s compensation claim and allowed her to present a witness to back up her abuse allegation.

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Rosareal said she would try to convince her former co-worker, Rowela Suete, to return to Hong Kong and act as her witness.

The abuses that Rosareal claimed she suffered at the hands of Au resurfaced when Shum began ticking off the seven claims the helper filed against her former employer.

At the initial hearing of her claim at the Labour Tribunal in January 2018, Rosareal accepted just over $2,400 in unpaid wages and the cost of the return air ticket from Leung.

She asked then that her remaining claims be put on hold pending the police investigation of her complaint that Au, 67, 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 Suete, who initiated sending 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.

She presented as evidence a notebook in which Au had made her list down her “mistakes” with the corresponding penalty, along with handwritten notes on how the maid could improve her work.

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