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Filipina wins labor claim vs employer who wrongly accused her of theft

30 November 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

Another great day for Berbana after her acquittal for theft last August

A Filipina accused by her former employer of stealing RMB1,700 nearly two years ago but was acquitted of theft on Aug 12 after a retrial, was awarded her claim of $4,736.34 from her accuser at the Labour Tribunal today, Nov 30.

But Ana Liezel Berbana first had to withdraw her $34,480 damage claim against her employer, Wong Ma-nger, and decide later whether to pursue the claim in a trial at the advice of Presiding Officer W.H. Pun.

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Both parties signed an agreement stating that the payment will be made by Wong this Thursday morning at the Tribunal.

The settlement did not come easy for the claimant, as the employer opposed the three items comprising wage in lieu of notice, annual leave and the damages in the initial hearing of Berbana’s claim at the Tribunal in March 2019.

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Berbana was seeking $4,310 for wages in lieu of notice, $426.26 for annual leave and $34,480, or a total of $39,216.26.

Wong at first told Pun she won’t pay the helper’s claims. “I already raised my objection in the last Tribunal hearing in March 2019. The police took the claimant away,” she said.

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But the presiding officer said he understood it was Wong who made a report to police and they took the claimant away and investigated her for theft.

“First, she was convicted. On appeal, she won a retrial in which she was acquitted. The claimant is now saying that when you reported the case to police, you were deemed to have terminated her,” Pun said.  

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Wong claimed she did not know that Berbana was acquitted, saying she did not get any notice about it. She relented only after Pun showed her a court certificate that the Filipina was acquitted in a retrial on Aug 12, and agreed to pay wages in lieu and annual leave.

The Filipina insisted she won’t settle unless Wong pay her damages for breach of trust, but Pun told her the Tribunal might not be the proper venue. Berbana replied that a guide to filing cases at the Tribunal she had on hand stated she could sue for damages there.

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Pun told Berbana if she insisted, then he would set the case down for trial. But he explained there is a risk that she would lose and pay costs.

After consulting Help for Domestic Workers case officer Karen Ng who escorted her, Berbana withdrew the damage claim for refiling later, as Pun advised. Then she agreed to Wong’s payment for wages in lieu and annual leave and signed the agreement.

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Berbana and Wong’s appearance at the Tribunal was their first meeting since the retrial of the theft case against the Filipina. Berbana’s lawyer, Philip Ross, was successful in pursuing an appeal against her conviction. 

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