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‘Trafficked” Filipina settles claim against mainland employer for $21k

12 May 2018

By Vir B. Lumicao

After staying away from the Labour Tribunal for months, a female Chinese employer finally showed up for a hearing on May 10, and agreed to settle the claim of her Filipina domestic helper whom she forced to work illegally in China.

Lin Haiyan did not hesitate to pay up the $21,400 settlement proposed by Presiding Officer Isabella Chu, who warned her a trial judge could dig up criminal offenses she had committed if the case went to trial.

It was the first court appearance of Lin, who had avoided all previous summonses  relating to the claim filed by her former maid, Myles A. Alfaro.

Alfaro, who had overstayed her China visitor’s visa while serving her employer in Guangzhou, also accepted the settlement, although it was just a fifth of her $112,000 claim.

Chu said that signing up the worker in Hong Kong and then taking her across the border to do her job is a breach of Immigration rules, and therefore a criminal offense.

“It is all right if you take her there for a visit of four days, but since Jan 7, 2018 you let her work on the mainland. That’s illegal,” Chu said.

She said another criminal offense was Lin’s false declaration in the work contract that Alfaro would work in an address in Taikoo Shing, instead of on the mainland.

Chu noted that the first time a bailiff went to Lin’s declared address to serve court documents, no one was there. On Apr 11, another bailiff went to deliver the documents, but one Ms Ng who opened the door said Lin did not live there.

A third attempt on Apr 18 to deliver the documents also failed because the flat’s occupant refused to receive the bundle. A building security staff told the bailiff that Lin owned the flat but was renting it out.

“That’s a consideration for the defendant and the Immigration Department. The particulars of this employment contract are not correct,” Chu warned.

Citing a contract for assistant manager in a shop in China that Lin made Alfaro sign, Chu said this was also illegal because the maid had an existing contract in Hong Kong.

“This is a very serious offense – the domestic helper becoming an assistant manager in a new contract. This criminal offense may get you a prison sentence, no excuse,” Chu said.

She said Lin might have seen the many TV commercials warning employers against letting their domestic helpers work in shops or offices.

Lin terminated Alfaro’s Hong Kong contract on learning that the maid’s visa had expired. She then told the maid to fly straight to Manila, not via Hong Kong.

Chu said this may be a good reason for the two parties to settle instead of going to a trial.

Then Chu reviewed the items on Alfaro’s claim: $630 in arrears in wages, one-way air fare to Manila of $1,120, food and travel allowance, $100, damages of $97,492.50 for the unfinished portion of her contract, and expenses totaling $12,384.87.

The presiding officer took out the $97,492.50 damages, rounded the total to $21,400 and asked both Lin and Alfaro if that was acceptable to them. Chu gave them a break to think it over.

When they returned to the courtroom, they both agreed to the amount. Li asked if she could deposit the amount in Alfaro’s bank account but the Filipina said she had none. The court clerk said she needed to pay cash.

The court waited until 4pm before the person who Lin requested to bring the money arrived in the tribunal.

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