Home Finance Hong Kong Employer Sued to pay HK$580,000 for Mistreatment of Late Filipino...

Hong Kong Employer Sued to pay HK$580,000 for Mistreatment of Late Filipino Domestic Helper

Wanchai Law Courts

HONG KONG — A Hong Kong employer is facing a lawsuit and a demand for over HK$580,000 (US$74,155) in compensation for allegedly mistreating her late Filipino domestic helper, according to court proceedings. The employer, Rita Choy Chiu-yee, stands accused of depriving her employee, Joan Sarmiento Guting, of food and terminating her employment after she was diagnosed with cancer.

The case was presented at the District Court, where Carla Arangote Temporosa, a friend of the deceased domestic helper and the executrix of her estate, testified against Choy on Wednesday. Temporosa detailed the alleged discriminatory acts committed by Choy in April 2017, when Guting was on sick leave at her residence.

The employer is accused of neglecting Guting’s needs, denying her adequate food, installing a surveillance camera, and discarding utensils she used. Temporosa, during cross-examination, revealed that Choy prevented Guting from using the kitchen and forced her to cook in her bedroom using a rice cooker borrowed from a friend. Temporosa stated, “She only cooked once [after she was discharged]. And after that, the employer had controlled her use [of the kitchen] and then she was not allowed. She had to ask for food from fellow church members.”

According to Denise Souza, the lawyer representing the claimant, Guting had worked for Choy for two years and three months before being diagnosed with the illness in March 2017. Souza argued that discriminatory incidents began occurring after Guting’s return from her initial hospitalization, during a month-long sick leave.

Video evidence presented by Choy’s lawyer, Chan Yip-hei, showed Guting cooking rice in the kitchen while secretly filmed by the employer. However, Temporosa affirmed that this was the only occasion before her friend was prohibited from using the kitchen and even the refrigerator.

On May 1, 2017, shortly after Guting’s discharge from her third hospital admission, her employment was abruptly terminated, and she was asked to vacate the premises on the same day. Temporosa, who received Guting’s distress call, stated that her friend brought dirty clothes because she was forbidden to use the washing machine due to her illness, which Choy mistakenly believed to be contagious.

Choy, on the other hand, argued that the reason for Guting’s dismissal was her poor performance, which she claimed had been unsatisfactory months before the cancer diagnosis. “The last straw was the fact that Choy found out Guting was taking pictures of her home,” said Chan, Choy’s lawyer, adding that the official termination had been postponed due to the employer and her husband being away on trips.

Choy firmly denied barring Guting from accessing the kitchen, dismissing the allegations as difficult to prove, as the case essentially became a matter of Guting’s word against hers.

In addition to seeking damages, the claimant also demanded a court order compelling Choy to issue an apology to Guting’s family. The trial, presided over by Deputy District Judge Grace Chow Chiu-man, is expected to span five days.

The case has attracted attention given its implications for the treatment of domestic helpers in Hong Kong and the broader issue of discrimination. The outcome of the trial will be closely watched, as it may set a precedent for addressing similar cases in the future.