The Sha Tin Magistrates' Courts. Photo: Google Maps
The Sha Tin Magistrates' Courts. Photo: Google Maps

An organization representing migrant domestic workers has claimed that in many cases the courts in Hong Kong have discriminated against foreign employees and sided with their employers.

Cynthia Abdon-Tellez, the general manager of Mission for Migrant Workers (MMW), claimed there had been blatant unequal treatment of migrant workers in the courts in the past, but this had decreased when the judicial system came under criticism from workers’ rights advocates. Now, she claimed, the inequity was returning, reported.

She said the courts had often missed a crucial point – who makes the decisions in an employer-employer relationship?

She said that even when it came to illegal work, it was usually the employer who demanded the helper work in his office, shop or in his parents’ home, and all the employee could do was to follow orders for fear of losing the job.

She claimed law enforcement had often failed to address this disparity between an employer and a domestic worker. In reality, she said, the domestic worker often had no choice but to follow the employer’s instructions.

Abdon-Tellez gave an example of some cases she claimed were unfair. One domestic worker was sentenced in July 2015 by Magistrate Andrew Ma after pleading guilty to “making a false representation to an immigration officer” about agreeing to live outside her employer’s home. She was given four months in jail, suspended for three years.

Two weeks later, another domestic worker received a far more lenient sentence of two months in jail suspended for one year after she pleaded guilty to “conspiracy to make a false representation to an immigration officer.”

Another case involved the helper being ordered by the employer to wash the dishes in his restaurant or help with his vegetable stall. The maid was arrested and ended up in jail, while her employer was not charged.

Abdon-Tellez urged the law enforcement officers to address the disparity, saying that in reality, the helper often does not have any choice but to follow the illegal orders of her employer.

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