The Hong Kong High Court. Photo: HK Judiciary
The Hong Kong High Court. Photo: HK Judiciary

The High Court in Hong Kong has overruled the Labour Tribunal and allowed a Filipino maid to give evidence in a case via video link from the Philippines.

On July 27, Justice Bebe Pui Ying Chu of the Court of First Instance overruled a Labour Tribunal decision rejecting an application by Joenalyn D. Mallorca to have her case heard via video link, the reported.

Mallorca, who was seeking compensation totaling more than HK$8,000 (US$1,019) from her employer Ng Mei Shuen, applied to give evidence via video because she had to return home to take care of her mother, who was suffering from lung cancer.

But the Tribunal’s Presiding Officer David Chum dismissed her application on March 30, 2017, and struck off her claim against her former employer without a hearing.

Justice Chu said the presiding officer appeared to have focused only on the reasons given by Mallorca for not being able to attend the hearing and the employer’s objection to using a video link. He added that the ruling would deprive Mallorca of a fair and public hearing or the chance to proceed with her claim.

The judge ordered the Tribunal to restore Mallorca’s claims and hear her evidence via video link. Hong Kong’s courts allow applications for video links when a party cannot return to the city and the system is used at the District Court and High Court.

Mallorca’s request was the first to the Labour Tribunal.

The High Court’s decision sets a precedent for other foreign workers who have returned home to pursue cases against their former employers in Hong Kong.

“The High Court decision will impact future migrant workers. With video link a clear possibility in the Labour and Small Claims tribunals, workers now have the chance to continue their case from abroad,” said a press release of Justice without Borders.

A few new cases that may include requests for video conferencing at the Labour Tribunal are developing, the NGO said.

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