FDH accuses employer of terminating her while pregnant with their baby

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District Court in Wan Chai

 

A Filipino domestic worker has accused her former employer of terminating her contract while she was pregnant with their baby.

Assisted by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), helper Menchie L.L. accused her former employer, Martin C.P., a Caucasian, at the District Court of violating the Sex Discrimination Ordinance when he allegedly terminated her contract.

Under Hong Kong law, it is an offense for employers to fire a pregnant employee. If convicted, they could be fined up to $100,000 and made to pay the employee up to $150,000. Menchie is seeking $90,000 for loss of income and emotional distress.

But during the hearing on June 19, Martin denied Menchie’s allegations and told District Court Judge Justin Ko that that he did not even have money to hire a lawyer.

He also said that Menchie filed four criminal and civil cases against him, including one seeking financial assistance for their son. Martin told Judge Ko that DNA tests had confirmed that he was the father of Menchie’s baby boy.

“I have no legal support in any of these cases. She filed these cases to teach me a lesson,” Martin said in court.

Menchie, who did not attend the hearing and was represented by a lawyer from EOC, began working for Martin in December 2015.

In May 2017, she informed him that she was pregnant and expected to give birth in January the following year.

She said she asked Martin if she could go on maternity leave but was told the following month to sign a letter terminating her contract.

When she refused, Martin allegedly sacked her and told her to leave Hong Kong.

Menchie filed a complaint with the Labour Department and Martin said this was settled at the Labour Tribunal in August 2017.

He said the helper also filed a criminal case against him but this was later dismissed for lack of evidence.

Martin also said that Menchie filed a case at the Family Court to determine the paternity of her baby, who was born on January 18, 2018.

“I’m the father of the baby. I attended the hearing in April which resulted in the verification of paternity,” he said.

However, Martin said there would still be a hearing in August at the Family Court to determine how much financial support he should give his son.

The respondent said he was already giving financial support but Menchie was planning to go home to the Philippines with their son.

He added that his former domestic worker also wanted him to pay part of the expenses she had when she gave birth.

Martin said Menchie and their son were still in Hong Kong since the cases in the District Court and the Family Court were still pending.

The EOC lawyer raised the possibility that an out-of-court settlement could be reached before the formal trial begins. Judge Ko suggested a “global settlement” to amicably settle all pending cases.

The judge also told Martin to carefully prepare his evidence and legal papers since he has no lawyer to represent him should the District Court trial proceed.

The respondent said he had sought help with the Legal Aid Department but his application was refused. Judge Ko set the next hearing of the case on October 9.

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