FDH wants to testify in Labour Tribunal case via video link from PH

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High Court in Admiralty

 

A Filipino domestic worker has asked the High Court to allow her to testify against her employer at the Labour Tribunal even though she is now back in the Philippines.

The lawyer of Jonalyn D. Mallorca asked High Court Justice B. Chu this morning to allow the domestic worker to testify via a video link and to overturn a Labour Tribunal hearing officer’s decision refusing her request.

Mallorca had filed a case at the Labour Tribunal against her employer after she was dismissed in September. Her

but she had to go back to the Philippines in December to take care of her young children and her elderly mother who was diagnosed with cancer.

“The Labour Department had offered to bring her back here (to testify against her employer) for unpaid wages but she cannot come,” Mallorca’s lawyer told Justice Chu.

“(Mallorca) wants to come back but she cannot come,” she added.

The lawyer said that the Labour Tribunal hearing officer erred in rejecting the Filipina’s request to testify via a video link.

However, Justice Chu grilled the Filipino woman’s lawyer about how the integrity of the Labour Tribunal hearing could be maintained during a video call.

She said that, if Mallorca were to testify via a video link, the video camera might not be able to show if there were other persons in the room who might coach the domestic worker.

Mallorca’s lawyer answered that the camera might be positioned in such a way the whole room would be shown.

Justice Chu said that allowing testimony through a video link in the Labour Tribunal might run counter to the intention of the law that created the tribunal.

She said the law’s authors had intended Labour Tribunal proceedings to be expeditious and cost less than a formal court trial. The justice noted that the parties involved in Labour Tribunal cases are not represented by lawyers during the proceedings there.

Justice Chu also noted that employers could also ask that they testify through a video link, causing further delays and making tribunal costlier.

However, Mallorca’s lawyer said that if Justice Chu allows testimony via video link, she could set rigid guidelines to make sure it is not abused.

She noted that foreign domestic workers are allowed to extend their stay in Hong Kong while they have pending cases in the Labour Tribunal, these workers are not allowed to work.

And so, many are forced to go back to their countries without pursuing claims against their employers.

“There should be a way for them to sustain their claims if they cannot afford to come back (to HK),” the lawyer said.

She added that two more domestic workers had asked the Labour Tribunal that they be allowed to testify via a video link but these requests were held in abeyance pending the results of Mallorca’s appeal at the High Court. The lawyer said one of the two workers was terminally ill.

Justice Chu said she will hand down her decision on Mallorca’s petition in due time.

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