Sacked woman accuses HK boss of harassment

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 November, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 November, 1994, 12:00am

A HONG KONG businessman is the subject of a sexual harassment claim in an American court.


Howard Yeung Ping-leung and some associates are being sued by a former employee who also alleges she was unlawfully sacked.


American Grace George and her son, Anthony Billings, have brought the action before the San Francisco Superior Court in California.


The two worked for Hong Kong corporation Yeung Chi Shing Estates Ltd and associated companies at their offices in San Francisco.


Yeung Chi Shing Estates is one of several companies controlled by the Yeung family, some of whom spell the family name 'Young'.


Mr Yeung is a director of King Fook Holdings, a jewellery business based in Des Voeux Road, Central. His brother, Dr Albert Young Bing-ching, is its chairman.


The family own many other businesses in the territory and in San Francisco, Honolulu, New York, Toronto and Los Angeles.


Ms George, 49, and her 23-year-old son are seeking unspecified compensation for lost wages. Ms George is also seeking punitive damages and legal costs.


Mr Yeung and his associates have filed a cross-complaint alleging Ms George took documents without permission. They also want her to pay US$9,600 (HK$74,200) in back rent.


The hearing, which began last Thursday, was told Ms George and her son were fired on January 24, 1992. She was hired as a property manager for YCS Inc and as personal secretary to Howard Yeung in April 1987. Her son was later hired as a maintenance man and assistant.


Ms George's attorney, Robert Knox, said she endured years of emotional, mental and sexual abuse from the defendants to keep her job, 'which she dearly loved and needed'.


'She complained of being offended and humiliated by constant sexual harassment, including being grabbed, touched, pinched, and slapped on her breasts, buttocks and crotch,' he said.


Ms George also alleged the defendants put constant pressure on her to have sex with them to keep her job, Mr Knox said. Obscene messages were left on her answering machine.


As a result, Ms George lost her self-respect, her family life suffered and she developed severe insomnia.


Ms George claims she and Mr Yeung had an oral and implied work contract that included annual 10 per cent pay rises, a rent-free apartment and fringe benefits. Her exact job description and title remain in dispute.


Since she was fired, Ms George has lost wages, housing expenses, medical benefits and had now incurred medical expenses, said Mr Knox, adding that her bosses had never significantly criticised her during her time at YCS.


Mr Knox also alleged that Mr Yeung kept a ring of prostitutes for his own use and that of selected business colleagues. He said Ms George handled their monthly payments until she found out what the money was for and asked to be taken off that job. He said she also handled telephone calls in which the women complained of non-payment and mistreatment by Mr Yeung and his colleagues.


Mr Knox said Ms George never gave in to her employers' sexual demands and never dressed in a sexually enticing way. He said she was denied pay rises because of her lack of co-operation.


Ms George's son, Anthony Billings, said he was fired solely because his mother would not consent to sex with her bosses. He said he was a witness to his mother's abuse and is now a victim of it himself.


The defendants say Mr Billings was never an official employee, but an independent contractor.


The hearing resumes this week. Mr Yeung was said to be flying in from Hong Kong over the weekend to appear.