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Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong

In first for Hong Kong, domestic helper takes employers to court for sex discrimination over pregnancy test

Indonesian woman says she was forced to take the test and then dismissed and forced to move before the one-month notice expired

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 March, 2016, 9:17pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 April, 2016, 4:16pm

An Indonesian domestic worker allegedly forced to urinate in a child’s potty for a pregnancy test is suing her former employers for sex discrimination – the first case of its kind in Hong Kong.

Barrister Earl Deng told the District Court on Wednesday that not only was Waliyah, who was seven months pregnant at the time, forced to take the test in 2013, she was also terminated and kicked out of her employers’ home before the one-month notice she was given ran out.

READ MORE: Age, pregnancy and race bias top issues in absence of laws

Waliyah is suing Terence Yip Hoi-sun, her former employer, and his then wife Chan Man-hong for compensation, to be assessed by the court if she wins.

Her instructing law firm, Vidler and Company, confirmed to the South China Morning Post that this was the first time a pregnant foreign domestic worker had filed a sex discrimination case against their employer over an alleged mandatory pregnancy test.

If the judge rules in favour of Waliyah in the civil case – that the maid was dismissed because of her pregnancy – the result could be referred back to the city’s prosecutors for possible criminal charges, her barrister also suggested on Wednesday.

But judge Alex Lee Wan-tang said criminal prosecution could be overdue as the alleged actions took place more than two years ago.

Testifying in court on Wednesday, the maid recalled that in October 2013, she was asked by the wife to urinate in a child’s potty. Chan then performed the test on the urine sample, she said.

“[It was] because my tummy was growing and I was [told to do so]the night before,” she said, explaining why the pregnancy test was performed.

READ MORE: Hong Kong needs to do more to counter pregnancy discrimination

It is alleged that a few days after the involuntary test in October, Waliyah was given notice of termination of contract, which should have given her one month to leave.

However, she was allegedly forced out of the couple’s Kowloon home after three weeks. Chan alleged that the maid was willing to move early.

In doing so, the maid, who had been working for the family for a year and a half, claimed her former employers had breached the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, Employment Ordinance and the employment contract.

Only Chan attended the hearing as Waliyah and her lawyers had been unable to locate Yip.

The hearing came to an abrupt end after the morning session as Chan, who made intermittent noises as if she was vomiting, claimed the medicine she was taking to calm her emotions made her too sleepy to continue.

The case had previously been adjourned after Chan claimed she was unwell.

The judge asked her to consult a doctor by Thursday to provide proof to the court that she was unfit to attend Wednesday’s hearing.

He also asked Deng to consult his client on whether she wanted to press on with the case given that Chan was eligible to apply for legal aid.

He also said that normally, a criminal case would be pursued first to support subsequent civil action instead of the other way round, as suggested by Deng.

The judge adjourned the case to May 9.