Muslim domestic helper files discrimination lawsuit against Hong Kong family after allegedly firing her for praying and wearing religious garment

  • Dwi-Lestari was sacked two weeks after she started working for retiree Leung Choi and her children, who complained about her religious practices, writ claims
  • Helper allegedly offered to pray outside the home and change her attire, but son fired her anyway

Latest Articles

OpenAI’s ChatGPT will ‘see, hear and speak’ in major update

Make these Japanese chicken meatball skewers at your next family dinner

Why farmers in Japan are returning to ‘fertiliser from a person’s bottom’

Hong Kong’s teacher shortage is forcing primary schools to hire untrained candidates

The Lens: Japan’s Johnny Kitagawa sexual assault scandal was hidden in plain sight

Indonesian women wearing headscarves walk near Victoria Park in Causeway Bay. Photo: Dickson Lee

A Muslim domestic helper has filed a HK$255,000 discrimination lawsuit against her former Hong Kong employers for allegedly sacking her after requiring her to stop wearing a religious garment and praying during work.

The District Court writ said the family of three had breached the Race Discrimination Ordinance by asking Dwi-Lestari to abandon her religious practices as a condition for keeping her job.

The writ said her contract was terminated on March 16, 2020, just two weeks after she began working for retiree Leung Choi, her son Ho Wai-sun and daughter Ho Wai-ngor in their flat at the Wah Fu public housing estate in Southern district.

Hong Kong must respect its Muslim community

Dwi-Lestari’s lawyers said she was not told whether Leung, now 87, or her children had any objections to her practising her religion before the contract was signed.

But shortly after she started working, the daughter reportedly complained about the helper wearing a jilbab, a full-length garment covering her body, when she went out.

The daughter was said to have warned the helper over her choice of clothing and demanded she stop wearing the garment when accompanying the family in public. The helper relented and wore only a headscarf and a cap when she needed to go outside, the writ claimed.

The plaintiff is seeking HK$254,620 for wages due, payment in lieu of notice, injury to feelings, loss of earnings and punitive damages, according to the District Court writ. Photo: Warton Li

Subsequently, the children allegedly reprimanded her for performing daily prayers in the flat but out of the family’s view.

The son reportedly complained to the manager of Dwi-Lestari’s employment agency and submitted video footage he secretly took of her praying.

“The [son] indicated objection to the claimant’s conduct of daily prayers and said words to the effect that the [mother], being of old age, would be ‘scared to death’ if she saw the claimant praying when she woke up,” the court filing said.

The helper apologised and suggested she could pray outside the flat instead, but the son allegedly refused and insisted she must stop altogether if she wanted to continue working.

We must tackle racial discrimination in Hong Kong

The family ended Dwi-Lestari’s contract, the writ said, and the son reportedly paid her HK$100 without indicating why.

She spent her final night in Hong Kong at the flat of the manager of the employment agency before returning to her native Indonesia the next day, according to the writ.

In early 2021, Dwi-Lestari filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunities Commission with the help of Justice Without Borders, an NGO that assists migrant workers with cross-border claims.

Resolve NGO is making Hong Kong more inclusive for marginalised groups

The commission concluded after an inquiry that the ordinance might have been breached and invited the parties to reach a settlement, but was unsuccessful. The helper started proceedings after seeking private legal advice.

The plaintiff is claiming HK$254,620 for wages due, payment in lieu of notice, injury to feelings, loss of earnings and punitive damages.

The first hearing has been slated for mid-November.

Sign up for the YP Teachers Newsletter
Get updates for teachers sent directly to your inbox
By registering, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy