Errant maid employer sues agent

Errant maid employer sues agent
Indonesian maid Astrilia Agustin was hired to work in Madam Tang Lee Sung’s home in Jalan Rengas (left), but was instead asked to go to Johor Baru to take care of cats in a rented house. Madam Tang was fined in April for not paying the maid for over a year and getting her to work at an unauthorised location.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

The woman slapped with one of the highest fines for not paying her maid could get to tell more of her side of the story in a civil court and explain why she felt aggrieved.

Madam Tang Lee Sung - together with her mother, Madam Goh Jin Looi - is suing the employment agency which referred the maid to her, seeking to hold it liable for the alleged loss and damage caused by the domestic helper during the time she worked for them.

Among other things, Madam Tang, in High Court papers filed in August, claims the maid killed some 40 cats in the house in Johor Baru instead of looking after them as assigned.

Express Employment Service Centre, through its lawyer, Mr Thangavelu, is seeking a court order to strike out the claims. A striking-out application takes place when the applicant believes the other party's case is groundless, an abuse of process or invalid, and should not be pursued.

A High Court hearing was held last week and adjourned until next month.

Madam Tang, 39, was fined $34,500 in the State Courts in April for not paying her domestic worker for more than a year and getting her to work at an unauthorised location.

District Judge Kamala Ponnampalam had found Madam Tang guilty of all 19 charges of defaulting on salary payments, and one charge of illegal deployment.

Her maid, Indonesian Astrilia Agustin, 27, was not paid her wages from November 2011 to May 2013, a total debt of $5,778 after deducting agent fees. She was supposed to work only in Madam Tang's home in Jalan Rengas, in Seletar Hills.

Madam Tang explained in court documents filed to support her suit that Ms Agustin was hired to take care of her mother, Madam Goh, 62, and help the latter feed cats in the neighbourhood.

She had employed more than five maids from the agency for over a decade, all of whom had the common task of looking after her mother.

But in Ms Agustin's case, Madam Goh had asked her to go to Johor Baru to look after the cats in a rented house. Madam Goh had understood that Ms Agustin had tended to some 25 cats as part of her background experience.

But Madam Tang alleges that Ms Agustin had admitted to her, while she was in Johor Baru, that she did not do her job and killed around 40 cats there. Madam Tang is seeking compensation of about RM20,000 (S$6,750) per cat.

The court papers listed several reasons why Madam Goh was unhappy with the maid's conduct, alleging in one instance that she told Madam Goh she came to Singapore to find a husband and would cease her work thereafter.

Madam Goh was said to have suffered loss and damage as a result of the maid's conduct and the fallout included mental anguish from a breakdown in family relationships and medical expenses.

In May, Madam Goh sued the agency as the sole plaintiff but this fresh action citing similar claims is led by her daughter. When contacted last night, Madam Goh said that she has managed to get help in Johor Baru to look after her cats there.

Additional reporting by Joanna Seow

This article was first published on Oct 13, 2015.
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