Woman who failed to pay maid salary for 13 months gets $14,000 fine

Osmond Chia
The Straits Times
Jan 6, 2022

A Singaporean employer hired a maid from the Philippines but failed to pay her monthly salary for 13 months, which amounted to $6,500.

Santa Maria Michele Theresa, 56, on Thursday (Jan 6) pleaded guilty to four charges of failing to pay a foreign employee under her charge and was fined $14,000.

Another nine charges for similar offences were taken into consideration during her sentencing.

According to court documents, Theresa employed Emferatriz Borja Montefolka from 2013 to 2019 as a maid at her home. But she failed to pay Montefolka her monthly salary of $500 for 13 months between April 2018 and April 2019.

"(Theresa) knew that she was supposed to pay Emma's fixed monthly salaries not later than seven days after the last day of the relevant salary periods, but she had failed to do so," said Ministry of Manpower prosecuting officer Melvyn Low.

To date, Theresa has not made any restitution to Montefolka, but the prosecution said it was not seeking compensation as the maid faced charges over illegal employment.

Charge sheets showed Montefolka was allegedly hired as a maid by another employer, Noraliza Kamardin, without a valid working pass, between August 2018 and April 2019. The case is pending.

Defence lawyer Barry Delaney said in mitigation that Theresa had initially decided not to continue employing the maid following the death of her father, whom Montefolka cared for.

The maid, who was on holiday in the Philippines at the time, was told by Theresa not to come home since there was no longer a need for her services, the court heard.

Mr Delaney said Montefolka pleaded with Theresa to take her back and she agreed to send her a ticket back to Singapore.

Theresa did not consider she had broken the law at the time, he added.

"This is a tragic story, but one out of kindness. Unlike other stories of exploitation, she didn't abuse (Montefolka)," said Mr Delaney of Theresa, and pleaded with the judge for a fine of $8,000.

The prosecution agreed it was not an act of exploitation, but said Theresa ought to have known better as she had employed maids several times in the past.

The judge agreed there was no exploitation of the maid but a clear breach of employment conditions as she had not paid her salary, and imposed a fine of $14,000.

Theresa will serve 40 days in jail if she is unable to pay the fine.

According to court documents, Theresa faces other charges of cheating, and is linked to rental scams where she is said to have deceived victims into paying a few thousand dollars each.

For cheating, she faces a maximum punishment of 10 years' jail and a fine.

The Straits Times

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