A Filipino domestic worker got into hot water after trying to learn new recipes at the shop of a popular health foods company in Sheung Wan.
Emilia P.C. was studying “new styles of cooking” at the Anything But Salads shop along Tai Ping Shan Street when she was arrested after preparing a smoothie for an undercover labor inspector in June.
The domestic worker was accused of being illegally employed at the shop.
But on Dec. 10, Shatin Magistrate Ho Chun-yiu dismissed the charges against Emilia due to the contradictory statements that the labor inspector gave the court.
“This is highly unsatisfactory. I cannot safely rely on her (the inspector’s) evidence as to what happened. I find the defendant not guilty,” Judge Ho said.
He said Emilia was able to clearly explain her presence at the shop—her employer, the brother of the chef, had wanted her to learn new recipes and she agreed. The judge added that it was not her fault if the chef liked the dish she prepared and gave it the customers.
The incident happened on June 10 after the female labor inspector, surnamed Chan, entered the shop at 12:05 p.m. and ordered a smoothie.
“After a while, I ordered a drink (and said) in English, ‘One Super-Berry, please.’ Then I saw the defendant while she was inside the kitchen all along. She picked up a blender on the table (and prepared the smoothie),” the undercover inspector told the court.
“After that, she poured the liquid into a cup or a glass. Then, she placed a plastic lid on the cup. Then, she put the cup on top of a table,” she said.
“I gave the defendant $100. She put it on the table and a male approached to the front of the counter and took away the banknote,” she added.
The inspector said she then informed her senior officer, who called in the Immigration agents who took Emilia under their custody at around 1 p.m.
But under cross examination by Emilia’s lawyer, the inspector’s court testimony began to crumble when she could not remember if she had gone into the shop before 12:10 p.m. and then went out again.
“You can’t even recall if you entered before 12:05 p.m.?” asked Judge Ho. He was seen shaking his head when the inspector answered “yes.”
The officer also could not recall if there were any other customers inside although, according to Emilia’s lawyer, the shop was small.
“Are you serious? You can see how small the shop is. You’d know if people are going in and out. They’d be pressing behind your back,” the defense counsel told the inspecto
She also at first could not recall if she went into the shop with a colleague. She later said that she was with “more than two colleagues.”
Emilia’s lawyer also said that the chef, a Singaporean, was actually “giving her a hand and helping her with the ingredients” while Emilia was preparing the smoothie.
The inspector countered: “Probably not because I witnessed the defendant prepare the drink by herself.”
“You can remember that but not the other details?” Emilia’s lawyer replied. “You can’t have been staring at the defendant all the time?”
The inspector replied that the incident happened “half a year ago” and she had to read her records to remember the details.
Emilia’s lawyer said classes were also held in the shop for foreign domestic helpers who wanted to improve their cooking.