NET teacher compensated HK$695,000 after employment quashed by Education Bureau over 'procedural error'

A 47-year-old female native-speaking English teacher (NET) will be compensated HK$695,000 by the Education Bureau after her employment at a primary school was quashed by the bureau due to a “procedural error” during the recruitment. 

The case was filed by Winnie Tong Wai-yee and the Secretary for Education and the Education Bureau were listed the respondents. 

Tong accepted the two-year contract from 2021/22 to 2022/23 offered by Fuk Wing Street Government School after she sent out her resume directly to the school and finished two rounds of interviews. Yet, the contract was revoked by the bureau in July 2021, which said the school made a “procedural mistake” as it was supposed to only accept a resume from the bureau, according to the bureau's “internal policy.” 

In his latest judgment released Tuesday, High Court judge Russell Coleman ordered the bureau to pay Tong only HK$695,238 in compensation. 

The order didn't meet applicant's previous request for a total of HK$16,042,714, including about HK$3 million in general damages, about HK$2 million in loss of earnings and about HK$11 million in future loss of earnings. 

Tong's request was slammed by the Department of Justice that said an award of damages was not appropriate in this case. They also argued that the claim was “grossly exaggerated and was not supported by medical evidence.” 

Coleman then awarded Tong about HK$692,108 in loss of earnings and about HK$3,130 of fee paid to the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications for teacher registration, as he refused to make awards for general damages and loss of future earning sought by Tong. 

Back in May last year, Coleman had ruled that case against the bureau, as he penned in his previous judgment that Tong was qualified for the position and her name was included in the bureau's candidate pool. 

If the bureau had not interfered to disrupt and prevent the recruitment process, Tong would have taken up the position. 

The breach of directly accepting Tong's resume was also “strongly arguable,” Coleman added, saying it was “made by the purported application of a non-existent policy.” 

“Even if the policy had existed, it was apparently known only to certain (and not all) officers of the bureau and the bureau applied it over rigidly,” Coleman noted.