Venue depends on nature of the claim
The Labour Tribunal Ordinance (Chapter 25 of the Laws of Hong Kong) confers the Labour Tribunal exclusive jurisdiction to hear monetary claims arising from a breach of any express or implied term of an employment contract. The exception is a claim founded on tort and such exception has been upheld by the Courts of Hong Kong. For example, in the case of Lee Yiu Hong v Well-In Hotel Supplies Company Limited  HKCFI 2760, the Court of First Instance held that a claim arising from causes of action in tort or in both contract and tort is beyond the exclusive jurisdiction of the Labour Tribunal.
Nature of the claim depends on the substance
In the recent case of Xinhua News Media Ltd v Chan Chun Wo  HKDC 903, the District Court struck out a mixed claim for overpaid wages and expenses founded on both contract and tort on the ground that it should have been initiated at the Labour Tribunal. While the District Court applied the general principle in the case of Lee Yiu Hong v Well-In Hotel Supplies Company Limited  HKCFI 2760 (as summarised above), it relied on the case of Ho Chee Sing James and Secretary for Justice  4 HKLRD 311 and commented that the test to determine the appropriate jurisdiction and venue is to look at the substance and not the labels of the claim.
In Xinhua News Media Ltd v Chan Chun Wo  HKDC 903, the Defendants, being former directors of the Plaintiffs, had previously initiated separate proceedings against the Plaintiffs at the Labour Tribunal for arrear of wages and other payments. Subsequently, the Plaintiffs sued the Defendants in the District Court for overpaid salaries and medical expenses. The Plaintiffs’ basis was originally, breach of employment contracts and/or fiduciary duties. The basis was afterwards amended to misappropriation of the Plaintiffs’ assets and/or breach of fiduciary duties, and thus the Plaintiffs effectively removed references to the employment contracts.
The Defendants were of the view that the dispute should be tried at the Labour Tribunal and applied to the District Court for (i) a declaration that the District Court had no jurisdiction to hear the case, (ii) permanent stay of the proceedings, or (iii) the proceedings to be struck out.
The Plaintiffs argued that the proceedings should have been initiated in the District Court for the following reasons: (1) the claim involved a breach of fiduciary duties which, considering the Defendants’ roles as executive director and company secretary, were different from those of an ordinary employee; and (2) the claim was founded not only on breach of employment contract but also on tort, bringing it outside of the Labour Tribunal’s exclusive jurisdiction.