Councilor seeks amendment to anti-discrimination law

The city’s anti-discrimination ordinance which was passed in 2012, may no longer be enough to protect workers who have health concerns.
Councilor Mary Joselle Villafuerte, chair of the committee on health, said certain health provisions need to be incorporated to make the local law responsive to the needs of workers.
The anti-discrimination ordinance, considered a progressive law that protects Davaoenos, bans discrimination against gender, minority groups and persons with disabilities.
Villafuerte said there’s a need to amend the ordinance as discrimination in the workplace has become prevalent to people who have health problems such as those who are infected with Hepatitis B. She however did not cite figures of incidences of discrimination but said that based on records of the city, Hepa B positive employees are not allowed to work in certain establishments.
Dr. Marilyn Arguillas, gastroenterologist with a special interest in liver diseases particularly non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis and liver cancer, said the virus is transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person and not through casual contact. This is the reason why it is safe for the infected person to work.
“It is a very grave offense in discriminating against people with Hepa B as they are capable of working,” said Arguillas.
Villafuerte said that if the amendment will be approved those who will violate the law will be criminally charged as the Department of Health’s advisory against hepatitis B is not enough.
First-time offenders, will pay a fine of P1,000; P2,000 fine and imprisonment of 10 days for second-time offenders and for those who continue to violate the ordinance, they will be fined P5,000 and jailed for at least 15 days “or upon the discretion of the court.”
The DOLE advisory requires firms to include a policy on non-discriminatory, confidentiality, work accommodation, and arrangements for workers with Hepatitis B status.
It specifically states the following:
1. There shall be no discrimination of any form against workers on the basis of their Hepatitis B status consistent with international agreements on non-discrimination ratified by the Philippines (ILO C111). They shall not be discriminated against, from pre- to post-employment, including hiring, promotion, or assignment;
2. They shall not be declared unfit to work without appropriate medical evaluation and counseling;
3. Workers shall not be terminated on the basis of the actual, perceived, or suspected Hepatitis B status;
4. Workplace management of sick employees shall not differ from that of any other illness. Persons with Hepatitis-B related illness should be able to work for as long as they are medically fit;
5. Job applicants and workers shall not be compelled to disclose their Hepatitis B status and other related medical information. Co-workers shall not be obliged to reveal and personal information about fellow workers. Access to personal data relating to a worker’s Hepatitis B status shall be bound by the rules of confidentiality and shall be strictly limited to medical personnel or if legally required;
6. Employers shall take measures to reasonably accommodate workers who are Hepatitis B positive or with Hepatitis B-related illnesses;
7. Through agreements made between management and workers’ representatives, measures to support workers with Hepatitis B are encouraged through flexible leave arrangements, rescheduling of working time, and arrangement for return to work.
Villafuerte stressed that the amendment covers the discrimination on all the health status not only in Hepatitis B.

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