Punishment for rejecting job applicants over health status proposed

Feb. 14, 2018

Councilor Mary Joselle Villafuerte (Robby Joy D. Salveron / davaotoday.com)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A councilor on Tuesday, February 13, proposed to amend the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance, by adding a provision that would prohibit anyone from rejecting job applicants due to their health status.

The proposal came from Councilor Mary Joselle Villafuerte, chair of the council’s committee on health.

“No one should discriminate against anybody or should stop anybody from accepting employment on the basis of their health status,” Villafuerte told a press conference.

Refusing a job applicant of employment on the basis of ethnic origin, religious affiliation, or belief, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, descent, race or color of the skin are illegal acts in Davao City as stated in article 1, section 4 of the anti-discrimination ordinance.

Villafuerte said she wants to add health status on top of those bases stated in the ordinance, saying the local law passed in 2012 is “very limited.”

Prohibiting companies from rejecting job applicants due to their health status is just, Villafuerte said, as not all diseases pose risks in the workplace.

“There are companies who make Hepatitis B testing mandatory and I think they’re doing this so they can exclude the employment of hepatitis B patients. So that needs to stop,” Villafuerte said.

Marilyn Arguillas, a doctor and a representative of the Davao Gastro Intestinal Specialist group here, said a number of doctors have been receiving complaints from their patients who were turned away by companies due to their health conditions.

Arguillas cited that most of these workers are factory workers, construction workers and call center agents.

“If you look at it, there’s no need to discriminate them because they are positive for Hepatitis B,” she said pointing that the condition is a chronic illness just like diabetes and hypertension.

She clarified that Hepatitis B is not easily transmitted like other diseases. Hepatitis B can only be transmitted through vertical transmission (pregnant mother to child), parenteral transmission (blood to blood through shared needles), sexual, and inapparent parenteral (through unhygienic tattoo and piercings).

Arguillas also pointed that while Hepatitis B screening is important, it is only encouraged for health reasons and not for employment.

Villafuerte said the committee along with the doctors will also look into those occupations in which Hepatitis B testing should be mandatory such as commercial sex workers and those who work in healthcare setting.

As the proposal is yet to face deliberation at the committee level, the councilor appealed to employers here not to discriminate against workers who are Hepatitis B positive.

She urged them to follow the guidelines on the evaluation of Hepa B positive workers for employment and the Department of Labor and Employment’s Hepatitis B workplace policy and program. (davaotoday.com)

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