Measure sought to expand anti-discrimination edict

Councilor Mary Joselle Villafuerte, chair of the committee on health, has proposed an amendment to the 2012 anti-discrimination ordinance that would require employers not to discriminate against applicants who tested positive with Hepatitis B.

Villafuerte said on Tuesday that certain health provisions need to be incorporated to make the local law responsive to the needs of workers and that being Hepatitis B positive is not a hindrance to employment.

She said she was prompted by reports that some employees were fired from their jobs because they were found to have illnesses such as Hepatitis B.

“We appeal to employers in Davao City not to discriminate against workers who are Hepatitis B positive,” Villafuerte said.

The anti-discrimination ordinance, considered a progressive law that protects Davaoenos, bans discrimination against gender, minority groups and persons with disabilities.

“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 said.

However, she did not cite figures of incidences of discrimination but 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 a reason why it is safe for the infected person to work, aside from exposure from infected worker in occupations which is involving sharp instruments/ needles is prone procedures largely in the health care settings”, Arguillas said.

Arguillas said that it is a very grave offense in discriminating against people with Hepa B as they are capable of working.

“In 2010, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) already issued a memorandum informing business establishments not to discriminate against those who have hepatitis B, however, there are still workers who were fired because of the illness,” Villafuerte said.

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.

Villafuerte said that 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 amendment covers the discrimination on all the health status not only in Hepatitis B,” Villafuerte added.