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SC: Dismissal of HIV positive employee is illegal

By: Tetch Torres-Tupas - | May 01,2024 - 10:05 PM

Dismissal of HIV-positive worker illegal, says Supreme court

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MANILA CITY, Philippines — Termination of employment due to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is illegal, the Supreme Court (SC) said in a decision made public Wednesday.

The case concerns an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Saudi Arabia.

The employee was a cleaning laborer with a two-year contract through the recruitment agency Bison Management Corporation (Bison).

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In January 2019, after working for 15 months, the employee underwent a routine medical exam and was found to be positive for HIV.

READ: IN NUMBERS: HIV cases in the rise in Central Visayas

The foreign employer terminated his employment, citing Saudi Arabian laws that consider HIV-positive unfit to work. The employee was repatriated to the Philippines.

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The dismissed employee filed a complaint for illegal dismissal, which was dismissed by the labor arbiter.

Illegal dismissal

However, the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) reversed the decision of the labor arbiter and found Bison, its president, and its foreign recruitment agency Saraja Al Jazirah liable for illegal dismissal.

The NLRC ruling was affirmed by the Court of Appeals, prompting Bison to take the case to the Supreme Court.

In a decision penned by Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, the SC’s Third Division said the dismissal is discriminatory.

Under Section 49 (a) of Republic Act 11166, or the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act, it is unlawful for employees to be terminated from work on the sole basis of their HIV status.

Moreover, the SC said that even if a foreign law prohibits employment of HIV positive person, if it contradicts Philippine law, morals, good customs, public order, or public policy, “then Philippine law shall apply.”

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TAGS: dismissal, HIV, Supreme Court

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