Worker with HIV wins labor case vs salon
Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) - February 7, 2016 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines – A 47-year-old salon worker has won a labor case he filed against his former employer, celebrity hairstylist and makeup artist Ricky Reyes, who fired him after he tested positive for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) has ordered Reyes to reinstate Renato Nocos and pay him over P600,000 in back wages and other benefits, including salary differentials, emergency cost of living allowances, 13th month pay, separation pay and attorney’s fees.

“HIV is not highly contagious and is not transmitted through touching, hugging, sneezing, coughing or using common utensils or being around an infected person. The means by which Reyes tried to protect other employees and customers trampled upon the rights of the complainant,” labor arbiter Joanne Lazo said in a 10-page decision released recently.

In March 2014, Nocos filed a complaint against Reyes and his business partner Tonneth Moreno for discrimination, unlawful termination and non-payment of wages with the NLRC.

In his complaint, Nocos said Reyes transferred him to a branch nearing bankruptcy after learning that he had been infected with HIV.

He said Reyes terminated him after the beauty salon closed down.

Nocos filed a separate complaint against Reyes and Moreno for not paying his Social Security System and PhilHealth insurance premiums.

He lauded the NLRC for a favorable decision, which he said was not only his victory but also that of other HIV patients fighting for respect and dignity.

Nocos came out in public last year and sought the help of the Associated Labor Union (ALU) to pursue the case against his employer.

ALU executive vice president Gerard Seno said HIV patients are being discriminated due to ignorance about the illness.

“Things like this happen because a majority in our society remain ignorant about HIV and AIDS,” Seno said.

He said labor unions should initiate programs to prevent stigma and discrimination against HIV patients in workplaces.

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