Celebrating labour discrimination case win
Renato Nocos is a hair stylist from the Philippines and he has a message for employers, “The best way to treat people living with HIV is with respect. Educate yourself about HIV and show your support.”
The 47 year-old stylist who is living with HIV knows only too well what it is like to experience stigma and discrimination in the workplace because of his HIV status. In April 2014, Mr Nocos filed an illegal dismissal suit against the hair salon Ricky Superstyle and its associate, Tonneth Moreno with the Philippines National Labour Relations Commission.
The complaint said that the salon transferred Mr Nocos to a branch nearing bankruptcy after learning that he was HIV-positive and when the the business closed down, he was never given another assignment. In an interview with UNAIDS, Mr Nocos said, “ My employer did not want to see me. I did not have a job and I did not know where to go. The situation became worse and worse.”
Mr Nocos had been employed by the salon since 2003. He said he revealed his status because he was undergoing HIV treatment and since his employer was not contributing to the social security system, Philhealth insurance and Pag-Ibig, he could not access his health benefits. “ I needed to go to the hospital, but I did not have access to the Philhealth package, so I asked my employer to refund this money.”
Mr Nocos started reading about his labour rights and then he listened to a radio show on workers’ rights. “The programme was about a person losing their job without any reason. This was an inspiration for me to claim my rights as well” he said.
He got help from the Associated Labour Union. “At first, I was very afraid that I would lose the case and I am sure that without my lawyer I would not been brave enough to follow through, but my lawyer supported me saying I should fight and tell the truth.”
Earlier in February, the National Labour Relations Commission came out with a verdict that was favourable to Mr Nocos. It ordered the respondents to reinstate Mr Nocos or if he decided not to be reinstated to pay him back wages and benefits including salary differentials, separation pay as well as his attorney’s fees.
Mr Nocos said, “Life is full of challenges and surprises. You win some and you lose some. If you lose hope, you will not win, but if you carry on and fight, you will win and inspire others to do the same. This victory should encourage people living with HIV who are fighting for dignity. Now I have a reason to try even harder. I feel very empowered. “