A Filipina domestic worker who was fired while on sick leave has begun medical treatment for cancer as her case goes to court.
Baby Jane Allas, 38, hit the headlines after she was abruptly sacked in February for having stage three cervical cancer. In her letter of dismissal, her former employer reportedly wrote: “Diagnosed with cervical cancer” in a section for stating the reason for termination. The dismissal blighted her chances of receiving medical expenses covered by Hong Kong law.
The single mother of five was diagnosed with cervical cancer in January. She began formal treatment for the aggressive stage 3B adenocarcinoma last month, which has involved chemotherapy once a week and radiotherapy five times a week at Hong Kong Adventist Hospital. Her disease requires urgent and continuous treatment, although it is too early to make a prognosis, according to her supporter Jessica Cutrera.
“This is what made her discrimination and termination as a result of her illness so devastating,” she added. “The time it would take for her to go home to the Philippines and get enrolled in care, far from home as her island doesn’t have any facilities, would [likely] have been fatal, if she could get the care at all.”
Prior to her diagnosis, Allas had reportedly never had a pap smear, which is a method of cervical screening to test for cancer.
‘Poor and unjust’ settlement offer
Allas’ former employer previously engaged an attorney who tried to settle her claim but the offers made were too “poor and unjust,” Cutrera said. Therefore, the former domestic worker has had her case referred to the Labour Tribunal, with her hearing scheduled for next Monday.
The items of claim lodged include:
- Wrongful dismissal;
- Failure to pay wages;
- Failure to provide statutory rest days;
- Failure to pay medical expenses;
- Failure to provide return passive to her home country;
- Other employment ordinance breeches.
She is also filing a charge with the Equal Opportunities Commission and may go to the District Court with a case of disability discrimination, Cutrera said.
Cutrera added that Allas thanked the public for their continued support, saying she initially told her sister she wanted to “go home and die” but now remains hopeful to fight her disease and her case.
Cutrera, who employs Allas’ sister, started an online fundraising campaign to pay for the fired domestic worker’s medical expenses. The GoGetFunding campaign surpassed its target of HK$400,000 last month.
There were 369,651 foreign domestic workers living in Hong Kong at the end of 2017, with the number set to rise to 600,000 by 2047, according to the government. Most of them hail from the Philippines and Indonesia.
Migrant domestic workers contribute HK$98.9 billion to the city’s economy, making up 3.9 per cent of the GDP, according to a study released last month. Despite this, rights groups have said that they often lack the legal safeguards to protect them from employer abuse. An abuse case against Indonesian domestic worker Erwiana Sulistyaningsih received international attention after pictures of her battered body were shared by media. In 2015, her former employer was ordered to pay HK$200,000 and sentenced to six years in jail for the abuse, alongside an additional HK$170,000 to another employee last year for false imprisonment and assault.