Filipino caregiver in New York fired for taking post-Covid sick leave wins lawsuit

MANILA (The FilAm/Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Neteork) For four years, Antonio cared for an elderly man with a long illness in New York. In April 2020 – around the time Covid-19 was spreading rapidly in New York – the Bataan-born caregiver caught the virus.

When he asked his employer for sick leave to see a doctor, she did not give him permission. She wanted Antonio to continue caring for her husband even though his carer had tested positive for the infection.

A year later, in July 2021, Antonio was fired. The reason? He took the day off to see a doctor for a regular checkup.

He and the couple were supposed to be going to Florida, so he figured he might as well see a doctor about his post-Covid health as they would be gone for a while. He was, after all, almost 57 years old.

Antonio was fired for using his sick leave. In retaliation for filing a complaint with the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP), his employer subjected him to harassing phone calls.

On January 12, DCWP Commissioner Peter Hatch announced settlement agreements for two domestic workers to resolve violations of New York’s Paid Sick and Safety Leave Act: one was Antonio and the another a domestic worker of Caribbean origin.

Antonio’s employer had to pay US$18,000 in restitution and $1,000 in civil penalties to recover legal and other costs.

“Since 2017, the DCWP has received over 128 paid safety and sick leave complaints from paid social workers, including nannies, carers, housekeepers and home health aides,” said DCWP press officer Carmel Agnant said in a statement. FilAm.

“DCWP recovered nearly $3 million in restitution for paid social workers.”

DCWP’s Hatch noted how some domestic workers are not appreciated for supporting families.

“Unfortunately, these invaluable workers often face abusive working conditions and abuse. We are committed to ensuring that these workers are treated fairly and we will hold anyone – including private households – accountable if they violate the rights of their workers. I want to remind New Yorkers that if you hire a paid social worker, you are an employer in the eyes of the law.

“It was hard to be abruptly and wrongfully fired for trying to seek medical help,” said Antonio, whose last name is withheld for this report. He added that his employer specifically forbade him from taking sick leave to see a doctor because “who is going to look after the patient? »

“I needed sick leave after I caught Covid,” he said in an email interview with The FilAm.

Antonio now works for another family. A nursing assistant with seven years of experience, her job is mainly to care for elderly and sick patients who need help in their homes.

“I help with many types of assistance, such as taking the patient to the doctor, administering medication, preparing meals and any other task that meets the needs of the patients.”

A private caregiver in New York City earns between $14 and over $20 an hour depending on experience and assigned tasks, such as lifting heavy or severely disabled patients.

New York’s paid sick leave went into effect in April 2014, Agnant said, making it the largest jurisdiction in the nation to enact sick leave legislation.

Under the law, according to the DCWP website, covered employees are entitled to use safety and sick leave to:

> health, including the care and treatment of themselves or a family member; and

> security, including requesting assistance or taking other security measures if the employee or a family member is at risk of an act or threat of domestic violence, unwanted sexual contact, harassment or human trafficking.

“Many paid social workers, especially domestic workers, fear retaliation and are often reluctant to press charges,” Agnant said.

“But our laws contain strong retaliation provisions, and immigration status doesn’t matter, so we encourage them to come and see us, which they can do anonymously if they wish. .”

She said the DCWP continues to educate workers, as well as employers and the public, about workplace protections.

“We partner with workers and worker organizations to make sure workers know their rights and can defend them. »

Antonio has since recovered and is now fully vaccinated. He said his experience helped him understand that domestic workers have rights under the law.

“I’m proud that I was able to get justice,” he said. “The settlement has been helpful.”

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