OFW sacked after being found with brain tumor, goes home


Febe is seen off at the airport by three of her caring friends who stood by her during her ordeal

A Filipina domestic helper is taking a flight back
to the Philippines tonight, three weeks after being found with brain tumor which
initially left her half-paralyzed, and being told by her employer that she was
no longer welcome in their home.

Febe S. Anor, 52, was rushed to Pamela Youde Nethersole
Eastern Hospital late on April 2, when she felt one side of her body go numb,
leaving her unable to stand. A CT scan showed she had a brain tumor in her
right frontal lobe, but after a number of medicines were prescribed, Febe was
discharged on April 5.

That was when her employer said Febe was better off staying
in a place where someone could cook and look after her. However, the employer
did not offer any help in looking for a place for her, and merely said via a text message that the
employment agency who placed Febe with them would take care of it.

Undaunted, Febe decided to stay on for a follow-up consultation
at the hospital. She was readmitted to the hospital on April 8, and the next
day, the doctors performed a craniotomy to take out the brain tumor.

Febe’s head wound after the surgery, and before the staples were taken out

But between April 5 and April 8, Febe had to,
literally and figuratively, lean on friends after being virtually abandoned by
her employer.
 One of her friends luckily
knew the local manager of a walk-up inn in North Point, so she was able to stay
there at greatly reduced cost.

During this time, Febe had to pay her hospital bills
herself, apart from her food and accommodation, and transportation in going to
and from the hospital, even if she was supposed to be still under the care of her

Febe, a single mother of two who has been a migrant
worker for more than 30 years, last arrived in Hong Kong on September 23 last
year to work for her current employer. This meant that she had been employed for more than
six months when she got sick, and should have been entitled to at least 12 days of sick leave during which she could not be terminated.

On April 12, the day Febe was due to be discharged
from the hospital a second time, her friends got so worried about her that they
reached out to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Office at the
Consulate for help, and her agency was ordered to look after her.

But just a day after she arrived at the agency’s
shelter, Febe was served a notice of termination from her employer, and the
agency staff told her she needed to get on the plane the next day, April 14.

Febe resisted, as she had two more follow-up appointments
at the hospital, and the staples that were used to close her massive head
wound, still needed to be taken out. The doctors at Eastern Hospital also gave
her a medical certificate recommending sick leave for her until April 19.

Undeterred, the employer sent Febe a message that
Sunday morning, asking her to pick up her clothes from their house.

On Friday, April 19, Febe was again told that she
needed to fly back to the Philippines, even if under Hong Kong law she could
stay for 14 more days after the termination of her contract.

But this time, her agency gave her $8,000 which was
supposed to cover everything that was due her, including her unpaid salary, one
month’s salary in lieu of notice, and return air ticket.

Nothing was mentioned about the expenses she incurred
fending for herself after her employer refused to take her back in after her
medical diagnosis, so she decided to go back to the OWWA office to ask if these
could be included in the settlement.

While conferring with her, Welfare Officer Dina
Daquigan called up the agency owner and turned on the speakerphone mode, so the
three other people in the same room all heard the man on the other line go mad,
calling Febe “crazy” a couple of times, insisting he was never shown any
receipts for the worker’s hospital bills and hostel payments.

When Daquigan asked about Febe’s claim that she was
not given food while she was in the agency’s shelter, the man got even angrier,
saying she was provided soup at each meal.

After several minutes of this tirade, Daquigan who
kept an even tone throughout, cut the converstation.

Undeterred, the agency owner then called up Febe, apparently
not caring that his angry outburst could be heard by everyone in the room.
After again insisting on not getting the receipts which Febe said were left
with his secretary, the agency owner shouted “F–g b–ch” at Febe, then hung

The worker who was left shaken by the unprovoked
tirade, then sought help from Assistant Labor Attache Angelica Sunga whose office
was next door, and relayed everything that happened. ALA Sunga decided to take immediate
action, and promised Febe that if the agency did not respond to her claim
satisfactorily, all their pending transactions with the Migrant Workers Office
would be put on hold.

Following this, Febe said she got word that she would be
given about $1,600 more to cover the costs of her medical treatment and other
expenses, so she agreed to get on tonight’s flight. 

But while relieved that her
21-day nightmare had ended, she remains worried about what the future holds, especially
after being told that she will need constant medical surveillance, and will probably
have to take medicine for the rest of her life.

Before leaving, she consulted with a non-government
organization providing pro bono legal help, and was promised help in looking
into whether she had been illegally terminated, or was treated differently or
wrongly because of her ailment, in violation of the Disability Discrimination Ordinance.

There has also been a suggestion that she files a
case for unlawful dismissal against her agency in the Philippines, which under
the Labour Code, could be held jointly liable with the overseas employer in cases
of this nature.

The fight is not over for Febe, but for now, all she
wants is to forget her harrowing experience in the past three weeks, and just
bask in the warmth of her family’s loving care.

Those who wish to help Febe pay for her future medical bills may  make a direct bank transfer to her Hang Seng bank account,  761 132 836 668, or through the QR code above. 


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