Hundreds of thousands of dollars have so far been donated to the cause of a Filipino domestic worker in Hong Kong who recently found both her life and livelihood in jeopardy after she was fired for being diagnosed with stage III cervical cancer.
The worker, Baby Jane Allas, 38, was first diagnosed in January, according to Jessica Cutrera Papadopoulos, who employs Allas’ sister and who created a page for her on the donation site GoGetFunding. Even the diagnosis was an ordeal, Papadopoulos wrote on the site, as Allas’ employers were “unwilling” to give her time off to visit a doctor.
However, the diagnosis wasn’t the only shock Allas was to receive: less than a month later she received a letter from her employer unceremoniously terminating her.
The letter stated: “Reason for termination (if any): Diagnosed with cervical cancer.”
“Given your medical conditions, I am no longer able to continue your employment effective from 19 February 2019,” it continues, before adding, unconvincingly, “Wish you good health.”
When Allas refused to sign the release letter her employer presented, they allegedly confiscated her copy of her contract, her medical receipts, and her referral letter from Tuen Mun Hospital. The confiscation of the letter ended up resulting in the week-long delay of a crucial MRI needed to begin chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
“Given the advanced stage of her cancer every delay is costly,” her GoGetFunding page reads. “Her doctors here have stressed she needs to start care immediately and receive continuous care to have the best chance of it working.”
Indeed, cervical cancer survival rates decline precipitously as the stage of the disease advances. The survival rate for “localized” cervical cancer — generally stage I — is around 90 percent, according to the American Cancer Society. Survival rates fall to just 56 percent for “regionalized” cervical cancers, generally stages II, III and IVA.
Stage IVB, characterized by the disease’s spread to “distant” tissues, such as the bones or lungs, has a survival rate of just 17 percent.
The South China Morning Post reports that Allas has filed complaints the Labour Department, claiming she was unlawfully fired while on paid sick leave, and to the Equal Opportunities Commission, noting that it is illegal to discriminate against someone with a disability.
Her employer has claimed she wasn’t fired while on sick leave, as the termination took effect the day after her leave period was scheduled to end.
Her complaint to the Labour Department also includes several allegations of violations on the part of her employer, including failing to provide her the weekly day off to which she was entitled. Papadopoulos also claims Allas’ food was rationed down to the slice of bread.
Before her diagnosis, she said, “Baby Jane did not wish to pursue claims against her employer – she simply wanted to continue her hard work and finish her contract in Hong Kong so that she had a chance of moving to a new employer [who] would treat her better.”
Since Allas is no longer employed, not only is she required to leave Hong Kong, she has also lost access to the free health care domestic workers are entitled to. What’s more, because of her diagnosis, she is not legally allowed to accept a new employment contract.
Papadopoulos says Allas is now staying with her, and her family has begun to pay for her care. Allas’ GoGetFunding page is seeking HK$650,000 (about US$83,000) to fund her treatment and to support her children back home. A subsequent update posted to the page says that an initial quote for the full cost of her treatment was over HK$1 million.
So far, the page has raised more than HK$243,000, and a further HK$23,500 has been raised offline.
Donors, meanwhile, have chimed in with messages of support — as well as condemnations of her employers’ behavior.
“Thanks for helping her and I hope she can get better,” said one. “Some employers should really be jailed for improper treatment.”