Salon worker says celebrity boss fired him due to HIV
A former employee of a beauty salon chain has come out to accuse celebrity hairstylist and makeup artist Ricky Reyes of firing him because he had tested positive for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Rene Nocos, 47, filed in March last year a complaint against Reyes for discrimination, unlawful termination and nonpayment of benefits in the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).
On Wednesday, Nocos went more public about his case in a press conference held by the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) and the Associated Labor Unions (ALU).
“I have committed wrong choices in the past and suffered heavily for it. My entire family has disowned me. My friends have abandoned me. My coworkers have condemned me,’’ he said.
“Despite all these, I need my life back. But I can’t rebuild my life because I was laid off from my job just because I have HIV. I want to put the pieces back together but my employer, Ricky Reyes, denied me of my social protection through SSS (Social Security System) and PhilHealth.”
Nocos said he tried to avail himself of free outpatient HIV/AIDS treatment through PhilHealth, “but I discovered only last year that my employer was not making any payment at all. So I confronted him (Reyes). He then fired me after learning that I have HIV right there and then.”
Fired on Feb. 28, 2014, Nocos filed a complaint in the NLRC three days later against Reyes and Tonette Moreno, vice president of Ricky Superstyle Color Salon.
But in a press statement on Wednesday, Ricky Reyes Corp. gave a different version of the events leading to Nocos’ unemployment and maintained that discrimination had nothing to do with it.
“Based on our records, Nocos became ill in 2013. The company allowed him to go on sick leave, paying him his monthly salary in full. This went on for six months,’’ the company said, without specifying the illness.
Nocos later “recuperated from his sickness” and presented to the head office a medical certificate stating he was fit to work again, it recalled. “So the head office assigned him to a salon branch on España, Manila. But after some time, his illness recurred and he again went on sick leave for three months, with full payment of his salary.”
He was soon working again at the España salon but “his illness was on and off and, sad to say, the salon was not doing good… so management decided to close shop.’’
The affected employees were told to wait as management worked out their relocation to other branches. At this point, “it was best for Nocos to recuperate and have complete rest until such time we could hire him again,” the company said.
“But Nocos demanded to still have his salary in full, [a demand] which management declined. The company waited for him to report back [but] he never did.”
According to the company, the case was unprecedented in the 40-year operations of the Ricky Reyes Group Of Companies. “With the highest degree of respect for persons, we will not allow acts of discrimination, whether from the management or the rank and file.”
At the press conference, ALU policy advocacy officer Alan Tanjusay said they would request the Department of Labor and Employment to conduct an inspection and assessment of all salon outlets owned by Reyes and Moreno for compliance with labor and wage laws.
“We are appealing to the NLRC, SSS and PhilHealth to render as quickly as possible their judgment on the case filed by Rene. The justice rendered by these institutions is very important in Rene’s struggle to move on. There is no closure and there is no new beginning for him if there is injustice.’’ said ALU executive vice president Gerard Seno.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.