Work Place Hazards Now Include Abortion

© Lars Christensen |

A Filipina in Western Australia is sueing her former employer for forcing her to have an abortion to keep her job. She was working for the McDonald’s franchisee under a 457 Visa, which is dependent on her employer’s sponsorship for her to enter, work and remain in Australia. In other words her employer has a lot of power over her. I wonder why he needed to have two 457 Visa holders working for him, perhaps they come cheap and do as they are told more than the average citizen?

In a nutshell she alleges her employer told her to abort a pregnancy or lose her job. One presumes the costs of maternity leave were prohibitive to him. She acquiesced and claims she had the abortion to hold her job. A few months later she became pregnant again only this time she refused to abort the pregnancy. She also claims she recorded the meeting where she was told to lose the baby or lose her job.

For some archaic reason the recording may be inadmissible as the employer was unaware he was being recorded. Well, gee, don’t the cops do that all the time? Oh yeah, they get a Warrant and that makes it all ok. Yet the truth is the truth. What was said doesn’t change just because the employer was unaware of the wire, but it would have if he had been aware of it. So what, you want to  argue the recording made him do it? Huh? The fact is he allegedly said what he said and regardless of his knowledge of any recording, he said what he said.

If he did say such a thing and if he did threaten the employee with the sack and loss of visa unless she aborted her pregnancy, then he is the scum of the earth. Think of the imbalance of power in place. He holds the power of residence and employment or deportation over her. Sent back to the Philippines with no job, no fiancee and soon a baby to care for. She has no say except to accept or suffer. You hear of OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) being abused and mistreated in Middle Eastern countries but you don’t expect such exploitation in Australia.

Let us pause and look at this from the other side for a moment. One might argue the 457 Visa holder is there to work for the employer that went to the trouble and expense to sponsor them, not to get pregnant or start a new life on the employer’s dime. Basically the visa conditions must be met or else the sponsor/employer gets in trouble as well as the employee getting possibly deported. Taking more than 30 days off is, I have been advised, against the conditions of the visa. That might be over the year or the life of the visa or in one hit but it would be easy to lost 30 days due to pregnancy. Time will tell so I hope we can keep tabs on this story and report the ending.

The Filipina had her baby last year and is hoping for her day in court this September. If her story is true then I hope they throw the book at her employer. I would like to see him charged criminally for inciting to commit manslaughter or at least some version of wrongful death. While I am not a ‘Pro-Life terrorist’, shooting abortion doctors down in the street while claiming to be against killing human life, I am a realist and I do believe that women should have a choice. Not be given an ultimatum, but that they have the right to make their own choices about these things, hopefully supported unreservedly by the other 50% of the equation, the father of the child. (Keep in mind I have five daughters) An employer and their preferences simply never enter into this. If you are legally obliged to provide maternity benefits then either fulfill your obligation or select post menopausal women when recruiting.

Which is another thing. Only the most naive among us would think that there is no discrimination in job recruitment today. Just because the job ads no longer state sex, age or whatever, rest assured the HR decision maker has to base their decision on something. That means they discriminate between one candidate over another. If one is really against paying maternity benefits then hire accordingly, just don’t tell anyone how you choose who you choose. It happens all the time, everyday and everywhere and, like young women becoming pregnant, it is a fact of life.

We all have a duty of care to those in our employment. We also have a duty of care to our fellow citizens, I believe. While that doesn’t mean living their lives for them, it definitely does not include forcing them to make such monumental decisions, literally life or death choices, just to keep a job and a visa.

UPDATE: 8 July 2008. McDonalds have settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

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