Job discrimination against ex-COVID patients both wrong and stupid
The story of a young woman identified with the alias A Fen is probably one of the most heatedly topics discussed online recently.
A Fen came to Shanghai from her hometown, Henan Province in central China, in late March to find a job, but had to stay in a shelter as the city went under lockdown. She was infected with COVID-19 there, and sent to a makeshift hospital.
She said she wished to find a job after the lockdown was lifted, but to her surprise, the jobs she applied for, such as vegetable sorting and parts production, all excluded applicants with a history of COVID-19 infection.
Unable to afford a hotel room in Shanghai, A Fen stayed in the Hongqiao Railway Station for nearly a month, practically living in a bathroom cubicle. After her story spread on the Internet, a leading delivery service and logistics company in the city recruited her as a sorter.
Her story finally had a happy ending, but what about others?
On Weibo, another post going viral in the recent past was about a girl complaining that her mother, who had been diagnosed with COVID and stayed in makeshift hospital during the lockdown, was laid off after the lockdown was lifted.
"My mom was a janitor for an office building," she wrote. "She was nearly 60 and was hardworking. The company compensated her a lot but she couldn't accept it. She can't find a new job either."
The post received more than 20,000 re-posts and 3,100 comments. Many readers lamented the woman's situation and called for an end to such phenomena.
In Foshan City of Guangdong Province, the Foshan Grand Theater recently issued a provocative notice, saying that people with a history of COVID-19 infection would not be welcomed. The theater soon apologized and withdrew the notice, but the psychological damage had been done.
Earlier this week, Shanghai government warned that no recruitment discrimination against COVID-19 patients would be allowed.
While I whole-heartedly welcome the warning remarks, we may well ask what caused the discrimination in the first place?
An express service company was recruiting couriers recently, and its director told me that he was indeed somehow concerned with applicants who had a COVID-19 infection history.
"Some patients tested positive again after they recovered," he said. "We're taking risks, you know. If they infect other employees, our business may be closed down for a while."
His thoughts, though perhaps immature, were representative to a certain extent. On the one hand, many people are still not well-informed about coronavirus; on the other hand, some firms are indeed faced with the pressure of pandemic control.
We studied the PCR samples of recovered patients who tested positive again, and didn't detect any complete viral sequences. In other words, the study discovered that coronavirus in their body was already dead, unable to infect others.Hu Bijie, director of the infectious diseases department at Shanghai's Zhongshan Hospital
Elimination of discrimination is often more difficult than expected, but progress is made through solid actions.
What we can do is to further popularize the knowledge of coronavirus. It has been proved that even though some patients test positive again shortly after their recovery, it's unlikely they will infect others.
"We studied the PCR samples of recovered patients who tested positive again, and didn't detect any complete viral sequences," said infectious disease expert Hu Bijie, with the city's Zhongshan Hospital at a press conference in April.
"In other words, the study discovered that coronavirus in their body was already dead, unable to infect others."
Meanwhile, a detailed guidance could be given to enterprises, including but not limited to: responsibilities enterprises must take regarding epidemic prevention; what enterprises should do if their employees are infected; and what support enterprises can get if they are faced with difficulties, such as having to be closed down again.
New rules should be drawn to regulate employers' recruiting practices.
"According to current law, employers are allowed to ask about the medical history of an applicant, but patients who have recovered from COVID-19 should never be discriminated against, because now they're healthy," said Wang Haiyang, a lawyer with Jingyun Law Firm. "Besides, if one has joined an enterprise, the employers don't have any right to nullify his or her employment contract because of their medical records."
A few days after the city government issued the warning remarks against discrimination in employment against those with a history of COVID-19 infection, I checked various recruiting platforms again, and this time I didn't find any COVID-19-related requirements in those ads.
Apparently changes have been made, and I believe we're working our way to a fairer society.