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Supreme Court upholds employee’s dismissal over lewd remarks

Daphne Galvez - The Philippine Star
Supreme Court upholds employee�s dismissal over lewd remarks
In a 16-page decision promulgated on Nov. 13 last year, the SC’s Second Division upheld the ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) that affirmed Janssen Perez’s dismissal for serious misconduct that violated the policies of his employer JP Morgan Chase Bank N.A.- Philippine Global Service Center.
Philstar.com / EC Toledo

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court (SC) has upheld the validity of the dismissal of an employee who used a company chat group to participate in lewd remarks about female colleagues during work hours as well as sending company information to his personal email address.

In a 16-page decision promulgated on Nov. 13 last year, the SC’s Second Division upheld the ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) that affirmed Janssen Perez’s dismissal for serious misconduct that violated the policies of his employer JP Morgan Chase Bank N.A.- Philippine Global Service Center.

Based on court records, in October 2014, following an investigation, Perez, who had been working as a customer service representative under JP Morgan Chase for six years, was dismissed for violating the company’s guidelines on workplace behavior.

Perez had been accused of using “indecent, profane, disrespectful language” with other employees to talk about their colleagues, agents, and supervisors while using an office chat room.

He had admitted to responding “hahaha” and “up down up down left right left right” in the private chat room but denied using profane and abusive language.

Perez had likewise admitted to having access to employee information and having sent emails to his personal email address, but denied sending any confidential company information.

In March 2018, he filed a complaint for illegal dismissal and sought separation pay instead of reinstatement, back wages, damages and attorney’s fees against JP Morgan Chase.

In July the same year, a labor arbiter found Perez to have been illegally dismissed and ordered JP Morgan Chase to pay Perez nearly P2 million in separation pay, back wages and attorney’s fees.

The labor arbiter ruled that since the chatroom snapshots were edited, the deplorable statements could not be imputed to Perez.

There was also no basis, he said, to determine if the contents of the emails Perez forwarded were confidential and proprietary information of JP Morgan Chase.

However, the labor arbiter admitted that the terms used in the chatroom conversation “appeal to the prurient thoughts of the participants as the words introduced exemplify abrasive sexual demeanor” deserving dismissal.

This was affirmed by the National Labor Relations Commission, prompting JP Morgan to bring the case to the CA.

In October 2020, the appellate court reversed the rulings of the NLRC, which it found to have ignored the evidence on record, resulting in gross misapprehension of facts.

The CA said JP Morgan Chase validly dismissed Perez since he clearly participated in lewd conversation with coworkers using company resources during office work hours and he sent an official communication by his manager to his personal email address, without any authorization and justification.

This prompted Perez to elevate the case to the SC.

In resolving the case, the SC said Perez failed to convince the court of the need to review the factual findings of the CA.

The SC also noted that Perez’s admissions of responding to lewd remarks as well as forwarding company information to his personal email address “bolster the correctness” of the CA ruling.

The SC noted that it is within the employer’s prerogative to “discipline its employees, impose appropriate penalties on their infractions pursuant to company rules, and may not be compelled to continue employing persons whose continuance in the service will be inimical to its interests.”

The decision was penned by SC Senior Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.

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