Secular, not religious

A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - February 14, 2018 - 12:00am

In accordance with Republic Act 1052, serious misconduct such as commission of immoral or indecent acts within the company premises is a just cause for terminating employment of an employee. Among these acts of immorality are acts of lasciviousness or any act which is sinful and vulgar in nature, concubinage and bigamy. What constitutes immorality? This is the issue resolved in this case of Gladys.

Gladys is working as a human resource person of a church institution operating both a hospital and a college. She has a boyfriend Ben who is a former co-employee in the institution. In the course of their pre-marital sexual relations, Gladys became pregnant out of wedlock. When the institution found out about her pregnancy it suspended her indefinitely for serious misconduct under Article 282 (a) of the Labor Code. And when she tried to return to work, the institution refused unless she gets married to her boyfriend. The institution contended that as its human resource officer committed to developing competent and dedicated professional and providing excellent medical and other health services to the community for the glory of God and service to humanity, her getting pregnant because of pre-marital sexual relations with her boyfriend constituted a serious misconduct punishable by dismissal under the institution’s rules which likewise constituted serious misconduct under Article 282 (a) of the Labor Code.

So Gladys filed with the Labor Arbiter (LA) of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) a complaint against the institution for unfair labor practice, constructive illegal dismissal, non-payment of wages and damages with a prayer for reinstatement.

She contends among others that getting pregnant outside of wedlock is not grossly immoral especially when both partners do not have any legal impediment to marry each other; and that her suspension was not because of her relationship with Ben but because of the resulting pregnancy. Gladys also lambasts the school’s condition for her reinstatement – that she gets married to her boyfriend – which violates the stipulation against marriage under Article 136 of the Labor Code.

The school on the other hand argued that for Gladys to limit immorality only to extramarital affairs is to change the norms, beliefs, teachings and practices of the school as church institution  in the Philippines.

Both the LA and the NLRC upheld Gladys’ constructive dismissal as one attended with just cause consisting in her engaging in pre-marital sexual relation with Ben her former co-worker and boyfriend resulting in her becoming pregnant out of wedlock which is immoral  and constitutes serious misconduct under Section 282 (a) of the Labor Code and its own policy manual as well as Section 94 of the Manual of Regulations for Public Schools (MRPS) which lists “disgraceful and immoral conduct” as a cause for terminating employment.

On purely technical grounds, the Court of Appeals dismissed Gladys appeal. But the Supreme Court still took cognizance of the case and ruled that both the LA and the NLRC are wrong.

According to the SC, the standard of morality with which an act should be gauged is public and secular, not religious. It must be detrimental to conditions upon which depend the existence and progress of human society. The fact that a particular act does not conform to the traditional moral views of a sectarian institution is not sufficient reason to qualify such act as immoral unless it, likewise, does not conform to public and secular standards. Gladys did not flaunt her premarital relations with her boyfriend and it was not carried on under scandalous or disgraceful circumstances. There is no law which penalizes an unmarried mother by reason of her sexual conduct, or proscribes the consensual sexual activity between two unmarried persons; neither does such a situation contravenes any fundamental state policy enshrined in the Constitution. Premarital sexual relations between two consenting adults who have no impediment to marry each other and consequently conceiving a child out of wedlock, gauged from a purely public and secular view of morality, does not amount to a disgraceful and immoral conduct under Section 94 (e) of the MRPS relied upon by the school. So Gladys was really dismissed without just cause and the school should pay her back-wages and separation pay as well as attorney’s fees (Christine Joy Capin-Cadiz vs, Brent Hospital and Colleges Inc., G.R. 187417 Feb. 24, 2016)

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Email: attyjosesison@gmail.com.

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