Can employees be dismissed due to marriage or pregnancy?

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

The answer is no, as a general rule, especially for women workers. There are exceptions though that are applicable to men and I shall explain them below. Women cannot be dismissed due to marriage or for getting pregnant. Both the law and public policy, as well as a long line of Supreme Court decisions strictly protect women from illegal dismissals arising from violations of these rules.

Article 134 of the Labor Code explicitly provides that “it shall be unlawful for an employer to require as a condition of employment or continuation of employment that a woman employee shall not get married, or to stipulate expressly or tacitly that upon getting, a woman employee shall be deemed resigned or separated, or to actually dismiss, discharge, discriminate or otherwise prejudice a woman employee merely by reason of her marriage.” It is thus clear that this law protects only female employees. Men can be subjected to the prohibited and declared unlawful acts under this law.

Article 135 also penalizes employers for dismissing women workers on account of pregnancy, and for refusing the return of a woman from her maternity leave. There are many Supreme Court decisions declaring illegal the termination of women who got married and those who got pregnant. These cases involved international and local airlines, as well as religious schools and organizations, that fired their female employees due to marriage and pregnancy. The court held that premarital pregnancy of female personnel is not deemed an immoral act or a disgraceful conduct, if the man has no legal impediment to marry her.

The exception applies to male employees. In one case that I decided, as arbitrator (where I was affirmed by both the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court) involved a global pharma company. I came up with a policy where new applicants for the position of med rep were required to sign an undertaking that if and when they enter into marriage with another med rep of a competitor company with a competitive product, one of the spouses should resign. The male employee agreed to it but his union objected. He did get married to a competitor's med rep. Before management could implement the policy, the union filed a case. I was chosen by both parties to be their arbitrator

I decided in favor of upholding the validity of the policy. It was not a prohibition against marriage. It was just to prevent conflict of interests, as well as to avoid any leakage of highly-sensitive pharma trade secrets and other vital and delicate business data and information. The Supreme Court, through Justice Dante Tinga, (my co-professor and dean in the UE College of law) agreed with my ruling and held that such a policy is a valid and reasonable protection for pharma companies in a very competitive industry. The court noted that such a corporate policy is generally accepted in the US and in Europe.

And so, in this country, there is no discrimination against women. But there is a discrimination against men. In the Philippines, the males are the endangered species because our legal institutions and culture are extremely protective of women, and proceed from a premise that we, men, can amply protect ourselves. Men cannot expect protection from law, much less from their mother-in-law.


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