SC: Company was right to fire worker over lewd online chat

SC: Company was right to fire worker over lewd online chat

/ 05:38 AM February 11, 2024

Engaging in lewd conversations with coworkers using the office online chatroom during work hours and sending company information to a personal email address in violation of company policies amount to serious misconduct.

Thus, they are a reasonable ground for an employee’s termination, according to the Supreme Court.

In a 16-page decision, the high court’s Second Division dismissed the certiorari petition filed by a former employee of JP Morgan Chase Bank N.A.-Philippine Global Service Center challenging the Court of Appeal’s (CA) 2020 decision and 2021 resolution that affirmed his dismissal.


“His own admission of participating and using the company chatroom in uttering indecent words about female colleagues and sending out company information to his personal email address amount to willful transgression of the company’s guidelines on workplace behavior,” the Supreme Court said in a decision penned by Senior Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.



The high court cited Article 297 of the Labor Code which indicates that an employer may terminate its employee for serious misconduct or “willful disobedience” of policies.

It explained that the misconduct must be serious or “of such grave and aggravated character,” related to the performance of an employee’s duties, and showed that the employee had become unfit to continue working for the employer.

The case dates back to May 2014 when the employee was accused of using his company’s private chatroom “to talk about agents, supervisors and other colleagues using indecent, profane and disrespectful language with other employees.”

READ: SC affirms company liability in sexual harassment case

He admitted responding “hahaha” and “up down up down left right left right” to lewd remarks about female colleagues, female and male genitalia, and the act of sexual intercourse in the chatroom but denied using profane and abusive language.

The petitioner, who was hired in 2008 as a customer service representative under the company’s human resources department, likewise admitted that he had access to employee information and sent emails to his personal email address.


Labor arbitration

Five months later, after a series of administrative proceedings, he received a notice that the company had decided to terminate his employment for violating the guidelines on workplace behavior.

He then filed a complaint for illegal dismissal with a prayer for separation pay, in lieu of reinstatement, backwages, damages and attorney’s fees against JP Morgan Chase in 2018.

The labor arbiter ruled that the employee was illegally dismissed and ordered the company to pay him a total of P1.92 million.

The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) denied the motion for reconsideration filed by the company and upheld the labor arbiter’s decision, saying that the “penalty of dismissal is too harsh” and not commensurate with the offense committed.

Reversed by CA

However, the CA decided to reverse the decision of the NLRC because JP Morgan Chase “validly dismissed him after sufficiently establishing the lawful grounds.”

In particular, the appellate court said it was established that the employee took part in an obscene conversation with coworkers using company resources during office hours and that he sent an official communication by his manager to his email address without authorization and justification.

According to the Supreme Court, the employee’s admission that he forwarded company information to his personal email address was a “deliberate violation” of the company rules, which presumes that all office emails are confidential.

“Here, [the] petitioner had been an employee of the Human Resources Department for more than six years, and thus, he was expected to be fully aware of the company rules,” the Supreme Court said.

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“His transgressions patently relate to the performance of his duties as part of the human resources department, expected as he was to exhibit good conduct. His acts rendered him unfit to continue working for [the] respondent,” it said, adding that he was validly terminated for a just cause for committing serious misconduct.

TAGS: Company, lewd, Supreme Court

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