Pregnancy out of wedlock not grounds for dismissal, says SC
MANILA, Philippines–Pregnancy out of wedlock is not a ground for the dismissal of an employee, the Supreme Court said as it reversed the Court of Appeals decision that affirmed the dismissal of an employee of a private school on the grounds of pre-marital sexual relations and pregnancy outside of marriage.
In a 23-page decision penned by Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes, the high court’s Third Division underscored the distinction between religious morality and public morality when it found St. Scholastica’s College, Westgrove (SSCW) guilty of illegally dismissing Cheryll Santos Leus for “disgraceful or immoral conduct.
Under the school’s 1992 Manual of Regulations for Private Schools (MRPS), such conduct is a just cause for termination.
In 2009, the appeals court affirmed the decision of St. Scholastica’s decision which prompted Leus to take the case to the high court.
But the high court said even if Leus’ indiscretion is against the teachings of the Catholic Church, prevailing norms of conduct do not consider it as disgraceful or immoral.
“There is no law which penalizes an unmarried mother by reason of her sexual conduct or proscribes consensual sexual activity between two unmarried persons. Such conduct is not denounced by public and secular morality. It may be an unusual arrangement, but it certainly is not disgraceful or immoral within the contemplation of the law,” the high court said.
The high court added the right of an employee to security of tenure is protected by the constitution.
It also said that under the Labor Code, a regular employee may not be dismissed unless for cause.
“Premarital 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 or immoral conduct under Section 94 of the 1992 MRPS,” the high court said.
The high court said that the school also failed to provide evidence that Leu’s pregnancy caused grave scandal in the school.
“SSCW, as employer, undeniably has the right to discipline its employees and, if needs be, dismiss them if there is a valid cause to do so. However, as already explained, there is no cause to dismiss the petitioner. Her conduct is not considered by law as disgraceful or immoral. Further, the respondents themselves have admitted that SSCW, at the time of the controversy, does not have any policy or rule against an employee who engages in pre-marital sexual relations and conceives a child as a result thereof. There being no valid basis in law or even in SSCW’s policy and rules, SSCW’s dismissal of the petitioner is despotic and arbitrary and thus not a valid exercise of management prerogative,” the high court said.
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