Dismissal of Employment Due to Pregnancy Out of Wedlock | Security Of Tenure

The Supreme Court (SC) has ruled that the dismissal of an employee of a Catholic school on the grounds of premarital sexual relations and...

The Supreme Court (SC) has ruled that the dismissal of an employee of a Catholic school on the grounds of premarital sexual relations and pregnancy out of wedlock was illegal.
In a 23-page decision (G.R. 187226) promulgated on February 17, 2015, the third division of the high court struck down the decision of St. Scholastica’s College-Westgrove (SSCW) in Silang, Cavite to dismiss Cheryll Santos Leus for “disgraceful or immoral conduct” in violation of the school’s 1992 Manual of Regulations for Private Schools (MRPS).
The high tribunal underscored the distinction between religious morality and public morality. 

“When the law refers to morality, it necessarily pertains to public and secular morality and not religious morality... (In) order for a conduct to be considered as disgraceful or immoral, it must be ‘detrimental (or dangerous) to those conditions which depend (on) the existence and progress of human society’ and not because the conduct is proscribed by the beliefs of one religion or the other,” read the ruling penned by Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes.
 “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 decision states.
It also categorically states that “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.”
As to the school’s allegation that Leus’ pregnancy caused grave scandal, the SC ruled that the evidence adduced failed to prove that her conduct adversely affected SSCW’s integrity in teaching its moral doctrines.

The SC likewise emphasized that the right of an employee to security of tenure is constitutionally protected, and a regular employee may not be dismissed unless for cause under the Labor Code and other laws.
"SSCW, as employer, undeniably has the right to discipline its employees and, if need 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 decision said.
DISCLAIMER: The author is not lawyer nor an authority on this topic. It is a product of humble research and study of law. It should not be used as sole basis in filing a case, instead, consult your lawyer for proper legal advice.

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