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A schools strict moral standards do not necessarily justify the dismissal of an employee.
In this case, the petitioner was hired by a Catholic school as part of its non-teaching
personnel. She engaged in pre-marital sexual relations and got pregnant. When the
school discovered the pregnancy, the Directress advised her to resign. She refused. The
Directress then directed her to explain why she should not be dismissed for engaging in
pre-marital sexual relations and getting pregnant as a result thereof, which amounts to
serious misconduct and conduct unbecoming of an employee of a Catholic school.
In response, she explained that her pregnancy out of wedlock does not amount to
serious misconduct or conduct unbecoming of an employee. She stated that she was
not aware of any policy that this constituted serious misconduct and, thus, a ground for
dismissal. She asked for a copy of the schools policy and guidelines.
The Directress informed her that the school follows the 1992 Manual of Regulations for
Private Schools (1992 MRPS); that Section 94(e) of the 1992 MRPS cites disgraceful or
immoral conduct as a ground for dismissal in addition to the just causes for termination
of employment provided under Article 282 of the Labor Code.
She responded, through counsel, that pre-marital sex between two consenting adults
without legal impediment to marry each other who later on married each other does not
fall within the contemplation of disgraceful or immoral conduct and serious
misconduct of the Manual of Regulations for Private Schools and the Labor Code of the
Philippines. They argued that petitioner being a bad example to the students was
speculative and is more imaginary than real.
The school, now also through counsel, maintained that pre-marital sexual relations,
even if between two consenting adults without legal impediment to marry, is
considered a disgraceful and immoral conduct or a serious misconduct xxx.
And that the school has the right to uphold the teaching of the Catholic Church xxx.
They further asserted that the petitioners indiscretion is further aggravated by the fact
that she is the Assistant to the Director of the Lay Apostolate and Community Outreach
Directorate, a position of responsibility that the students look up to as role model. She
was asked to explain why she should not be dismissed.
The petitioner advised the school that she was adopting her counsels letter as her
written explanation. She was thereafter terminated by the school on the ground of
serious misconduct, stating that pre-marital sexual relations between two consenting
adults with no impediment to marry, even if they subsequently married, amounts to
immoral conduct.
Petitioner filed a complaint for illegal dismissal with the NLRC which was dismissed, with
the Labor Arbiter and the Commission ruling against her. This was likewise upheld by the
Court of Appeals.
The need for proof that pre-marital sex and
pregnancy out of wedlock are disgraceful or immoral

RULING: The Supreme Court overturned the decision of the CA. However, it did uphold
the validity of the 1992 MRPS, specifically Section 94 as having been validly issued by
the Secretary of Education pursuant to BP 232.
The Court then focused on the validity of the dismissal which hinges on the
determination of whether pregnancy out of wedlock by an employee of a catholic
educational institution is a cause for the termination of her employment. But
the Court resolved this from a strictly neutral and secular point of view the relationship
between SSCW as employer and the petitioner as an employee, the causes provided for
by law in the termination of such relationship, and the evidence on record.
Her dismissal was based on pre-marital sexual relations and, consequently, pregnancy
out of wedlock. This was to be assessed as to whether the same constitutes a valid
ground for dismissal pursuant to Section 94(e) of the 1992 MRPS which provides that:
Sec. 94. Causes of Terminating Employment In addition to the just causes enumerated
in the Labor Code, the employment of school personnel, including faculty, may be
terminated for any of the following causes:
e. Disgraceful or immoral conduct;
x x x x
The Court found no substantial evidence to support the previous conclusion
arrived at by the labor tribunals that she engaged in disgraceful and immoral
conduct. Without more, pregnancy out of wedlock is not enough to characterize the
petitioners conduct as disgraceful or immoral. There must be substantial evidence to
establish that pre-marital sexual relations and, consequently, pregnancy out of wedlock,
are indeed considered disgraceful or immoral.
Determining disgraceful and
immoral conduct
The Court held that the determination of whether a conduct is disgraceful or immoral
involves a two-step process: first, a consideration of the totality of the circumstances
surrounding the conduct; and second, an assessment of the said circumstances vis-vis the prevailing norms of conduct, i.e., what the society generally considers moral and
respectable. It further stated that her employment by a Catholic school per se does
not absolutely determine whether her pregnancy out of wedlock is disgraceful or
immoral. There is still a necessity to determine whether the petitioners pregnancy out of
wedlock is considered disgraceful or immoral in accordance with the prevailing norms of
Interestingly, the Court made a distinction between public and secular morality versus
religious morality. The distinction is important because the jurisdiction of the Court
extends only to public and secular morality. As cited by the Court:
The morality referred to in the law is public and necessarily secular, not
religious x x x. Religious teachings as expressed in public debate may influence the civil
public order but public moral disputes may be resolved only on grounds articulable in
secular terms. Otherwise, if government relies upon religious beliefs in
formulating public policies and morals, the resulting policies and morals would

require conformity to what some might regard as religious programs or

agenda. xxx Succinctly put, a law could be religious or Kantian or Aquinian or
utilitarian in its deepest roots, but it must have an articulable and discernible
secular purpose and justification to pass scrutiny of the religion clauses. x x x.
Extramarital relations with between unmarried persons
is not disgraceful and immoral
Under these tests, two things may be concluded from the fact that an unmarried woman
gives birth out of wedlock with respect to administrative cases: (i) if the father of the
child is single, then the woman is not ordinarily liable for disgraceful and immoral
conduct and (ii) if the father is married to someone else, then, then there is a
cause for administrative sanction against either of them. The disgraceful and
immoral conduct consists of having extramarital relations with a married
person. The sanctity of marriage is constitutionally recognized and likewise affirmed by
our statutes as a special contract of permanent union.
When the law refers to morality it is public
and secular morality, not religious morality
The Court, applying those doctrines to the case, stated that that the right of an
employee to security of tenure is protected by the Constitution. Perfunctorily, a regular
employee may not be dismissed unless for cause provided under the Labor Code and
other relevant laws, in this case, the 1992 MRPS. As stated above, when the law refers to
morality, it necessarily pertains to public and secular morality and not religious morality.
Thus, the proscription against disgraceful or immoral conduct under Section 94(e) of
the 1992 MRPS, which is made as a cause for dismissal, must necessarily refer to public
and secular morality. Accordingly, in order for a conduct to be considered as disgraceful
or immoral, it must be detrimental (or dangerous) to those conditions upon which
depend the existence and progress of human society and not because the conduct is
proscribed by the beliefs of one religion or the other.
The Court did not find any circumstance xxx to conclude that the petitioner
committed a disgraceful or immoral conduct. It bears stressing that the petitioner and
her boyfriend, at the time they conceived a child, had no legal impediment to marry.
Indeed, even prior to her dismissal, the petitioner married her boyfriend, the father of
her child. As the Court has previously held, 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; that neither does such situation contravene any
fundamental state policy enshrined in the Constitution.
Her conduct viewed against the prevailing norms of conduct, xxx cannot be
considered as disgraceful or immoral; 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. To stress, pre-marital 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 or immoral conduct under Section
94(e) of the 1992 MRPS.

Contrary to the labor tribunals declarations, the Court also found that the school failed
to adduce substantial evidence to prove that the petitioner conduct caused grave
scandal to the school and its students. Since she was only a non-teaching personnel;
her interaction with the students is minimal.
In termination cases, the burden of proving that the dismissal of the employees was for
a valid and authorized cause rests on the employer. However, there was no valid
ground for dismissal as her conduct is not considered by law as disgraceful or immoral.
As admitted, the school at the time did not have any policy or rule against an employee
who engages in pre-marital sexual relations and conceives a child as a result
thereof. With no basis in law or in its policy and rules, the dismissal was despotic and
arbitrary and, thus, not a valid exercise of management prerogative. The Court
awarded her separation pay, in lieu of actual reinstatement, full backwages and
attorneys fees, but not to moral and exemplary damages.
The moral of the story appears to be that even for a Catholic school, secular and not
religious standards will prevail. This highlights another separation, not of Church and
State, but between Church and Court, at least when it comes to norms of conduct.

Being a flight attendant in an international airline company has its perks. Just imagine, your work office is
high up in the air at 41,000 feet above ground. But just like any work place, discrimination is still present
in this occupation. In a previous post, we tackled a labor issue concerning the dismissal of an employee by
reason of pregnancy. This 2015 case tackles on discrimination of women in the airline industry.

The Facts of the Case.

In this case, Respondents (complainants before the Labor Arbiter) were recruited and hired by Saudia as
Temporary Flight Attendants with the accreditation and approval of the Philippine Overseas Employment
Administration. After undergoing seminars required by the Philippine Overseas Employment
Administration for deployment overseas, as well as training modules offered by Saudia (e.g., initial flight
attendant/training course and transition training), and after working as Temporary Flight Attendants,
respondents became Permanent Flight Attendants. They then entered into Cabin Attendant contracts with
Saudia: Ma. Jopette M. Rebesencio (Ma. Jopette) on May 16, 1990; Montassah B. Sacar-Adiong
(Montassah) and Rouen Ruth A. Cristobal (Rouen Ruth) on May 22, 1993; and Loraine Schneider-Cruz
(Loraine) on August 27, 1995.
Respondents continued their employment with Saudia until they were separated from service on various
dates in 2006. Respondents contended that the termination of their employment was illegal. They alleged
that the termination was made solely because they were pregnant.
Saudia anchored its disapproval of respondents maternity leaves and demand for their resignation on its
Unified Employment Contract for Female Cabin Attendants (Unified Contract). Under the Unified
Contract, the employment of a Flight Attendant who becomes pregnant is rendered void. It provides:

(H) Due to the essential nature of the Air Hostess functions to be physically fit on board to provide various
services required in normal or emergency cases on both domestic/international flights beside her role in
maintaining continuous safety and security of passengers, and since she will not be able to maintain the
required medical fitness while at work in case of pregnancy, accordingly, if the Air Hostess becomes
pregnant at any time during the term of this contract, this shall render her employment
contract as void and she will be terminated due to lack of medical fitness.(Emphasis
On November 8, 2007, respondents filed a Complaint against Saudia and its officers for illegal dismissal
and for underpayment of salary, overtime pay, premium pay for holiday, rest day, premium, service
incentive leave pay, 13th month pay, separation pay, night shift differentials, medical expense
reimbursements, retirement benefits, illegal deduction, lay-over expense and allowances, moral and
exemplary damages, and attorneys fees.
The issue to be resolved in the instant case is whether or not there was an illegal dismissal of the

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The Supreme Court's Decision.

Yes, the respondents were illegally dismissed.
The initial issue here was whether or not the Philippine courts have jurisdiction over the case. Petitioner
Saudia states that the Philippine courts have no jurisdiction and that the law that should be applied in the
instant case is Saudi Arabia law. The Court stated that this is incorrect. The Court has jurisdiction in this
The Court stated in the case;
Saudia asserts that stipulations set in the Cabin Attendant contracts require the application of the laws of
Saudi Arabia. It insists that the need to comply with these stipulations calls into operation the doctrine
of forum non conveniens and, in turn, makes it necessary for Philippine tribunals to refrain from
exercising jurisdiction. Forum non conveniens, like the rules of forum shopping, litispendentia, and res
judicata, is a means of addressing the problem of parallel litigation. While the rules of forum
shopping, litis pendentia, and res judicataare designed to address the problem of parallel litigation within

a single jurisdiction, forum non conveniens is a means devised to address parallel litigation arising in
multiple jurisdictions.
On the matter of pleading forum non conveniens, we state the rule, thus: Forum non conveniens must not
only be clearly pleaded as a ground for dismissal; it must be pleaded as such at the earliest possible
opportunity. Otherwise, it shall be deemed waived.
It further stated:
Forum non conveniens finds no application and does not operate to divest Philippine tribunals of
jurisdiction and to require the application of foreign law. Saudia invokes forum non conveniens to
supposedly effectuate the stipulations of the Cabin Attendant contracts that require the application of the
laws of Saudi Arabia.
So informed and animated, we emphasize the glaringly discriminatory nature of Saudias policy. As argued
by respondents, Saudias policy entails the termination of employment of flight attendants who become
pregnant. At the risk of stating the obvious, pregnancy is an occurrence that pertains specifically to
women. Saudias policy excludes from and restricts employment on the basis of no other consideration but
We do not lose sight of the reality that pregnancy does present physical limitations that may render
difficult the performance of functions associated with being a flight attendant. Nevertheless, it would be
the height of iniquity to view pregnancy as a disability so permanent and immutable that it must entail the
termination of ones employment. It is clear to us that any individual, regardless of gender, may be subject
to exigencies that limit the performance of functions. However, we fail to appreciate how pregnancy could
be such an impairing occurrence that it leaves no other recourse but the complete termination of the
means through which a woman earns a living.
Oddly enough, the petitioner Saudia themselves stated that the Saudi law does not allow the termination
of employment of women who take maternity leaves;
Consistent with lex loci intentionis, to the extent that it is proper and practicable (i.e., to make an
intelligent decision), Philippine tribunals may apply the foreign law selected by the parties. In fact, (albeit
without meaning to make a pronouncement on the accuracy and reliability of respondents citation) in this
case, respondents themselves have made averments as to the laws of Saudi Arabia. In their Comment,
respondents write:
Under the Labor Laws of Saudi Arabia and the Philippines[,] it is illegal and unlawful to terminate the
employment of any woman by virtue of pregnancy. The law in Saudi Arabia is even more harsh and strict
[sic] in that no employer can terminate the employment of a female worker or give her a warning of the
same while on Maternity Leave, the specific provision of Saudi Labor Laws on the matter is hereto quoted
as follows: An employer may not terminate the employment of a female worker or give her a warning of
the same while on maternity leave. (Article 155, Labor Law of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Royal Decree
No. M/51.)

The Court then decided:

WHEREFORE, with the MODIFICATIONS that first, petitioner Brenda J. Betia is not solidarily liable
with petitioner Saudi Arabian Airlines, and second, that petitioner Saudi Arabian Airlines is liable for
moral and exemplary damages. The June 16, 2011 Decision and the September 13, 2011 Resolution of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP. No. 113006 are hereby AFFIRMED in all other respects. Accordingly,
petitioner Saudi Arabian Airlines is ordered to pay respondents:
( 1) Full backwages and all other benefits computed from the respective dates in which each of the
respondents were illegally terminated until the finality of this Decision;
(2) Separation pay computed from the respective dates in which each of the respondents commenced
employment until the finality of this Decision at the rate of one ( 1) month's salary for every year of service,
with a fraction of a year of at least six ( 6) months being counted as one ( 1) whole year;
(3) Moral damages in the amount of Pl00,000.00 per respondent;
(4) Exemplary damages in th~ amount of P200,000.00 per
respondent; and
(5) Attorney's fees equivalent to 10% of the total award. Interest of 6% per annum shall likewise be
imposed on the total judgment award from the finality of this Decision until full satisfaction thereof.
This. case is REMANDED. to the Labor Arbiter to make a detailed computation of the amounts due to
respondents which petitioner Saudi Arabian Airlines should pay without delay.