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MERU, Immanuel Anthony E.

Women, Children, and the Law


Del Monte Philippines, Inc. vs. Velasco (517 SCRA 511)
Facts:
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Lolita Velasco was employed by Del Monte on 21-Oct-76, as a seasonal employee,


and was regularized on 1-May-77. She was assigned as Field Laborer.
During her employment, she incurred various periods of absences, and was given
written warnings regarding absences without permission. Subsequently, her leaves
for the year 90-91 were forfeited.
From 90-91, she also incurred absences without permission. She incurred more such
absences from 91-92.
Velasco received a notice of hearing regarding her alleged absences without
permission and those considered excessive, for violation of the Absences without
Official Leave rule. Particularly, a hearing was set regarding her absences for Aug 1518, 29-13, and Sept. 1-10, 1994. Said hearing was set on 23-Sep-94, and was
subsequently reset for 30-Sept, and finally on 5-Oct-94, due to her failing to appear
on those dates.
Del Monte terminated her employment on 10-Jan-95.
Feeling aggrieved, she filed a case for illegal dismissal, asserting that she was
suffering from a pregnancy-borne urinary tract infection, which was the reason for
her alleged absences. She retorted that she had applied for leave to Prima Ybanez,
her supervisor, for the dates 15-18 Aug., and went to the company hospital for
checkup, and was advised to rest in quarters for four dates, on 27-30 Aug. She was
advised a further 2 days of rest when she failed to report for work on 1-Sept., and
rested in quarters on 2-3 Sept. She consulted an outside doctor, who advised her to
rest further from 5-9 Sept. She also failed to report to work on 10-Sept. but filed an
application for leave for the same date, but was not anymore accepted. She declared,
though, that an application that a medical certificate, as per company policy, was
sufficient.
The Labor Arbiter, on 13-Apr-98, dismissed the complaint for lack of merit, stating
that she was an incorrigible absentee, that she failed to file leaves of absence, and
that she was not able to justify her failure to appear during the scheduled hearings,
and failed to explain her absences.
The NLRC however, on 29-May-99, reversed the decision, declaring that she was
indeed illegally dismissed. It held that as per company rules, employees may make a
subsequent justification of her absenteeism, which Velasco was able to do. Petitioner
Del Monte also admitted the fact that respondent had been pregnant, negating any
assertion that she failed to give any explanation to her absences. Del Monte also
admitted that it has received hospital records showing the cause of her absences. It
also admitted that Velasco was under RIQ advice, but insisted in including these
dates as part of her unexplained absences. The NLRC also held that for a plain
laborer with unsophisticated judgment, it was sufficient notice for her to send word
to her employer through a co-worker. Finally, it held that Del Monte was guilty of
unlawfully discharging Velasco on account of her pregnancy, under Art. 137(2) of the
Labor Code.
CA upheld the NLRCs decision.

Issue/s: Whether or not Lolita Velasco was illegally terminated.

Del Monte argues that Velasco only offered evidence for some of the dates, making
her guilty of ten unjustified absences.
Following the ruling in Filflex vs NLRC, if the Med. Cert. fails to refer to a specific
period of the employees absence, then such absences are not supported by
competent proof, and considered unjustified.
Respondents string of absences, taken together with her history of absenteeism
without permission, established gross and habitual neglect of duties. Hence, she was
not dismissed due to her pregnancy, but due to such gross and habitual neglect of
duties.
Her pregnancy could not excuse her from filing prior notice for absence.

Ruling: Her dismissal was illegal as per the Labor Code provisions on discharge of
employees on account of pregnancy.
(1) The Filflex case cannot be applied since the illness involved in that case chronic
asthmatic bronchitis is different from Velascos case, which is pregnancy and
related illnesses. Such pregnancy-related illness is a continuing condition, and due to
the nature of such illness, it can be safely assumed that the absences that are not
covered by the dates stated in the Discharge Summary and Med. Cert. are also
covered due to the continuing condition, and are considered justified absences.
Petitioner Del Monte cannot also consider those absences as unjustified when it
admitted that she was pregnant during the days she actually failed to report for work.
(2) Petitioner Del Monte stresses that many women go through pregnancy yet manage to
submit prior notices to their employer. However, under petitioners company rules,
absences may be subsequently justified, and upheld the NLRC and CAs ruling that
respondent Velasco was indeed able to justify her absences in accordance to
company rules and policy. The fact of pregnancy and related illnesses were duly
proven through substantial evidence, and that she attempted to file leaves of
absences but the supervisor Ybanez refused to receive them, and that she could not
have filed prior leaves due to her continuing condition.
(3) Petitioner Del Monte cannot rely on respondent Velascos long history of
unauthorized absences committed several years prior to create a pattern of
absenteeism and habitual disregard of company rules to justify the dismissal. Since
her last string of absences were justified, petitioner had no legal basis in considering
these absences together with her prior infractions.