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PT&T vs.

NLRC
272 SCRA 596

FACTS: Saudi Arabia Airlines vs Rebesencio

PT&T (Philippine Telegraph & Telephone Company) initially hired Being a flight attendant in an international airline company has its
Grace de Guzman specifically as “Supernumerary Project Worker”, for perks. Just imagine, your work office is high up in the air at 41,000
a fixed period from November 21, 1990 until April 20, 1991 as reliever feet above ground. But just like any work place, discrimination is still
for C.F. Tenorio who went on maternity leave. She was again invited present in this occupation. In a previous post, we tackled a labor issue
for employment as replacement of Erlina F. Dizon who went on leave concerning the dismissal of an employee by reason of pregnancy. This
on 2 periods, from June 10, 1991 to July 1, 1991 and July 19, 1991 to 2015 case tackles on discrimination of women in the airline industry.
August 8, 1991.
The Facts of the Case.
On September 2, 1991, de Guzman was again asked to join PT&T as a
probationary employee where probationary period will cover 150 In this case, Respondents (complainants before the Labor Arbiter)
days. She indicated in the portion of the job application form under were recruited and hired by Saudia as Temporary Flight Attendants
civil status that she was single although she had contracted marriage with the accreditation and approval of the Philippine Overseas
a few months earlier. When petitioner learned later about the Employment Administration. After undergoing seminars required by
marriage, its branch supervisor, Delia M. Oficial, sent de Guzman a the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration for deployment
memorandum requiring her to explain the discrepancy. Included in overseas, as well as training modules offered by Saudia (e.g., initial
the memorandum, was a reminder about the company’s policy of not flight attendant/training course and transition training), and after
accepting married women for employment. She was dismissed from working as Temporary Flight Attendants, respondents became
the company effective January 29, 1992. Labor Arbiter handed down Permanent Flight Attendants. They then entered into Cabin
decision on November 23, 1993 declaring that petitioner illegally Attendant contracts with Saudia: Ma. Jopette M. Rebesencio (Ma.
dismissed De Guzman, who had already gained the status of a regular Jopette) on May 16, 1990; Montassah B. Sacar-Adiong (Montassah)
employee. Furthermore, it was apparent that she had been and Rouen Ruth A. Cristobal (Rouen Ruth) on May 22, 1993; and
discriminated on account of her having contracted marriage in Loraine Schneider-Cruz (Loraine) on August 27, 1995.
violation of company policies.
Respondents continued their employment with Saudia until they
ISSUE: Whether the alleged concealment of civil status can be were separated from service on various dates in 2006. Respondents
grounds to terminate the services of an employee. contended that the termination of their employment was illegal. They
alleged that the termination was made solely because they were
HELD: pregnant.

Article 136 of the Labor Code, one of the protective laws for women, Saudia anchored its disapproval of respondents’ maternity leaves and
explicitly prohibits discrimination merely by reason of marriage of a demand for their resignation on its “Unified Employment Contract for
female employee. It is recognized that company is free to regulate Female Cabin Attendants” (Unified Contract). Under the Unified
manpower and employment from hiring to firing, according to their Contract, the employment of a Flight Attendant who becomes
discretion and best business judgment, except in those cases of pregnant is rendered void. It provides:
unlawful discrimination or those provided by law.
(H) Due to the essential nature of the Air Hostess functions to be
PT&T’s policy of not accepting or disqualifying from work any woman physically fit on board to provide various services required in normal
worker who contracts marriage is afoul of the right against or emergency cases on both domestic/international flights beside her
discrimination provided to all women workers by our labor laws and role in maintaining continuous safety and security of passengers, and
by our Constitution. The record discloses clearly that de Guzman’s since she will not be able to maintain the required medical fitness
ties with PT&T were dissolved principally because of the company’s while at work in case of pregnancy, accordingly, if the Air Hostess
policy that married women are not qualified for employment in the becomes pregnant at any time during the term of this contract, this
company, and not merely because of her supposed acts of dishonesty. shall render her employment contract as void and she will be
terminated due to lack of medical fitness.(Emphasis supplied)
The government abhors any stipulation or policy in the nature
adopted by PT&T. As stated in the labor code: On November 8, 2007, respondents filed a Complaint against Saudia
and its officers for illegal dismissal and for underpayment of salary,
“ART. 136. Stipulation against marriage. — It shall be unlawful for an overtime pay, premium pay for holiday, rest day, premium, service
employer to require as a condition of employment or continuation of incentive leave pay, 13th month pay, separation pay, night shift
employment that a woman shall not get married, or to stipulate differentials, medical expense reimbursements, retirement benefits,
expressly or tacitly that upon getting married, a woman employee illegal deduction, lay-over expense and allowances, moral and
shall be deemed resigned or separated, or to actually dismiss, exemplary damages, and attorney’s fees.
discharge, discriminate or otherwise prejudice a woman employee
merely by reason of marriage.” The issue to be resolved in the instant case is whether or not there
was an illegal dismissal of the respondents?
The policy of PT&T is in derogation of the provisions stated in Art.136
of the Labor Code on the right of a woman to be free from any kind The Supreme Court's Decision.
of stipulation against marriage in connection with her employment Yes, the respondents were illegally dismissed.
and it likewise is contrary to good morals and public policy, depriving
a woman of her freedom to choose her status, a privilege that is The initial issue here was whether or not the Philippine courts have
inherent in an individual as an intangible and inalienable right. The jurisdiction over the case. Petitioner Saudia states that the Philippine
kind of policy followed by PT&T strikes at the very essence, ideals and courts have no jurisdiction and that the law that should be applied in
purpose of marriage as an inviolable social institution and ultimately, the instant case is Saudi Arabia law. The Court stated that this is
family as the foundation of the nation. Such policy must be prohibited incorrect. The Court has jurisdiction in this case.
in all its indirect, disguised or dissembled forms as discriminatory
conduct derogatory of the laws of the land not only for order but also The Court stated in the case;
imperatively required. 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
1
conveniens, like the rules of forum shopping, litis pendentia, and res (2) Separation pay computed from the respective dates in which each
judicata, is a means of addressing the problem of parallel litigation. of the respondents commenced employment until the finality of this
While the rules of forum shopping, litis pendentia, and res judicata Decision at the rate of one ( 1) month's salary for every year of service,
are designed to address the problem of parallel litigation within a with a fraction of a year of at least six ( 6) months being counted as
single jurisdiction, forum non conveniens is a means devised to one ( 1) whole year;
address parallel litigation arising in multiple jurisdictions. (3) Moral damages in the amount of Pl00,000.00 per respondent;
(4) Exemplary damages in th~ amount of P200,000.00 per
On the matter of pleading forum non conveniens, we state the rule, respondent; and
thus: Forum non conveniens must not only be clearly pleaded as a (5) Attorney's fees equivalent to 10% of the total award. Interest of
ground for dismissal; it must be pleaded as such at the earliest 6% per annum shall likewise be imposed on the total judgment award
possible opportunity. Otherwise, it shall be deemed waived. from the finality of this Decision until full satisfaction thereof.

It further stated: This. case is REMANDED. to the Labor Arbiter to make a detailed
Forum non conveniens finds no application and does not operate to computation of the amounts due to respondents which petitioner
divest Philippine tribunals of jurisdiction and to require the Saudi Arabian Airlines should pay without delay.
application of foreign law. Saudia invokes forum non conveniens to
supposedly effectuate the stipulations of the Cabin Attendant Cheryll Leus vs St. Scholastica's College Westgrove
contracts that require the application of the laws of Saudi Arabia.
Dismissing an Employee on the Ground of Pregnancy Out of Wedlock
xxx – Valid or Not?

So informed and animated, we emphasize the glaringly discriminatory May an employer dismiss an employee on the ground that the latter
nature of Saudia’s policy. As argued by respondents, Saudia’s policy got pregnant out of wedlock? What if the employer is a strict Catholic
entails the termination of employment of flight attendants who school that imposes strict religious regulations, will this alone validate
become pregnant. At the risk of stating the obvious, pregnancy is an the dismissal made to the erring employee?
occurrence that pertains specifically to women. Saudia’s policy
excludes from and restricts employment on the basis of no other This situation has been raised many times before the Supreme Court,
consideration but sex. including this 2015 case concerning a well known Catholic school for
girls.
We do not lose sight of the reality that pregnancy does present
physical limitations that may render difficult the performance of In this case entitled Cheryll Leus vs St. Scholastica's College
functions associated with being a flight attendant. Nevertheless, it Westgrove, Cheryll Santos Leus was hired by St. Scholastica’s College
would be the height of iniquity to view pregnancy as a disability so Westgrove (SSCW) as an Assistant to SSCW’s Director of the Lay
permanent and immutable that it must entail the termination of one’s Apostolate and Community Outreach Directorate on May 2001.
employment. It is clear to us that any individual, regardless of gender, Sometime in 2003, the petitioner and her boyfriend conceived a child
may be subject to exigencies that limit the performance of functions. out of wedlock. When SSCW learned of the petitioner’s pregnancy, Sr.
However, we fail to appreciate how pregnancy could be such an Edna Quiambao (Sr. Quiambao), SSCW’s Directress, advised her to file
impairing occurrence that it leaves no other recourse but the a resignation letter effective June 1, 2003. In response, the petitioner
complete termination of the means through which a woman earns a informed Sr. Quiambao that she would not resign from her
living. employment just because she got pregnant without the benefit of
marriage.
Oddly enough, the petitioner Saudia themselves stated that the Saudi
law does not allow the termination of employment of women who On May 28, 2003, Sr. Quiambao formally directed the petitioner to
take maternity leaves; explain in writing why she should not be dismissed for engaging in
pre-marital sexual relations and getting pregnant as a result thereof,
Consistent with lex loci intentionis, to the extent that it is proper and which amounts to serious misconduct and conduct unbecoming of an
practicable (i.e., “to make an intelligent decision”), Philippine employee of a Catholic school.
tribunals may apply the foreign law selected by the parties. In fact,
(albeit without meaning to make a pronouncement on the accuracy Cheryll replied stating that her pregnancy outside of wedlock does not
and reliability of respondents’ citation) in this case, respondents amount to serious misconduct. She thereafter requested a copy of
themselves have made averments as to the laws of Saudi Arabia. In SSCW’s policy so that she can better respond to the charge against
their Comment, respondents write: her. SSCW did not a have these guidelines as the guidelines handbook
was currently pending of its promulgation. It instead stated that they
Under the Labor Laws of Saudi Arabia and the Philippines[,] it is illegal follow the 1992 Manual of Regulations for Private School (1992
and unlawful to terminate the employment of any woman by virtue MRPS), specifically, Sec.94, which cites “disgraceful or immoral
of pregnancy. The law in Saudi Arabia is even more harsh and strict conduct" as a ground for dismissal, in addition to the just causes for
[sic] in that no employer can terminate the employment of a female termination of employment under Art.282, Labor Code.
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 The Labor Arbiter in Quezon City decided in favor of SSCW, stating
quoted as follows: “An employer may not terminate the employment that Cheryll being pregnant out of wedlock is considered “disgraceful
of a female worker or give her a warning of the same while on and immoral conduct” taking into account that she was employed in
maternity leave.” (Article 155, Labor Law of the Kingdom of Saudi a Catholic institution which expect its employees to live up to the
Arabia, Royal Decree No. M/51.) Catholic values it teaches to the students. The NLRC affirmed the
decision of the Labor Arbiter.
The Court then decided:
WHEREFORE, with the MODIFICATIONS that first, petitioner Brenda J. The question now raised before the Supreme Court is this – is Cheryll’s
Betia is not solidarily liable with petitioner Saudi Arabian Airlines, and pregnancy out of wedlock constitutes a valid ground to terminate her
second, that petitioner Saudi Arabian Airlines is liable for moral and employment?
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 The Ruling of the Supreme Court.
are hereby AFFIRMED in all other respects. Accordingly, petitioner
Saudi Arabian Airlines is ordered to pay respondents: The Supreme Court held that Cheryll was illegally dismissed by her
( 1) Full backwages and all other benefits computed from the employer. Her pregnancy out of wedlock does not constitute a valid
respective dates in which each of the respondents were illegally ground to terminate her employment.
terminated until the finality of this Decision;

2
Disgraceful conduct is viewed in two ways, the “public and secular
view” and “religious view”. Our laws concern the first view.
Disgraceful conduct per se will not amount to violation of the law –
the conduct must affect or poses a danger to the conditions of
society, for example, the sanctity of marriage, right to privacy and the
like.

The Court cited Estrada vs. Escritur in the said case, stating the
following relevant explanation;

(1) if the father of the child is himself unmarried, the woman is not
ordinarily administratively liable for disgraceful and immoral conduct.
It may be a not-so-ideal situation and may cause complications for
both mother and child but it does not give cause for administrative
sanction. There is no law which penalizes an unmarried mother under
those circumstances by reason of her sexual conduct or proscribes the
consensual sexual activity between two unmarried persons. Neither
does the situation contravene any fundamental state policy as
expressed in the Constitution, a document that accommodates
various belief systems irrespective of dogmatic origins.

(2) if the father of the child born out of wedlock is himself married
to a woman other than the mother, then there is a cause for
administrative sanction against either the father or the mother. In
such a case, 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. Accordingly, judicial
employees have been sanctioned for their dalliances with married
persons or for their own betrayals of the marital vow of fidelity. In this
case, it was not disputed that, like respondent, the father of her child
was unmarried. Therefore, respondent cannot be held liable for
disgraceful and immoral conduct simply because she gave birth to the
child Christian Jeon out of wedlock.

Furthermore, there was no substantial evidence to prove that


Cheryll’s pregnancy out of wedlock caused grave scandal to SSCW and
its students. Mere allegation of such will not render a judgment in
favor of the one making the allegation. It is the burden of the
employer to prove by substantial evidence that the termination of the
employment of the employee was made and failure to discharge that
duty would mean that the dismissal is not justified and therefore
illegal.

The Court ordered SSCW to reinstate Cheryll. But because this is not
possible anymore due to constrained relations with SSCW, the Court
ordered the employer to pay Cheryll separation pay, full backwages
and attorney’s fees.

The Supreme Court decided:


WHEREFORE, in consideration of the foregoing disquisitions, the
petition is GRANTED. The Decision dated September 24, 2008 and
Resolution dated March 2, 2009 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP
No. 100188 are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The respondent, St.
Scholastica’s College Westgrove, is hereby declared guilty of illegal
dismissal and is hereby ORDERED to pay the petitioner, Cheryll Santos
Leus, the following:
(a) separation pay in lieu of actual reinstatement equivalent to one
(1) month pay for every year of service, with a fraction of at least six
(6) months considered as one (1) whole year from the time of her
dismissal up to the finality of this Decision;
(b) full backwages from the time of her illegal dismissal up to the
finality of this Decision; and
(c) attorney’s fees equivalent to ten percent (10%) of the total
monetary award. The monetary awards herein granted shall earn
legal interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum from the date
of the finality of this Decision until fully paid. The case is REMANDED
to the Labor Arbiter for the computation of petitioner’s monetary
awards.

Did you encounter a similar situation in the above case with your
employer? Let us know through the comments section below. We
would like to hear from you.