This article tackles the legality of dismissing an employee by reason of the fact that she got pregnant out of wedlock. I guess this discussion benefits not only the employees but also the employers.
The Supreme Court decided three cases, all involving employee dismissals on the ground of pregnancy out of wedlock.
First Case: Dismissal of a Pregnant School Employee of a Catholic Educational Institution
The first case was Cheryll Leus vs. St. Scholastica’s Colger Westgrove and/or Quiambao, G.R. No. 187226, 28 January 2015, where an employee of a catholic educational institution challenges her dismissal by reason of being pregnant out of wedlock and the Supreme Court had this to say, to wit:
“xxxThe fact of the petitioner’s pregnancy out of wedlock, without more, is not enough to characterize the petitioner’s 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.
Thus, 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-à-vis the prevailing norms of conduct, i.e., what the society generally considers moral and respectable.
That the petitioner was employed by a Catholic educational institution 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 petitioner’s pregnancy out of wedlock is considered disgraceful or immoral in accordance with the prevailing norms of conduct.
Accordingly, when the law speaks of immoral or, necessarily, disgraceful conduct, it pertains to public and secular morality; it refers to those conducts which are proscribed because they are detrimental to conditions upon which depend the existence and progress of human society.
The petitioner’s pregnancy out of wedlock is not a disgraceful or immoral conduct since she and the father of her child have no impediment to marry each other.
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.” (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)
Second Case: Employee is given a choice between Marriage to Boyfriend, or Continued Suspension from Work
Another case is Christine Capin-Cadiz vs. Brent Hospital and Colleges, Inc., G.R. No. 187417, 24 February 24, 2016. In this case, Cadiz became pregnant out of wedlock, and her employer suspended her employment until such time that she marries her boyfriend in accordance with law, contrary to her choice.
It reached again the Supreme Court, which had this to say:
“Jurisprudence has already set the standard of morality with which an act should be gauged — it is public and secular, not religious.
The fact that a particular act does not conform to the traditional moral views of a certain sectarian institution is not sufficient reason to qualify such act as immoral unless it, likewise, does not conform to public and secular standards. More importantly, there must be substantial evidence to establish that premarital sexual relations and pregnancy out of wedlock is considered disgraceful or immoral.
With particular regard to women, Republic Act No. 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women51 protects women against discrimination in all matters relating to marriage and family relations, including the right to choose freely a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent.
x x x Weighed against these safeguards, it becomes apparent that Brent’s condition is coercive, oppressive and discriminatory. There is no rhyme or reason for it. It forces Cadiz to marry for economic reasons and deprives her of the freedom to choose her status, which is a privilege that inheres in her as an intangible and inalienable right.” (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)
Third Case: Teacher Dismissed for Pregnancy Out of Wedlock
The most recent case is the case of Union School International vs. Charley Jane Dagdag, G.R. No. 234186, 21 November 21, 2018. In this case, Dagdag was employed as an Elementary School Teacher by Union School. During her employment, she found out that she was eight weeks and five days pregnant. She was charged with gross immorality in violation of the school rules and the Code of Ethics for Professional Teachers. Left with two choices — resignation or dismissal and threatening her with possible revocation of her teaching license, she decided to tender her resignation. However, she filed a case for constructive dismissal which reached the Supreme Court.
The High Court affirmed its ruling in the case of Cadiz, to wit:
“To determine whether a conduct is disgraceful or immoral, a consideration of the totality of the circumstances surrounding the conduct; and an assessment of the said circumstances vis-a-vis the prevailing norms of conduct, i.e., what the society generally considers moral and respectable, are necessary.
The totality of evidence in this case does not justify the dismissal of Dagdag from her employment considering that there was no legal impediment to marry between Dagdag and the father of her child at the time of the conception. To reiterate the ruling of this Court in Leus and Capin-Cadiz, pregnancy of a school teacher out of wedlock is not a just cause for termination of an employment absent any showing that the pre-marital sexual relations and, consequently, pregnancy out of wedlock, are indeed considered disgraceful or immoral.” (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)
And the answer is…
So to answer the question – can an employee be dismissed due to pregnancy out of wedlock? The Supreme Court has, in these three (3) cases, made the answer clear and categorical. The answer is no.
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