Supreme Court Decision Allowing Weight as a Work Qualification
The Supreme Court answered this question in the case of Armando Yrasuegui vs. Philippine Airlines, Inc., G.R. No. 168081, 17 October 2008.
Yrasuegui was an international flight steward who was dismissed because of his failure to adhere to the weight standards of the airline company, Philippine Airlines, Inc. He challenged his dismissal before the courts but the Supreme Court upheld the legality of his dismissal.
The Court said that obesity can be a ground for dismissal under Article 282(e) of the Labor Code, viz:
“A reading of the weight standards of PAL would lead to no other conclusion than that they constitute a continuing qualification of an employee in order to keep the job. Tersely put, an employee may be dismissed the moment he is unable to comply with his ideal weight as prescribed by the weight standards. The dismissal of the employee would thus fall under Article 282(e) of the Labor Code. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)
Weight is a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification
It was also in this case where the High Court discussed about bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ), to wit:
“Employment in particular jobs may not be limited to persons of a particular sex, religion, or national origin unless the employer can show that sex, religion, or national origin is an actual qualification for performing the job. The qualification is called a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ).”
The Constitution, the Labor Code, and RA No. 7277 or the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons contain provisions similar to BFOQ.
Supreme Court Tests to Determine Validity of Employment Policy
In British Columbia Public Service Employee Commission (BSPSERC) v. The British Columbia Government and Service Employee’s Union (BCGSEU), the Supreme Court of Canada adopted the so-called “Meiorin Test” in determining whether an employment policy is justified. Under this test, (1) the employer must show that it adopted the standard for a purpose rationally connected to the performance of the job; (2) the employer must establish that the standard is reasonably necessary to the accomplishment of that work-related purpose; and (3) the employer must establish that the standard is reasonably necessary in order to accomplish the legitimate work-related purpose.
In Star Paper Corporation v. Simbol, G.R. NO. 164774, 12 April 2006, the High Court held that in order to justify a BFOQ, the employer must prove that:
(1) the employment qualification is reasonably related to the essential operation of the job involved; and
(2) that there is factual basis for believing that all or substantially all persons meeting the qualification would be unable to properly perform the duties of the job.
In short, the test of reasonableness of the company policy is used because it is parallel to BFOQ. BFOQ is valid “provided it reflects an inherent quality reasonably necessary for satisfactory job performance.”
In Duncan Association of Detailman-PTGWTO v. Glaxo Wellcome Philippines, Inc., G.R. No. 162994, 17 September 2004t, the Court did not hesitate to pass upon the validity of a company policy which prohibits its employees from marrying employees of a rival company. It was held that the company policy is reasonable considering that its purpose is the protection of the interests of the company against possible competitor infiltration on its trade secrets and procedures.
In Capin-Cadiz vs. Brent Hospital and Colleges, Inc., G.R. No. 187417, 24 February 2016, the Court reiterated the two factors necessary to justify bona fide occupational qualification, to wit:
“While a marriage or no-marriage qualification may be justified as a “bona fide occupational qualification,” Brent must prove two factors necessitating its imposition, viz.:
(1) that the employment qualification is reasonably related to the essential operation of the job involved; and
(2) that there is a factual basis for believing that all or substantially all persons meeting the qualification would be unable to properly perform the duties of the job.” (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)
Company Justified in Imposing Weight as Occupational Qualification
Now we go back to the flight attendant case in Yrasuegui vs. Philippine Airlines, Inc., the Court ratiocinated the dismissal of Yrasegui based on the following reasons, to wit:
“The business of PAL is air transportation. As such, it has committed itself to safely transport its passengers. In order to achieve this, it must necessarily rely on its employees, most particularly the cabin flight deck crew who are on board the aircraft. The weight standards of PAL should be viewed as imposing strict norms of discipline upon its employees.
The biggest problem with an overweight cabin attendant is the possibility of impeding passengers from evacuating the aircraft, should the occasion call for it. The job of a cabin attendant during emergencies is to speedily get the passengers out of the aircraft safely. Being overweight necessarily impedes mobility. Indeed, in an emergency situation, seconds are what cabin attendants are dealing with, not minutes. Three lost seconds can translate into three lost lives. Evacuation might slow down just because a wide-bodied cabin attendant is blocking the narrow aisles. These possibilities are not remote.” (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)
Yrasegui stands five feet and eight inches (5’8″) with a large body frame. The proper weight for a man of his height and body structure is from 147 to 166 pounds, the ideal weight being 166 pounds, as mandated by the Cabin and Crew Administration Manual of PAL. He was overweight at 215 pounds, which is 49 pounds beyond the limit.
All told, PAL was justified in dismissing him from employment according to the Supreme Court.
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