SC: Pregnant women can’t be fired

Published by rudy Date posted on March 14, 2007

MANILA, Philippines — A woman cannot be fired from her job because she is pregnant, according to the Supreme Court.

In a ruling promulgated on March 6, the high court dismissed a petition of Del Monte Philippines Inc. questioning an order that the company reinstate and award back wages to an employee it had illegally terminated.

The tribunal affirmed earlier rulings by the Court of Appeals and the National Labor Relations Commission that field worker Lolita Velasco was terminated because of her pregnancy — a violation of the Labor Code — and had to be given her old job back, including back wages.

It said it was “convinced” that Del Monte had terminated Velasco “on account of her pregnancy which justified her absences and, thus, committed a prohibited act rendering the dismissal illegal.”

Velasco was fired in January 1995 for her absences in 1994.

The high court said Velasco’s absences were justified even though the dates on the medical certificates she had submitted did not correspond to the actual dates of her absences.

“It would be unreasonable to isolate such a condition strictly to the dates stated in the medical certificate or the discharge summary. It can be safely assumed that the absences that are not covered by, but which nonetheless approximate, the dates stated in the discharge summary and medical certificate, are due to the continuing condition of pregnancy and related illnesses, and, hence, are justified absences,” the tribunal said.

Del Monte’s claim that Velasco was fired because of her habitual neglect of duties was deemed unacceptable by the high court, which said it was clear that she was unable to report for work because of her pregnancy.

The tribunal said Del Monte could not “use these previous infractions to lay down a pattern of absenteeism or habitual disregard of company rules to justify” Velasco’s dismissal.

“The undeniable fact is that during her complained absences in 1994, [Velasco] was pregnant and suffered related illnesses. Again, it must be stressed that [her] discharge by reason of absences caused by her pregnancy is covered by the prohibition under the Labor Code. Since her last string of absences is justifiable and had been subsequently explained, [Del Monte] had no legal basis in considering these absences together with her prior infractions as gross and habitual neglect,” it said.

The high court also disagreed with Del Monte’s claim that Velasco’s pregnancy did not excuse her from filing prior notice for her absence.

It pointed out that under the company’s rules, absences could be subsequently justified, and upheld the earlier findings of the appellate court and the NLRC that Velasco had attempted to file leaves of absence but that her supervisor had refused to receive them.–Leila Salaverria, Inquirer

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