FACTS: Grace de Guzman was initially hired by petitioner as a reliever, specifically as a “Supernumerary Project Worker,” for a fixed period from November 21, 1990 until April 20, 1991 vice one C.F. Tenorio who went on maternity leave. Under the Reliever Agreement which she signed with petitioner company, her employment was to be immediately terminated upon expiration of the agreed period. Thereafter, from June 10, 1991 to July 1, 1991, and from July 19, 1991 to August 8, 1991, private respondent’ s services as reliever were again engaged by petitioner, this time in replacement of one Erlinda F. Dizon who went on leave during both periods. After August 8, 1991, and pursuant to their Reliever Agreement, her services were terminated. LibLex
On September 2, 1991, private respondent was once more asked to join petitioner company as a probationary employee, the probationary period to cover 150 days. In the job application form that was furnished her to be filled up for the purpose, she indicated in the portion for civil status therein that she was single although she had contracted marriage a few months earlier, that is, on May 26, 1991.
It now appears that private respondent had made the same representation in the two successive reliever agreements which she signed on June 10, 1991 and July 8, 1991. When petitioner supposedly learned about the same later, its branch supervisor in Baguio City, Delia M. Oficial, sent to private respondent a memorandum dated January 15, 1992 requiring her to explain the discrepancy. In that memorandum, she was reminded about the company’s policy of not accepting married women for employment.
In her reply letter dated January 17, 1992, private respondent stated that she was not aware of PT&T’s policy regarding married women at the time, and that all along she had not deliberately hidden her true civil status. Petitioner nonetheless remained unconvinced by her explanations. Private respondent was dismissed from the company effective January 29, 1992, which she readily contested by initiating a complaint for illegal dismissal, coupled with a claim for non-payment of cost of living allowances (COLA), before the Regional Arbitration Branch of the National Labor Relations Commission in Baguio City.
At the preliminary conference conducted in connection therewith, private respondent volunteered the information, and this was incorporated in the stipulation of facts between the parties, that she had failed to remit the amount of P2,380.75 of her collections. She then executed a promissory note for that amount in favor of petitioner. All of these took place in a formal proceeding and with the agreement of the parties and/or their counsel.
On November 23, 1993, Labor Arbiter Irenarco R. Rimando handed down a decision declaring that private respondent, who had already gained the status of a regular employee, was illegally dismissed by petitioner. Her reinstatement, plus payment of the corresponding back wages and COLA, was correspondingly ordered, the labor arbiter being of the firmly expressed view that the ground relied upon by petitioner in dismissing private respondent was clearly insufficient, and that it was apparent that she had been discriminated against on account of her having contracted marriage in violation of company rules.
On appeal to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), said public respondent upheld the labor arbiter and, in its decision dated April 29, 1994, it ruled that private respondent had indeed been the subject of an unjust and unlawful discrimination by her employer, PT&T. However, the decision of the labor arbiter was modified with the qualification that Grace de Guzman deserved to be suspended for three months in view of the dishonest nature of her acts which should not be condoned. In all other respects, the NLRC affirmed the decision of the labor arbiter, including the order for the reinstatement of private respondent in her employment with PT&T.
ISSUE: WON the dismissal is valid.
HELD: NO. Decreed in the Bible itself is the universal norm that women should be regarded with love and respect but, through the ages, men have responded to that injunction with indifference, on the hubristic conceit that women constitute the inferior sex. Nowhere has that prejudice against womankind been so pervasive as in the field of labor, especially on the matter of equal employment opportunities and standards. In the Philippine setting, women have traditionally been considered as falling within the vulnerable groups or types of workers who must be safeguarded with preventive and remedial social legislation against discriminatory and exploitative practices in hiring, training, benefits, promotion and retention.
The Constitution, cognizant of the disparity in rights between men and women in almost all phases of social and political life, provides a gamut of protective provisions. To cite a few of the primordial ones, Section 14, Article II on the Declaration of Principles and State Policies, expressly recognizes the role of women in nation-building and commands the State to ensure, at all times, the fundamental equality before the law of women and men. Corollary thereto, Section 3 of Article XIII (the progenitor whereof dates back to both the 1935 and 1973 Constitution) pointedly requires the State to afford full protection to labor and to promote full employment and equality of employment opportunities for all, including an assurance of entitlement to tenurial security of all workers. Similarly, Section 14 of Article XIII mandates that the State shall protect working women through provisions for opportunities that would enable them to reach their full potential.
2. Corrective labor and social laws on gender inequality have emerged with more frequency in the years since the Labor Code was enacted on May 1, 1974 as Presidential Decree No. 442, largely due to our country’s commitment as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Principal among these laws are Republic Act No. 6727 which explicitly prohibits discrimination against women with respect to terms and conditions of employment, promotion, and training opportunities, Republic Act No. 6955 which bans the “mail-order-bride” practice for a fee and the export of female labor to countries that cannot guarantee protection to the rights of women workers; Republic Act No. 7192, also known as the “Women in Development and Nation Building Act,” which affords women equal opportunities with men to act and to enter into contracts, and for appointment, admission, training, graduation, and commissioning in all military or similar schools of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police; Republic Act No. 7322 increasing the maternity benefits granted to women in the private sector; Republic Act No. 7877 which outlaws and punishes sexual harassment in the workplace and in the education and training environment; and Republic Act No. 8042, or the “Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995,” which prescribes as a matter of policy,inter alia, the deployment of migrant workers, with emphasis on women, only in countries where their rights are secure. Likewise, it would not be amiss to point out that in the Family Code, women’s rights in the field of civil law have been greatly enhanced and expanded.
In the Labor Code, provisions governing the rights of women workers are found in Articles 130 to 138 thereof. Article 130 involves the right against particular kinds of night work while Article 132 ensures the right of women to be provided with facilities and standards which the Secretary of Labor may establish to ensure their health and safety. For purposes of labor and social legislation, a woman working in a nightclub, cocktail lounge, massage clinic, bar or other similar establishments shall be considered as an employee under Article 138. Article 135, on the other hand, recognizes a woman’ s right against discrimination with respect to terms and conditions of employment on account simply of sex. Finally, and this brings us to the issue at hand, Article 136 explicitly prohibits discrimination merely by reason of the marriage of a female employee.
In the case at bar, petitioner’s policy of not accepting or considering as disqualified from work any woman worker who contracts marriage runs afoul of the test of, and the right against, discrimination, afforded all women workers by our labor laws and by no less than the Constitution. Petitioner’s policy is not only in derogation of the provisions of Article 136 of the Labor Code on the right of a woman to be free from any kind of stipulation against marriage in connection with her employment, but it likewise assaults good morals and public policy, tending as it does to deprive a woman of the freedom to choose her status, a privilege that by all accounts inheres in the individual as an intangible and inalienable right. Hence, while it is true that the parties to a contract may establish any agreements, terms, and conditions that they may deem convenient the same should not be contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order, or public policy. Carried to its logical consequences, it may even be said that petitioner’s policy against legitimate marital bonds would encourage illicit or common-law relations and subvert the sacrament of marriage.