Zaida R. Inocente vs. St. Vincent Foundation for Children and Aging, Inc.
G.R. No. 202621, June 22, 2016
Definition of immorality
Immorality pertains to a course of conduct that offends the morals of the community.25 It connotes conduct or acts that are willful, flagrant or shameless, and that shows indifference to the moral standards of the upright and respectable members of the community.
Concept of immorality
Conducts described as immoral or disgraceful refer to those acts that plainly contradict accepted standards of right and wrong behavior; they are prohibited because they are detrimental to the conditions on which depend the existence and progress of human society.
Factors that determine whether a particular conduct is immoral
In other words, it is the totality of the circumstances surrounding the conduct per se as viewed in relation with the conduct generally accepted by society as respectable or moral, which determines whether the conduct is disgraceful or immoral.29 The determination of whether a particular conduct is immoral involves: (1) a consideration of the totality of the circumstances surrounding the conduct; and (2) an assessment of these circumstances in the light of the prevailing norms of conduct, i.e., what the society generally considers moral and respectable,30 and of the applicable laws.
Secular and not religious standards as basis for dismissal due to immorality
In determining whether the acts complained of constitute “disgraceful and immoral” behavior under the Civil Service Laws, the distinction between public and secular morality on the one hand, and religious morality, on the other hand, should be kept in mind. This distinction as expressed – albeit not exclusively – in the law, on the one hand, and religious morality, on the other, is important because the jurisdiction of the Court extends only to public and secular morality.
In every dismissal situation, the employer bears the burden of proving the existence of just or authorized cause for the dismissal and the observance of due process requirements. This rule implements the security of tenure of the Constitution by imposing the burden of proof on employers in termination of employment situations.22 The failure on the part of the employer to discharge this burden renders the dismissal invalid.
Mere private sexual relations between two unmarried and consenting adults does not warrant disciplinary action
mere private sexual relations between two unmarried and consenting adults, even if the relations result in pregnancy or miscarriage out of wedlock and without more, are not enough to warrant liability for illicit behavior. The voluntary intimacy between two unmarried adults, where both are not under any impediment to marry, where no deceit exists, and which was done in complete privacy, is neither criminal nor so unprincipled as to warrant disciplinary action.
Two requisites of valid dismissal (in general); Absence or presence of just or authorized cause is the more crucial
Of these two requisites for a valid dismissal, the presence or absence of just or authorized cause is the more crucial.
Absence of just or authorized automatically renders dismissal illegal
The absence of a valid cause automatically renders any dismissal action invalid, regardless of the employer’s observance of the procedural due process requirements.
To discourage does not mean prohibition in employer policy
he CFCA employees who direct or coordinate the work of others are only “strongly discouraged from engaging in consensual romantic or sexual relationships with any employee or volunteer of CFCA.”It does not prohibit them, (either absolutely or with qualifications) from engaging in consensual romantic or sexual relationships. To discourage means “to deprive of courage or confidence: dishearten, deject; to attempt to dissuade from action: dampen or lessen the boldness or zeal of for some action.”35To prohibit, on the other hand, means “to forbid by authority or command: enjoin, interdict; to prevent from doing or accomplishing something: effectively stop; to make impossible: disbar, hinder, preclude.
While “to discourage” and “to prohibit” are essentially similar in that both seek to achieve similar ends, i.e., the non-happening or non-accomplishment of an event or act, they are still significantly different in degree and in terms of their effect and impact in the realm of labor relations laws. The former – “to discourage” – may lead the actor i.e., the employee, to disfavor, disapprobation, or some other unpleasant consequences, but the actor/employee may still nonetheless do or perform the “discouraged” act.
If the actor/employee does or performs the “discouraged” act, the employee may not be subjected to any punishment or disciplinary action as he or she does not violate any rule, policy, or law. In contrast, “to prohibit” will certainly subject the actor/employee to punishment or disciplinary action if the actor/employee does or performs the prohibited act as he or she violates a rule, policy or law.
Guidelines for the application of loss of confidence
In Vitarich Corp. v. NLRC,41we laid out the guidelines for the application of the doctrine of loss of confidence, namely: (1) the loss of confidence should not be simulated; (2) it should not be used as a subterfuge for causes which are improper, illegal or unjustified; (3) it should not be arbitrarily asserted in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary; and (4) it must be genuine, not a mere afterthought to justify earlier action taken in bad faith.42 In short, there must be an actual breach of duty which must be established by substantial evidence.43We reiterated these guidelines in Nokom v. National Labor Relations Commission,44 Fujitsu Computer Products Corp. of the Phils. v. Court of Appeals,45 Lopez v. Keppel Bank Philippines, Inc,46 citing Nokom, and Lima Land, Inc., et al. v. Cuevas.
Specification of acts allegedly commited
As pointed out above, St. Vincent did not specify in what manner and to what extent Zaida unduly influenced her co-workers and subordinates for hers and Marlon’s benefit with regard to the charge of committing acts against persons. For the charge of “exert[ing] undue influence” to have validly supported Zaida’s dismissal, it should have been supported by a narration of the specific act/s she allegedly committed by which she unduly influenced her co-worker and subordinates, of the dates when these act/s were committed, and of the names of the co-workers and/or subordinates affected by her alleged actions. The specification of these facts and matters is necessary in order to fully apprise her of all of the charges against her and enable her to present evidence in her defense. St. Vincent’s failure to make this crucial specification in the notice to explain and in the termination letter clearly deprived Zaida of due process.