Supreme Court’s Ruling on Dismissal of Teacher Found Pregnant out of Marriage

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Pregnancy of a school teacher out of marriage is not a ground for ending her employment in the absence of evidence that her sexual relations and following pregnancy were disgraceful or immoral, the Supreme Court (SC) has ruled.

The SC mention that in the determination of whether a conduct is disgraceful or immoral, “a consideration of the completeness of the conditions surrounding the conduct and an assessment of the said conditions vis-à-vis the prevailing norms of conduct, i.e., what the society generally considers moral and trustworthy, are necessary.”

With the ruling, the SC discharge the petition filed by Union School International which question the decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) that found Charley Jane Dagdag illegally dismissed from her employment.

While the settlement was issued last November and written by the now retired Associate Justice Noel G. Tijam, details of the ruling were released by the SC’s public information office (PIO) only on Friday (February 22). A version of the settlement was not immediately available.

The PIO’s case abstract stated:

“Dagdag was an elementary school teacher employed on a probationary status by Union School when she Discovered she was eight weeks and five days pregnant. She informed the school of her pregnancy and that the father of her child was marrying another woman.

“When she did not appear for work without informing Union School, she was suspended for four days for neglect of duty. She was also suspended an additional day as this was her second offense of absence without official leave.

“As Dagdag was single, the matter of being charged with gross immorality and her resignation was reviewed during a hearing by the grievance committee.

“Dagdag then agreed to resign after she was informed of the possible consequences if she will be dismissed from service as it might affect her next job application as compared to resigning.

“Dagdag filed a complaint against Union School for illegal dismissal, non-payment of salaries and benefits, moral and exemplary damages, and attorney’s fees.”

The case reached the SC on a petition filed by Union School represented by school superintendent Pastor Abraham Cho, board president Jamie Nabua, and Jennifer Mandapat. It challenged the CA decision the school is found guilty of illegally dismissing Dagdag from her employment.

Quoting from the decision, the PIO stated that the SC found that Dagdag had been constructively discharged.

“The test of constructive discharge is whether a reasonable person would have felt compelled to give up his employment/position under the situation. As competently observed by the CA, Mandapat’s act of recommending that Dagdag should directly tender her resignation, as the school may impose rougher penalties, leaving Dagdag with no choice but to stop working for Union School,” the PIO said based on the decision.

It said that the decision stated that “although there was a conduct of a grievance meeting, its decision was already predetermined as petitioners were already resolved in their decision to terminate Dagdag’s employment. This is evident by the fact that Dagdag was left with two choices—resignation or discharge and alarming her with possible revocation of her teaching license.”

It pointed out that the SC cited its previous decision which stressed that “… jurisprudence has already set the quality of morality with which an act should be gauged—it is public and secular, not religious; and more importantly, there must be considerable evidence to initiate that premarital sexual relations and pregnancy out of marriage is considered disgraceful or immoral.”

Thus, the SC concluded that “the completeness of evidence in this case does not justify the discharge of Dagdag from her employment considering that there was no legal obstruction to marry between Dagdag and the father of her child at the time of creation,” it added.

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