A journalist suffering from lung cancer cannot be unjustly dismissed from work, according to the latest jurisprudence of the Supreme Court (SC).
The ruling made by the SC 2nd Division affirmed a Court of Appeals (CA) decision that reinstated an employee of a Japanese television company whose employment was terminated in 2009 by the Japan-based firm upon learning that she was suffering from lung cancer.
In a 45-page decision dated December 3, 2014, but was released only by the High Court last week, the ruling penned by Justice Marvic Leonen junked a petition for review filed by Fuji Television Network Inc. against Arlene S. Espiritu and affirmed with modification the decision of the CA dated June 25, 2012.
The decision in Fuji v. Espiritu, promulgated on December 3, 2014, ordered that Espiritu’s back wages be computed from June 2009.
The SC 2nd Division headed by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said findings of the appellate court penned by Associate Justice Edwin Sorongon were correct in pointing out that successive renewals of Espiritu’s contract indicated the necessity and desirability of her work in the usual course of Fuji’s business, thus making her a regular employee, with the right to security of tenure.
In terminating the services of an employee because of sickness under the Labor Code, it said, two requirements must be complied with: the employee’s disease cannot be cured within six months and his “continued employment is prohibited by law or prejudicial to his health as well as to the health of his co-employees” and certification issued by a competent public health authority that even with proper medical treatment, the disease cannot be cured within six months.”
The burden of proving compliance with these requirements is on the employer, according to the court.
Non-compliance, it said, leads to the conclusion that the dismissal was illegal.
In Espiritu’s case, the SC stressed that there was no proof that would show that she was given due process, considering that she was not even given the chance to present medical certificates.
She was hired by Fuji in 2005 as a news correspondent/producer “tasked to report Philippine news to Fuji through its Manila Bureau field office.”
Her employment contract was initially for one year, but was successively renewed on a yearly basis with salary adjustment upon every renewal.
In 2009, Espiritu was diagnosed with lung cancer and upon informing Fuji, she was asked to sign a non-renewal contract where it was stipulated that her employment contract would no longer be renewed after its expiration on May 31, 2009 and that the parties release each other from liabilities and responsibilities under the employment contract.
She received $18,050 as monthly salary from March 2009-May 2009, year-end bonus, mid-year bonus and separation pay.
Arlene affixed her signature on the non-renewal contract with “U.P.” for “under protest.”
She then filed a case for illegal dismissal with the NCR (National Capital Region or Metro Manila) Arbitration Branch of the National Labor Relations Commission.