My brother was a long-time employee of a paint company. During their annual check-up, the company’s doctor found out that he had a lung problem and certified him as not fit to work. Because of this, he was given until this year to work and he will be terminated thereafter. My brother claims that nothing is wrong with his health. Can his employer legally terminate him over alleged findings of a sickness? Please give us the necessary advice. Thank you!
According to the Labor Code of the Philippines, an employee’s disease can be a ground for the termination of his employment (Art. 284). Not just any kind of disease, however, can justify such termination. The law states:
SECTION 8. Disease as a ground for dismissal. — Where the employee suffers from a disease and his continued employment is prohibited by law or prejudicial to his health or to the health of his co-employees, the employer shall not terminate his employment unless there is a certification by competent public health authority that the disease is of such nature of at such a stage that it cannot be cured within a period of six (6) months even with proper medical treatment. If the disease or ailment can be cured within the period, the employer shall not terminate the employee but shall ask the employee to take a leave of absence. The employer shall reinstate such employee to his former position immediately upon the restoration of his normal health (Sec. 8, Rule II, Book Vi, Implementing Rules of the Labor Code).
This means that for an employee to be terminated on the ground of his disease, the disease must be: a) of such nature that his continued employment is considered prohibited by law; or b) prejudicial to himself or to the other employees; and that c) it cannot be cured within a period of six months even with proper medical attention.
Furthermore, the law states that should the disease be curable within six months, the employee should be asked to take a leave of absence instead of terminating his employment. And that the employee is subject to reinstatement after his recovery from his disease.
Aside from these, the law also requires that a competent public health authority certify the aforementioned nature of the employee’s disease. This requirement of a certification from a public health authority is important for your brother because you mentioned that the basis of his termination is the finding of the company’s own doctor.
According to a jurisprudence, a company’s own doctor is not the competent public authority intended and required by law to issue the necessary medical certification of an employee (Cebu Royal Plant vs. Deputy Minister of Labor, G.R. No. 58639, 12 August 1987, penned by the late Associate Justice Isagani Cruz).
Because of this, your brother’s employer did not comply with the requirements of the law in the proper termination of an employee on the ground of his disease. As a result, your brother may legally contest his termination from his work because of the absence of the necessary certification from a competent public health authority.
In conclusion, while the employer can legally terminate an employee on the ground of the latter’s disease, it is necessary that the serious nature of the employee’s disease be certified by a competent public health authority, not just any kind of physician. Failure to comply with the aforementioned requirements of the Labor Code will make the termination illegal.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org