• Mental illness can be cause for termination

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    Persida Acosta

    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    My uncle used to work in a call center company, but he was terminated from his job due to his mental illness. We know he suffered a form of depression when his wife passed away, but our family really never talked about it. He said that he received a notice of termination after the results from his psychiatric evaluations came out declaring him no longer competent to do his work and deal with his workmates.

    Can the company really do that to him? He is not contagious or anything, so we really do not see any reason why he should be terminated. Will he receive anything, a separation pay of sorts? We hope to hear from you soon.
    Just14

    Dear Just14,
    Our Labor Code recognizes the right of employers to terminate the services of its employees so long as substantive and procedural due process are complied with, that is, the basis for such termination is one of the just or authorized causes mentioned under the law and adequate notice of termination is given to the employee concerned.

    For instance, the disease of an employee serves as an authorized cause for his termination (Article 284, Labor Code of the Philippines). Nevertheless, it is essential that the following circumstances concur in order for the employer to validly terminate such employment: (1) The employee is found to be suffering from a disease; (2) His continued employment is prohibited by law or prejudicial to his health or to the health of his co-employees; and (3) There is a certification by competent public health authority that the disease is of such nature or at such a stage that it cannot be cured within a period of six months even with proper medical treatment. If the disease can be cured within the six-month period, the employer must not terminate the employee but instead ask him to take a leave of absence. The employee shall be reinstated to his former position immediately upon the restoration of his normal health (Section 8, Rule I, Book Six, Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Labor Code).

    It bears stressing that Article 284 of the said code as well as its Implementing Rules and Regulations does not particularly state that this ground for termination is merely applicable to physical disease. Even mental diseases are covered therein, as long as the foregoing elements/circumstances are present.

    Accordingly, your uncle’s employment may be terminated by his employer, on the substantive aspect of it, if his mental illness is indeed prejudicial to his health or to the health of his workmates, that it cannot be cured within a period of six months even with proper medical treatment, and such findings are certified by competent public health authority. As to the aspect of procedural due process, he must be given two notices prior to his termination: first notice is to inform him of the ground for which his dismissal is being sought, and second notice is informing him of the final decision as to his dismissal. In the case of Deofiro vs. Intel (G.R. No. 202996, June 18, 2014), the Supreme Court reiterated, “x x x that the employer must furnish the employee two written notices in terminations due to disease, namely: (1) the notice to apprise the employee of the ground for which his dismissal is sought; and (2) the notice informing the employee of his dismissal, to be issued after the employee has been given reasonable opportunity to answer and to be heard on his defense. These rulings reinforce the State policy of protecting the workers from being terminated without cause and without affording them the opportunity to explain their side of the controversy. x x x”

    Should the following tenets be complied with, your uncle must respect the decision of his employer as to his termination. This notwithstanding, he is entitled to receive separation pay that is equivalent to at least one month salary or to one-half month salary for every year of service, whichever is greater, a fraction of at least six months is being considered as one whole year. (Article 284, Ibid.)

    We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

    Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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