I want to know the extent of the privacy rights of a kasambahay (household helper) because I want to secretly search the personal belongings of one of them. I suspect that she is taking some of my personal stuff including some expensive watches and pieces of jewelry. Our family provides them their own sleeping quarters and their own lockers. I wonder if I can legally search this household helper’s room and personal belongings without her consent to confirm if she has my missing items. Please advise me.
To answer your concern, it is important that we consider what the law has to say on the right to privacy of a kasambahay under the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act (RA) 10361, or the Domestic Workers Act or Batas Kasambahay.
According to Rule 4 Sec. 1, par. (g). of the IRR of RA 10361, the right to privacy is one of those included among the enumerated rights and privileges of a househelper. This right to privacy is guaranteed by the law and is further emphasized repeatedly in other provisions that even mention this right as among the basic ones that shall be provided to a kasambahay, to wit:
“Section 13. Board, Lodging and Medical Attendance. – The employer shall provide for the basic necessities of the kasambahay, to include the following:
b) Humane sleeping conditions that respect the person’s right to privacy for live-in arrangement; xxx
At no instance shall the employer withdraw or hold in abeyance the provisions of these basic necessities as punishment to, or disciplinary action against the kasambahay.
Section 14. Guarantee of Privacy. – The employer shall, at all times, respect the right of the kasambahay to privacy, which shall extend to all forms of communication and personal effects.” (Rule IV, Sections 13 &14, IRR of RA 10361, Emphasis supplied)
As expressly stated from these provisions, the right to privacy of household helpers is given paramount importance and is guaranteed under the law. Because of this, going to their private quarters and rummaging through their personal belongings without their consent are tantamount to violation of their right to privacy, which is penalized by law. Thus, despite your suspicion that your kasambahay took your personal belongings, this mere suspicion alone cannot justify the violation of her right to privacy expressly guaranteed by the law.
We therefore advise you that it is best that you inform and get the consent of your kasambahay with regard to your intention to check her belongings and make sure that she is present with you when you inspect her personal items to ensure that there will be no violation of her right to privacy. By doing this, you will be able to confirm whether your suspicions are true without breaking any laws.
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 email@example.com