I have a sexual relationship with my co-worker who happened to be a married woman. This was discovered by her husband, who filed a complaint with our employer. The employer conducted an investigation and uncovered a CCTV recording where my female co-worker and I were seen kissing during working hours inside one of the rooms of the company. This resulted in our dismissal from work for serious misconduct. My question is, does the company/employer have the authority to intervene in our private life? Is it not that a relationship is a private matter that is beyond the reach of the employer?
Article 282 (a) of Presidential Decree (PD) 443, as amended, states that “an employer may terminate an employment for any of the following causes:
“(a) Serious misconduct or willful disobedience by the employee of the lawful orders of his employer or representative in connection with his work.
In Imasen Philippine Manufacturing Corporation vs. Alcon and Papa (G.R. No. 194884, October 22, 2014), Supreme Court Associate Justice Arturo Brion defined and expounded on misconduct as:
“Misconduct is defined as an improper or wrong conduct. It is a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, willful in character, and implies wrongful intent and not mere error in judgment. To constitute a valid cause for the dismissal within the text and meaning of Article 282 of the Labor Code, the employee’s misconduct must be serious, i.e., of such grave and aggravated character, not merely trivial or unimportant. Additionally, the misconduct must be related to the performance of the employee’s duties showing him to be unfit to continue working for the employer.
“Further, and equally important and required, the act or conduct must have been performed with wrongful intent. To summarize, for misconduct or improper behavior to be a just cause for dismissal, the following elements must concur: (a) the misconduct must be serious; (b) it must relate to the performance of the employee’s duties showing that the employee has become unfit to continue working for the employer; and (c) it must have been performed with wrongful intent.”
In your situation, what has been penalized by your employer is your misconduct committed while working, not your private affairs, unless there is a company policy that is strictly regulating such subject. In that case, the company can dismiss you and your co-worker because you violated the company’s established policy, not because of your personal affairs. The employer can regulate the manner or means on how the work should be done, including the disciplining of employees.
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.