SC: Teacher's pregnancy out of wedlock not 'just cause' for dismissal

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 22 2019 09:59 PM

MANILA - The Supreme Court has found an international school guilty of illegally dismissing an elementary school teacher for getting pregnant out of wedlock.

In a decision made public Friday, the Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal's ruling and denied the petition filed by Union School International.

“[P]regnancy of a school teacher out of wedlock is not a just cause for termination of an employment absent any showing that the pre-marital sexual relations and, consequently, pregnancy out of wedlock, are indeed considered disgraceful or immoral," the 8-page decision penned by retired Associate Justice Noel Tijam read, as quoted by the SC's Public Information Office (PIO).

Elementary school teacher Charley Jane Dagdag was employed on probationary status when she found out she was pregnant, with the father of the child marrying another woman, the SC PIO said.

The SC also found that Dagdag was "constructively dismissed" when she agreed to resign after school officials told her that her next job application might be affected if she were dismissed.

“The test of constructive dismissal is whether a reasonable person would have felt compelled to give up his employment/position under the circumstances," the high court said.

"As aptly observed by the CA, [Jennifer] Mandapat’s act of suggesting that Dagdag should simply tender her resignation, as the school may impose harsher penalties, left Dagdag with no choice but to discontinue working for Union School.” 

Although the school held a grievance meeting, the outcome was "already predetermined as petitioners were already resolute in their decision to terminate Dagdag’s employment," the SC said.

“This is evident by the fact that Dagdag was left with two choices—resignation or dismissal and threatening her with possible revocation of her teaching license."

The SC also reiterated that jurisprudence has set the standard of morality is public and secular, not religious, as it cited its 2016 decision on Capin-Cadiz v. Brent Hospital and Colleges, Inc.

The 2016 ruling states that "there must be substantial evidence to establish that premarital sexual relations and pregnancy out of wedlock is considered disgraceful or immoral."

The high court said the totality of evidence in Dagdag's case does not justify her dismissal from employment "considering that there was no legal impediment to marry between Dagdag and the father of her child at the time of conception."