Cases: Serious Misconduct

1. Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is “an imposition of misplaced ‘superiority’ which is enough to dampen an employee’s spirit and her capacity for advancement. It affects her sense of judgment; it changes her life.” (Domingo v. Rayala, G.R. No. 155831, 18 February 2008)

In one case, the Supreme Court expressed in strong terms that sexual harassment is a valid cause for employee termination: “Sexual harassment abounds in all sick societies. It is reprehensible enough but more so when inflicted by those with moral ascendancy over their victims. We [the Supreme Court] rule that it is a valid cause for separation from service.” (Villarama v. Golden Donuts, G.R. No. 106341, 02 September 1994)

VILLARAMA v. GOLDEN DONUTS, INC., G.R. No. 106341, 02 September 1994

• On July 15, 1989, [the employee – a Material Manager] was charged with sexual harassment by… a clerk-typist assigned in his department. The humiliating experience compelled her to resign from work. Her letter-resignation, dated July 15, 1989, reads:



Golden Donuts, Inc.

Dear Sir:

I would like to tender my resignation from my post as Clerk Typist of Materials Department effective immediately.

It is really my regret to leave this company which has given me all the opportunity I long desired. My five (5) months stay in the company have been very gratifying professionally and financially and I would not entertain the idea of resigning except for the most shocking experience I have had in my whole life.

Last Friday, July 7, 1989, Mr. Delfin Villarama and Mr. Jess de Jesus invited all the girls of Materials Department for a dinner when in (sic) the last minute the other three (3) girls decided not to join the groupp anymore. I do (sic) not have second thought(s) in accepting their invitation for they are my colle(a)gues and I had nothing in mind that would in any manner prompt me to refuse to what appeared to me as a simple and cordial invitation. We went to a restaurant along Makati Avenue where we ate our dinner. Mr. Villarama, Mr. Olaybar and Mr. Jess de Jesus were drinking while we were eating and (they) even offered me a few drinks and when we were finished, they decided to bring me home. While on my way, I found out that Mr. Villarama was not driving the way to my house. I was wondering why we were taking the wrong way until I found out that we were entering a motel. I was really shock(ed). I did not expect that a somewhat reputable person like Mr. Villarama could do such a thing to any of his subordinates. I should have left the company without any word but I feel that I would be unfair to those who might be similarly situated. I hope that you would find time to investigate the veracity of my allegations and make each (sic) responsible for is own deed. (emphasis ours)

Thank you very much and more power.

Very respectfully yours,


• [When asked to explain by the Company President], [i]t appears that [the employee] agreed to tender his resignation. [The employer] moved swiftly to separate [the employee] …. [Subsequently, the employee changed his mind and refused to tender his resignation letter.]

• For his failure to tender his resignation, [the employee] was dismissed…

• [The employee] claims that his alleged immoral act was unsubstantiated, hence, he could not be dismissed. We hold otherwise. The records show that [the employee] was confronted with the charge against him. Initially, he voluntarily agreed to be separated from the company. He took a leave of absence preparatory to this separation. This agreement was confirmed by the letter to him by Mr. Prieto dated August 7, 1989. A few days after, [the employee] reneged on the agreement. He refused to be terminated on the ground that the seriousness of his offense would not warrant his separation from service. So he alleged in his letter to Mr. Prieto dated August 16, 1989. But even in this letter, [the employee] admitted his “error” vis-a-vis Miss Gonzaga. As a manager, [the employee] should know the evidentiary value of his admissions. Needless to stress, he cannot complain there was no valid cause for his separation.

As a managerial employee, [the employee] is bound by a more exacting work ethics. He failed to live up to this higher standard of responsibility when he succumbed to his moral perversity. And when such moral perversity is perpetrated against his subordinate, he provides justifiable ground for his dismissal for lack of trust and confidence. It is the right, nay, the duty of every employer to protect its employees from over sexed superiors. (Emphasis supplied.)

The Golden Donuts case was prior to the passage of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Law (R.A. 7877) in 1995. For sure, the said law reinforced the sexual harassment as a serious misconduct and thus can be a ground for valid dismissal subject to due process. Section 3 defines the unlawful act of sexual harassment as follows:

Sec. 3. Work, Education or Training-related Sexual Harassment Defined. – Work, education or training-related sexual harassment is committed by an employer, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer, teacher, instructor, professor, coach, trainor, or any other person who, having authority, influence or moral ascendancy over another in a work or training or education environment, demands, requests or otherwise requires any sexual favor from the other, regardless of whether the demand, request or requirement for submission is accepted by the object of said Act.

(a) In a work-related or employment environment, sexual harassment is committed when:

(1) The sexual favor is made as a condition in the hiring or in the employment, re-employment or continued employment of said individual, or in granting said individual favorable compensation, terms, conditions, promotions, or privileges; or the refusal to grant the sexual favor results in limiting, segregating or classifying the employee which in a way would discriminate, deprive or diminish employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect said employee;

(2) The above acts would impair the employee’s rights or privileges under existing labor laws; or

(3) The above acts would result in an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for the employee.

In a landmark case against the then NLRC Chairman no less, he argued that he did not make any demand, request, or requirement of a sexual favor and thus he did not commit sexual harassment. The Supreme Court did not agree and made him liable explaining that such acts can be discerned from the offender’s actions.


• It is true that this provision calls for a ‘demand, request or requirement of a sexual favor.’ But it is not necessary that the demand, request or requirement of a sexual favor be articulated in a categorical oral or written statement. It may be discerned, with equal certitude, from the acts of the offender. Holding and squeezing Domingo’s shoulders, running his fingers across her neck and tickling her ear, having inappropriate conversations with her, giving her money allegedly for school expenses with a promise of future privileges, and making statements with unmistakable sexual overtones – all these acts of Rayala resound with deafening clarity the unspoken request for a sexual favor.

2. Violation of Company Policy

Violation of a company rule prohibiting the infliction of harm or physical injury against any person under the particular circumstances provided for in the same rule may be deemed analogous to ‘serious misconduct’ stated in Art. 282 (a)” of the Labor Code. (Oania v. Philex Mining Corporation, G.R. No. 97162-64, 01 June 1995)

In Yabut v. Manila Electric Company, an employee challenged his dismissal claiming that he was not involved in the shunting of electricity into his household. While he denied participation, it was established that electricity was directed to his household resulting in the violation of the company policy. Thus:

YABUT v. MANILA ELECTRIC COMPANY,G.R. No. 190436, 16 January 2012

• The [employee’s] violation of the company rules was evident. While he denies any involvement in the installation of the shunting wires which Meralco discovered, it is significant that said SIN 708668501 is registered under his name, and its meter base is situated within the premises of his property. Said meter registered electric consumption during the time his electric service was officially disconnected by Meralco. It was the [employee] and his family who could have benefited from the illegal connection, being the residents of the area covered by the service. His claim that he failed to know or even notice the shunted wires fails to persuade as we consider the meter located in the front of his house, the nature of his work as branch field representative, his long-time employment with Meralco and his familiarity with illegal connections of this kind.

• The logical conclusion that may be deduced from these attending circumstances is that the [employee] was a party, or at the very least, one who agreed to the installation of the shunted wires, and who also benefited from the illegal connection at the expense of his employer-company…

Significantly, “(t)ampering with electric meters or metering installations of the Company or the installation of any device, with the purpose of defrauding the Company” is classified as an act of dishonesty from Meralco employees, expressly prohibited under company rules. It is reasonable that its commission is classified as a severe act of dishonesty, punishable by dismissal even on its first commission, given the nature and gravity of the offense and the fact that it is a grave wrong directed against their employer.

• In reviewing the CA’s Decision, we again consider the employee’s duties and powers as a Meralco employee. And we conclude that he committed a serious misconduct. Installation of shunting wires is without doubt a serious wrong as it demonstrates an act that is willful or deliberate, pursued solely to wrongfully obtain electric power through unlawful means. The act clearly relates to the [employee’s] performance of his duties given his position as branch field representative who is equipped with knowledge on meter operations, and who has the duty to test electric meters and handle customers’ violations of contract. Instead of protecting the company’s interest, the [employee] himself used his knowledge to illegally obtain electric power from Meralco. His involvement in this incident deems him no longer fit to continue performing his functions for the employer.

It should be noted that not all company violations would result in a serious misconduct. The standards for serious misconduct as explained earlier should be checked for compliance in order to justify dismissal of an employee.

3. Drunken behavior

Drunken behavior may be considered a serious misconduct.

In Lausa v. Negros Navigation Company, Inc., the employee – a Messman – was dismissed after he exhibited disorderly and pugnacious behavior in the course of an argument with his immediate superior, in the presence of passengers and other crewmen on board the inter-island vessel of which the employee was a crew-member.

LAUSA v. NEGROS NAVIGATION COMPANY, INC., G.R. No. 79731, 09 July 1990

• Clearly, the drunken and bellicose behavior of [the employee] constituted misconduct on his part. The critical question relates to appreciation of the gravity of such misconduct. In appraising the character of the misconduct committed by [the employee], it is important to stress that [the employer] is a public carrier, engaged in transporting passengers and cargo across our waters and seas. As a public carrier, [the employer] is, “from the nature of [its] business and for reasons of public policy”, bound to observe “extraordinary diligence” in the vigilance over the goods and for the safety of passengers transported by it. The standard of care established by the Civil Code — extraordinary diligence — is defined rigorously as a duty “to carry passengers safely as far as human care and foresight can provide, using the utmost diligence of very cautious persons, with a due regard for all the circumstances.” In the context of this duty of extraordinary diligence imposed by law upon [the employer], the drunken and disorderly and pugnacious behavior of [the employee] on board the vessel was clearly a serious matter. Such kind of behavior could easily have provoked or triggered off a brawl and mindless panic on board the vessel, and endangered the safety of passengers and crew members and, under certain conditions, the safety of the vessel itself. The fact that, in the case at bar, no violence and terror and panic actually broke out on board the M/S “Sta. Maria”, was certainly not due to [the employee]. Under these circumstances, we consider that the behavior of [the employee] is properly characterized as serious misconduct warranting his dismissal from the service. The statutory duty of Negros Navigation of extraordinary diligence would have justified, indeed required, the Chief Mate and other crew members of the ‘Sta. Maria’ to take reasonable measures to apprehend and [the employee] to ensure that no such panic and stampede resulted.

It should be emphasized that not all drunken behavior would result in serious misconduct, such as when an employee may have been intoxicated in a company party but did not cause any harm or injury.

4. Drug use in the workplace

Drug use in the premises of the employer constitutes serious misconduct. (Jose v. Michaelmar Phils., G.R. No. 169606, 27 November 2009)

In Bughaw, Jr. v. Treasure Island Industrial Corporation, the Supreme Court reiterated the rule that drug use is in the workplace is a serious misconduct that may warrant dismissal, viz:

The charge of drug use inside the company’s premises and during working hours against [the employee] constitutes serious misconduct, which is one of the just causes for termination. Misconduct is improper or wrong conduct. It is the 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 merely an error in judgment. The misconduct to be serious within the meaning of the Act must be of such a grave and aggravated character and not merely trivial or unimportant. Such misconduct, however serious, must nevertheless, in connection with the work of the employee, constitute just cause for his separation. This Court took judicial notice of scientific findings that drug abuse can damage the mental faculties of the user. It is beyond question therefore that any employee under the influence of drugs cannot possibly continue doing his duties without posing a serious threat to the lives and property of his co-workers and even his employer. (Bughaw, Jr. v. Treasure Island Industrial Corporation, G.R. No. 173151, 28 March 2008)

However, it should be emphasized that failure to follow the proper drug testing method will result in illegal dismissal as stated in Nacague v. Sulpicio Lines:

The law is clear that drug tests shall be performed only by authorized drug testing centers. In this case, [the employer] failed to prove that S.M. Lazo Clinic is an accredited drug testing center. [The employer] did not even deny [the employee’s] allegation that S.M. Lazo Clinic was not accredited. Also, only a screening test was conducted to determine if [the employee] was guilty of using illegal drugs. [The employer] did not confirm the positive result of the screening test with a confirmatory test. [The employer] failed to indubitably prove that [the employee] was guilty of using illegal drugs amounting to serious misconduct and loss of trust and confidence. [The employer] failed to clearly show that it had a valid and legal cause for terminating [the employee’s] employment. When the alleged valid cause for the termination of employment is not clearly proven, as in this case, the law considers the matter a case of illegal dismissal.” (G.R. No. 172589, 08 August 2010)

Consequently, the employer has to follow the proper procedure for drug testing.

5. Theft of company property

In Rene Foods v. Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Manggagawa (NLM) – Katipunan, an employee who was caught stealing six cans of company products was valid dismissed. “Jurisprudence has classified theft of company property as a serious misconduct and denied the award of separation pay to the erring employee.” (Rene Foods v. Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Manggagawa (NLM) – Katipunan on behalf of its member Nenita Capor, G.R. No. 164016, 15 March 2010)

In Nagkakaisang Laskas ng Manggagawa sa Keihin (NLMK-OLALIA-KMU) v. Kiehin Philippines Corporation, an employee who was dismissed after being caught stealing a packing tape challenged her dismissal. For her defense, she argued that the tape was already half used and had no great value to the company.  More importantly, she readily admitted to having such tape during the routine inspection and before the guard opened her bag. Thus, she did not have any malicious intent as it a mere error of judgment on her part. Notwithstanding, she was validly dismissed for serious misconduct. Thus:

NLMK-OLALIA-KMU v. Kiehin Philippines Corporation, G.R. No. 171115, 09 August 2010.

In the case at bar, [the employee] took the packing tape with the thought that she could use it for her own personal purposes. When [the employee] was asked to explain in writing why she took the tape, she stated, Kumuha po ako ng isang packing tape na gagamitin ko sa paglilipat ng gamit ko sa bago kong lilipatang bahay. In other words, by her own admission, there was intent on her part to benefit herself when she attempted to bring home the packing tape in question.

• It is noteworthy that prior to this incident, there had been several cases of theft and vandalism involving both respondent company’s property and personal belongings of other employees. In order to address this issue of losses, [the employer] company issued two memoranda implementing an intensive inspection procedure and reminding all employees that those who will be caught stealing and performing acts of vandalism will be dealt with in accordance with the company’s Code of Conduct. Despite these reminders, [the employee] took the packing tape and was caught during the routine inspection. All these circumstances point to the conclusion that it was not just an error of judgment on the part of [the employee], but a deliberate act of theft of company property.

The [employee] also argues that the penalty of dismissal is too harsh and disproportionate to the offense committed since the value of the thing taken is very minimal. [The employee] cite the case of Caltex Refinery Employees Association v. National Labor Relations Commission where [the complainant] was found to have willfully breached the trust and confidence reposed in him by taking a bottle of lighter fluid. In said case, we refrained from imposing the supreme penalty of dismissal since the employee had no violations in his eight years of service and the value of the lighter fluid… is very minimal compared to his salary…

• After a closer study of both cases, we are convinced that the case of Caltex is different from the case at hand. Although both Clarete [in the Caltex case] and [the employee] had no prior violations, the former had a clean record of eight years with his employer. On the other hand, Helen was not even on her second year of service with Keihin when the incident of theft occurred. And what further distinguishes the instant case from Caltex is that [the employer] company was dealing with several cases of theft, vandalism, and loss of company and employees property when the incident involving Helen transpired.

What about a theft by an employee against a co-employee? The followings section explains that such is also a serious misconduct.

6. Theft against co-employee

In Cosmos Bottling Corp. v. Fermin, it was held that theft is “considered as a case analogous to serious misconduct, for which the penalty of dismissal from service may be meted out to the erring employee.” (See Analogous Cause for related discussions.)

7. Physically assaulting a co-employee

In Ha Yuan Restaurant v. Soria, an employee who physically assaulted a co-employee was validly dismissed, viz:

“While it is true, as [the employee] contends, that the Labor Arbiter did not tag her cause of dismissal as serious misconduct, nevertheless, it is its nature, not its label that characterizes the cause as serious misconduct. There is no question as regards the incident that caused [the employee’s] dismissal. While [the employee’s] co-worker Sumalague was eating at the back of the store, [the employee] rushed toward Sumalague and hit the latter on the face causing injuries. A scuffle ensued and despite their supervisor Recides pleas, the two continued to fight, prompting Recide to call the mall security. When the two were brought to the administration office, they continued bickering and did not heed the request of the manager to stop, and thus they were brought to the Customer Relations Office. Because of the incident, the two were banned from working within the premises. The fact that Sumalague sustained injuries is a matter that cannot be taken lightly. Moreover, the incident disturbed the peace in the work place, not to mention that respondent and Sumalague committed a breach of its discipline. Clearly, [the employee] committed serious misconduct within the meaning of Art. 282 of the Labor Code, providing for the dismissal of employees.” (Ha Yuan Restaurant v. Soria, G.R. No. 147719, 27 January 2006)

While the Supreme Court has recognized that fighting within company premises may constitute serious misconduct, it also held that “not every fight within company premises in which an employee is involved would automatically warrant dismissal from service.” (Supreme Steel Pipe v. Bardaje, G.R. No. 170811, 24 April 2007)

NORTH CAMARINES LUMBER CO., INC. V. BARREDA, G.R. No. 75436, 21 August 1987

• [The employee – a supervisor – was dismissed after engaging in a boxing incident with a company security guard.]

• While conceding the employer’s basic right to regulate the conduct of its employees while inside company premises, we cannot help but notice the unusual zeal and haste displayed by [the employer] in applying the full force of its rules on Barreda. Undoubtedly, the boxing episode was completely blown out of proportion. The fisticuffs were plainly a private matter between the two employees which had no apparent deleterious effect on the substantial interests of the company. Considering Barreda’s length of service with [the employer], coupled with the attendant circumstances, the penalty of dismissal was certainly not commensurate with his alleged misconduct. We affirm his reinstatement with backwages for two years.

If employees were dismissed for their alleged involvement in a fight, “the employer must prove by substantial evidence the accusation of serious misconduct, and that in failing to discharge the burden, the employee is deemed to have been illegally dismissed.” (Supreme Steel Pipe v. Bardaje, supra.)

In Supreme Steel Pipe v. Bardaje, an employee who was provoked to a fight by the security within company premises was considered to have been illegally dismissed. Thus:

SUPREME STEEL PIPE v. BARDAJE,G.R. No. 170811, 24 April 2007

• On August 19, 1999, [the employee] reported for work at 6:45 a.m. It was a common practice among warehousemen to wear long-sleeved shirts over their uniforms to serve as protection from heat and dust while working, and on this day, [the employee] had on a green long-sleeved shirt over his uniform. Momentarily, security guard Christopher Barrios called him in a loud voice, and arrogantly ordered him to remove and turn-over to him (Barrios) the long-sleeved shirt. Insulted and feeling singled-out from the other warehousemen who were also wearing long-sleeved shirts over their uniforms, [the employee] replied: Ano ba ang gusto mo, hubarin ko o magsuntukan na lang tayo sa labas? A heated exchange of words ensued, but the brewing scuffle between the two was averted by a co-employee from the Production Division, Albert A. Bation. A security guard, Ricky Narciso, was able to keep the parties apart. Barrios reported the incident to the SSPC management.

• The next day, [the employee] received a Memorandum from petitioner SSPC stating that pending the investigation for his alleged violation of the company rule prohibiting inciting a fight, harassing, coercing, intimidating and/or threatening co-workers, he was being meted a 30-day preventive suspension beginning August 23, 1999. He was also required to submit his Answer/Comment to the incident, to which he readily complied.

• When [the employee] reported back to work a month after, he was served with a Notice dated September 8, 1999, terminating his employment effective September 23, 1999. [Employer] SSPC had taken into account the August 19, 1999 incident as well as [the employee’s] previous infractions of company rules. [Employer] SSPC declared that [the employee’s] continued employment would pose serious and imminent threat to the lives of his co-workers and to the property of the corporation and its employees.

• [The employee’s] actuations during the August 19, 1999 incident were not entirely baseless. To begin with, it is certain that the verbal tussle between him and Barrios did not start due to the alleged violent temper and tendency to violate company rules and regulations of respondent; the incident was primarily due to Barrios provoking attitude. Other than the self-serving allegation of [the employer] SSPC that Barrios politely advised [the employee] to remove his green long-sleeved shirt and to wear the company-issued uniform, no competent and credible evidence was shown to support the claim. In fact, even the handwritten statements of the three security guards, including that of Barrios himself, did not dwell on the manner by which [the employee] was instructed. On the other hand, [the employee’s] narrations, as corroborated by the duly notarized affidavit of fellow warehouseman Jury Lobitania, revealed how insulting and arrogant Barrios was. This, aside from [the employee’s] feeling that he was being singled out from other warehousemen, who were similarly-clothed while on duty, sufficiently explained why he challenged Barrios to a fight.

We agree with the Labor Arbiter’s conclusion that [the employee’s] misconduct on August 19, 1999 does not warrant the imposition of the ultimate sanction of dismissal. Undeniably, the altercation between respondent and Barrios was nipped in the bud by the timely intervention of other employees. The momentary work stoppage did not pose a threat to the safety or peace of mind of the workers. Neither did such disorderly behavior cause substantial prejudice to the business of [the employer] SSPC.

Consequently, the employer should take the above case into consideration for any fighting within the workplace – as not all forms of fight would warrant the ultimate penalty of dismissal.

a. Outside the Company Premises

In Technol Eight Philippines Corporation v. Amular, an employee was validly dismissed after mauling a co-employee – even if done outside the workplace and work time. Thus:


• The CA misappreciated the true nature of [the employee’s] involvement in the mauling incident. Although it acknowledged that [the employee] committed a misconduct, it did not consider the misconduct as work-related and reflective of [the employee’s] unfitness to continue working for [the employer]. The appellate courts benign treatment of [the employee’s] offense was based largely on its observation that the incident happened outside the company premises and after working hours; did not cause a disruption of work operations; and did not result in a hostile environment in the company. Significantly, it did not condone [the employee’s] infraction, but it considered that [the employee’s] dismissal was a harsh penalty that is disproportionate with his offense. It found support for this liberal view from the pronouncement of the Court in Almira v. B.F. Goodrich Philippines, Inc., that where a penalty less punitive would suffice, whatever missteps may be committed by labor ought not to be visited with a consequence so severe.

• The record of the case, however, gives us a different picture. Contrary to the CAs perception, we find a work-connection in [the employee’s] and Ducay’s assault on Mendoza. As the CA itself noted, the underlying reason why [the employee] and Ducay confronted Mendoza was to question him about his report to De Leon [the employer’s]s PCD assistant supervisor regarding the duos questionable work behavior. The motivation behind the confrontation, as we see it, was rooted on workplace dynamics as Mendoza, [the employee] and Ducay interacted with one another in the performance of their duties.

The incident revealed a disturbing strain in [the employee’s] and Ducay’s characters the urge to get even for a perceived wrong done to them and, judging from the circumstances, regardless of the place and time. The incident could very well have happened inside company premises had the two employees found time to confront Mendoza in the workplace as they intimated in their written statements. Having been the subject of a negative report regarding his work must have rankled on [the employee] that he resolved to do something about it; thus, he confronted Mendoza.

• From the records, Ducay appeared to have cooperated with [the employee] in the violent confrontation with Mendoza. Ducay, however, resigned on June 7, 2002 a week before the filing of the complaint. Hence, [the employer] did not act against him a move that is within its prerogative to make.

• In an obvious effort to mitigate his involvement in the mauling incident, [the employee] claimed in the administrative proceedings that while he and Ducay were walking around the shopping mall in Balibago, Sta. Rosa, Laguna, they incidentally saw their co-employee Mendoza with whom they wanted to clear some personal matters. We find this claim a clear distortion of what actually happened. Again, based on their written statements, [the employee] and Ducay purposely set out for the Balibago commercial area on April 16, 2002 looking for Mendoza. It was not an incidental or casual encounter. They sought Mendoza out and confronted him regarding what they perceived as Mendozas negative attitude towards them or pamamarako as Mendoza described it. Considering the subject [the employee] and Ducay raised with Mendoza, it is not surprising that they had a heated verbal exchange (mostly between [the employee] and Mendoza) that deteriorated into a fistcuff fight, with Mendoza at the losing end as he suffered injuries from the blows he received.

• [The employee] and Ducay point to Mendoza as the proximate cause of the fight because he challenged them to a one-on-one (isa-isa lang) bout. Looking back at the reason why [the employee] and Ducay were at the mall in the first place, this attributed causation hardly makes sense. To reiterate, they were purposely there to confront Mendoza about their work-related problem. They waited for him at the place where they expected him to be. When Mendoza appeared, they accosted him and put into motion the entire sorry incident.

• Under these circumstances, [the employee] undoubtedly committed a misconduct or exhibited improper behavior that constituted a valid cause for his dismissal under the law and jurisprudential standards. The circumstances of his misdeed, to our mind, rendered him unfit to continue working for [the employer]; guilt is not diminished by his claim that [the employer’s] management called the three of them to a meeting, and asked them to explain their sides and settle their differences, which they did. Mendoza significantly denied the alleged settlement, maintaining that while they were summoned by De Leon after the incident, he could not shake hands and settle with [the employee] and Ducay since they did not even apologize or ask forgiveness for what they did. We do not find Mendoza’s denial of [the employee’s] claim unusual as Mendoza would not have stood his ground in this case if a settlement had previously been reached. That a meeting had taken place does not appear disputed, but a settlement cannot be inferred simply because a meeting took place.

Thus, [the employee] was not illegally dismissed; he was dismissed for cause.

It should be noted that the Technol case is a unique case – i.e. the employer was able to sufficiently establish by substantial evidence that there is a prior negative history between the co-employees and as a result the erring employee intentionally sought out the co-employee to inflict harm or injury.

8. Forgery

In Telecommunications Distributors Specialist v. Garriel, an employee who forged the signature of the company’s customers was validly dismissed on the ground of serious misconduct, viz:


• [The employee] failed to make [customers] Ratcliffe and Huilar sign the coverage waivers. Such failure, in itself, although a misconduct, was not serious enough to warrant dismissal. The serious misconduct was [the employee’s] act of forging the signatures of Ratcliffe and Huilar to cover up his negligence. In fact, he even instructed Ratcliffe to lie and just say yes to the questions that may be asked of her by the company.

[The employee’s] acts of forging subscribers signatures, attempting to cover up his failure to secure their signatures on the coverage waivers, selling a personally owned mobile phone to a company customer (a defective one at that) and attempting to connive with other TDSI employees to cover up his illicit schemes were serious acts of dishonesty, according to TDSIs Code of Discipline…

[The employee’s] acts clearly constituted serious misconduct which is a ground for termination of employment by an employer.

It should be noted that forgery is a form of dishonesty and thus may also be a just cause under fraud.

9. Obscene, insulting, offensive language against superior

Employee are required to observe proper behavior in the workplace. Consequently, employees who resort to obscene, insulting, and offensive language against a superior may be disciplined.


• [The employee was dismissed for making false and malicious statements against a superior.]

• According to the [DOLE] Regional Director:

… the causes of [the employee’s] dismissal were repeated utterances of obscene, insulting or offensive words against a superior during and within working areas and making false and/or malicious statements against a superior, and violation of company rules and regulations. At one time, [the employee] uttered the following words to his co-employees: ‘If you don’t give a goat to the foreman you will be terminated. If you want to remain in this company, you have to give a goat.’ At another time he uttered the following remarks: ‘You render overtime work so that you can buy a coffin.’ A piece of paper posted on the wall of the comfort room contained statements which read: ‘Notice to all Sander-Those who want to remain in this company, you must give anything to your foreman. Failure to do so will be terminated-Alice ’80.’ These statements were directed against the foreman Mrs. Alice Ermac and [the employee] was the only one among the workers of respondent who was capable of doing it. These utterances, according to [the employer], are destructive to the morale of the workers and affect efficient work performance. Paragraph 3 of Classification F of the company rules and regulations provides: ‘Using obscene, insulting or offensive language or words against co-employees within working areas. (If against a superior… discharge).’ Thus, for all these acts, complainant has been dismissed.

It is the finding of this office that [the employee’s] acts which were made the grounds for his dismissal were not only destructive of the morale of his co-employees and a violation of the company rules and regulations, but also constitute gross misconduct which is one of the grounds provided for by law to terminate services of an employee. (Emphasis supplied.)

• [The Supreme Court affirmed the above decision.]

More so, if employees resort to accusatory and inflammatory language, they may be dismissed as will be explained in the next section.

10. Accusatory and inflammatory language

An employee who resorts to accusatory and inflammatory language against the employer or superior may be a ground for dismissal or termination.

In Nissan Motors Phils. v. Angelo, the employee was validly dismissed on the ground of serious misconduct due to his letter-explanation which carried accusatory and inflammatory language against the employer. Thus:


• Going through the records, this Court found evidence to support the allegation of serious misconduct or insubordination. [The employer] claims that the language used by [the employee] in his Letter-Explanation is akin to a manifest refusal to cooperate with company officers, and resorted to conduct which smacks of outright disrespect and willful defiance of authority or insubordination. The misconduct to be serious within the meaning of the Labor Code must be of such a grave and aggravated character and not merely trivial or unimportant. The Letter-Explanation partly reads:

Again, it’s not negligence on my part and I’m not alone to be blamed. It’s negligence on your part [Perla Go] and A.A. Del Rosario kasi, noong pang April 1999 ay alam ninyo na hindi ako ang dapat may responsibilidad ng payroll kundi ang Section Head eh bakit hindi ninyo pinahawak sa Section Head noon pa. Pati kaming dalawa sa payroll, kasama ko si Thelma. Tinanggal nyo si Thelma. Hindi nyo ba naisip na kailangan dalawa ang tao sa payroll para pag absent ang isa ay may gagawa. Dapat noon nyo pa naisip iyan. Ang tagal kong gumawa ng trabahong hindi ko naman dapat ginagawa.

This Court finds the above to be grossly discourteous in content and tenor. The most appropriate thing he could have done was simply to state his facts without resorting to such strong language. Past decisions of this Court have been one in ruling that accusatory and inflammatory language used by an employee to the employer or superior can be a ground for dismissal or termination.

As noted above, employees are expected to show courtesy to their supervisors and employers. By using accusatory and inflammatory language, the employee may be dismissed for just cause.

11. False, malicious, and libelous remarks

In Torreda v. Toshiba Information Equipment (Phils.), an employee who maliciously libeled his supervisor was validly dismissed on the ground of serious misconduct. Thus:


There is abundant evidence on record showing that [the employee] committed libel against his immediate superior, Sepulveda, an act constituting serious misconduct which warrants the dismissal from employment.

• [The employee] maliciously and publicly imputed on Sepulveda the crime of robbery of P200.00. As gleaned from his Complaint dated September 7, 1999 which he filed with the General Administration, he knew that it was Delos Santos who opened his drawer and not Sepulveda. Thus, by his own admission, [the employee] was well aware that the robbery charge against Sepulveda was a concoction, a mere fabrication with the sole purpose of retaliating against Sepulvedas previous acts.

• The records show that Sepulveda was impelled to forcibly open [the employee’s] drawer. She needed to retrieve the benefits applications of retirees and incumbent employees of [the employer]-corporation, which [the employee] had failed to process for payment before his leave. The claimants sought to have their claims approved and released with dispatch. Before opening [the employee’s] drawer, Sepulveda saw to it that she had Kobayashi’s approval. Delos Santos opened the drawer of [the employee] in the presence of his co-employees in the Financial Section. Thereafter, the claims were processed and payments were effected. Thus, Sepulveda acted in good faith.

[The employee] admitted that his charge of robbery/theft against Sepulveda was baseless, but claimed that he fabricated the charge because of his exasperation and anger at Sepulvedas repeated acts of opening his drawer without prior permission while he was on leave, not only on September 7, 1998 but also on September 10 and 11, 1998; he also pointed out that Sepulveda looked into his personal files in his computer. In fine, by falsely ascribing a crime to Sepulveda, [the employee] was merely retaliating against perceived misdeeds she had committed against him. However, the manner resorted to by [the employee] of redressing the wrong committed by Sepulveda is a criminal act. As the adage goes, the end cannot justify the means used by [the employee].

In Asian Design and Manufacturing Corporation vs. Deputy Minister of Labor, the dismissed employee made false and malicious statements against the foreman (his superior) by telling his co-employees: “If you don’t give a goat to the foreman you will be terminated. If you want to remain in this company, you have to give a goat.” The dismissed employee therein likewise posted a notice in the comfort room of the company premises which read: “Notice to all Sander – Those who want to remain in this company, you must give anything to your foreman. Failure to do so will be terminated Alice 80.” For these acts, he was validly dismissed. (Asian Design and Manufacturing Corporation vs. Deputy Minister of Labor, G.R. No. 70552, 23 May 1986)

In Reynolds Philippine Corporation vs. Eslava, the validly dismissed employee circulated several letters to the members of the company’s board of directors calling the executive vice-president and general manager a “big fool,” “anti-Filipino” and accusing him of “mismanagement, inefficiency, lack of planning and foresight, petty favoritism, dictatorial policies, one-man rule, contemptuous attitude to labor, anti-Filipino utterances and activities.” (Reynolds Philippine Corporation v. Eslava, G.R. No. L-48814, 27 June 1985)

12. Insulting and offensive language

In Dela Cruz v. Ramie Textile Inc., an employee was validly dismissed after he shouted “sayang ang pagka-professional mo!” and “putang ina mo” at the company physician after the latter refused to give the said employee a referral slip. (Dela Cruz v. Ramie Textile Inc., G.R. No. 82703, 15 September 1989)

In Autobus Workers Union (AWU) vs. Ong, an employee was legally dismissed after calling his supervisor “gago ka” and taunted the latter by saying “bakit anong gusto mo, tang ina mo.” (Autobus Workers Union (AWU) v. Ong, G.R. No. 117453, 26 June 1998)

In both cases, “the dismissed employees personally subjected their respective superiors to the foregoing verbal abuses. The utter lack of respect for their superiors was patent.” (Samson v. Schering-Plough Corporation, G.R. No. 121035, 12 April 2000)

13. Challenging superiors to a fight

The act of provoking or challenging superior to a fight may be considered as just cause. This is particularly applicable if the employee’s role is to provide security and protection to the people in the organization, such as a security guard.


• [The employees – security guards – were dismissed after challenging their superior officers to a fight, among others.]

• Sleeping in post, gross insubordination, dereliction of duty and challenging superior officers to a fight are grave offenses, considering the function of a security guard which is to protect company property from pilferage or loss. Challenging superior officers to a fight and insubordination on the part of the employee are acts inimical to the interest of his employer. For having committed such offenses, LUZON had all the right to dismiss its erring employees if only as a measure of self-protection. (Emphasis supplied.)

It should be noted that the employee in the above-cited case had also other violations. Thus, factoring the other just causes, tit was held that the dismissal of the employee – a security guard – to be justified.

14. Improper Pressure and Influence on Co-employee

In the proper context, and if work-related, the improper pressure and influence of an employee against a co-employee may be considered as a serious misconduct.

PADILLA v. SAN BEDA COLLEGE, G.R. No. 114764, 13 June 1997

• [The employee – a college teacher – exerted pressure and influence on a colleague to pass the former’s nephew in the latter’s course.]

• This Court is convinced that the pressure and influence exerted by the [employee] on his colleague to change a failing grade to a passing one, as well as his misrepresentation that Santos is his nephew, constitute serious misconduct, which is a valid ground for dismissing an employee.

As emphasized above, a case of improper pressure and influence should be assessed in light of the standards for serious misconduct as not all such acts may be considered a just cause.

15. Immorality or Moral Depravity

A cause analogous to serious misconduct is “a voluntary and/or willful act or omission attesting to an employee’s moral depravity.”  (Hancock Life Insurance Corporation v. Davis, G.R. No. 169549, 03 September 2009, citing Oania v. NLRC, G.R. Nos. 97162-64, 1 June 1995, 244 SCRA 669, 674. A thorough reading of the Oania case, however, does not indicate of mention moral depravity as an analogous ground to serious misconduct.)

However, as a general rule, immorality may not be a ground for dismissing an employee unless the misconduct is “prejudicial or in some way detrimental to the employer’s interests.” (CA Azucena, The Labor Code with Comments and Cases (8th ed.), Rex Bookstore, 2013, citing Adams v. Southern P. Co., 204 Cal. 63, 266, p. 541, 57 ALR 1066)

STAMFORD MICROSYSTEMS, INC.  v. TRINIO, G.R. No. 74187, 28 January 1988

• [The employee – a security coordinator supervising guards – was dismissed for company violations, intoxication, immorality, among others.]

• [The NLRC] would minimize the gravity of [the employee’s] acts, by pointing out that the latter was only seen to be kissing his lady friend while embracing her tightly, and that there was no clear showing that he had been drinking to excess, and hence, the commensurate penalty for such “first offense” is not separation from employment but suspension and forfeiture of backwages. The [NLRC] theorizes that while it was in truth [morally] wrong for Trinio to have done what he did, it was not sufficient cause for the company to lose trust and confidence in him. Implicit in the argument is the acknowledgment that if the facts were really as described by the employer’s proofs and as found by the Labor Arbiter the penalty of dismissal from the service would be otherwise appropriate.

• The evidence has been misread by [the NLRC]. The evidence does establish the commission by [the employee] of the acts with which he was charged: drinking liquor on company time in company premises; openly and deliberately sanctioning breach of company rules by persons under his superintendence; public performance of adulterous act of sexual intercourse on company time and in company premises. Here was no mere tolerance or disregard of infringement of company rules for the enforcement of which [the employee] was particularly charged, which would be bad enough. Here was an open invitation by him for others to violate those rules, and a transgression even by him of those same rules in a manner that could not but expose his personal depravity, and betray his contempt and scorn of those rules as well as the lightness with which he held the responsibility entrusted to him to protect his employer’s premise, chattels, interest, reputation and integrity. The offenses cannot be excused upon a plea of their being “first offenses,” or have not resulted in prejudice to the company in any way. No employer may rationally be expected to continue in employment a person whose lack of morals, respect and loyalty to his employer, regard for his employer’s rules, and appreciation of the dignity and responsibility of his office, has so plainly and completely been bared. (Emphasis supplied.)

When it comes to pre-marital sex, the status of the erring employee matters. In Leus v. St. Scholastica’s College Westgrove, the employee – an Assistant to the SCW’s Director of the Lay Apostolate and Community Outreach Directorate and single – was illegally dismissed for getting pregnant with her then boyfriend.

LEUS v. ST. SCHOLASTICA’S COLLEGE WESTGROVE, G.R. No. 187226, 28 January 2015

• [The employee] was hired by St. Scholastica’s College Westgrove (SSCW), a Catholic educational institution, as a non-teaching personnel, engaged in pre-marital sexual relations, got pregnant out of wedlock, married the father of her child, and was dismissed by SSCW, in that order. The question that has to be resolved is whether the [employee’s] conduct constitutes a ground for her dismissal.

•[W]hether a particular conduct can be considered as disgraceful and immoral, the distinction between public and secular morality on the one hand, and religious morality, on the other, should be kept in mind. That the distinction between public and secular morality and religious morality is important because the jurisdiction of the Court extends only to public and secular morality

• Accordingly, when the law speaks of immoral or, necessarily, disgraceful conduct, it pertains to public and secular morality; it refers to those conducts which are proscribed because they are detrimental to conditions upon which depend the existence and progress of human society

• Under these tests, two things may be concluded from the fact that an unmarried woman gives birth out of wedlock:

(1) if the father of the child is himself unmarried, the woman is not ordinarily administratively liable for disgraceful and immoral conduct. It may be a not-so-ideal situation and may cause complications for both mother and child but it does not give cause for administrative sanction. There is no law which penalizes an unmarried mother under those circumstances by reason of her sexual conduct or proscribes the consensual sexual activity between two unmarried persons. Neither does the situation contravene any fundamental state policy as expressed in the Constitution, a document that accommodates various belief systems irrespective of dogmatic origins.

(2) if the father of the child born out of wedlock is himself married to a woman other than the mother, then there is a cause for administrative sanction against either the father or the mother. In such a case, the ‘disgraceful and immoral conduct’ consists of having extramarital relations with a married person. The sanctity of marriage is constitutionally recognized and likewise affirmed by our statutes as a special contract of permanent union. Accordingly, judicial employees have been sanctioned for their dalliances with married persons or for their own betrayals of the marital vow of fidelity.

In sum, the Court finds that the [employee] was illegally dismissed as there was no just cause for the termination of her employment. SSCW failed to adduce substantial evidence to establish that the [employee’s] conduct, i.e., engaging in pre-marital sexual relations and conceiving a child out of wedlock, assessed in light of the prevailing norms of conduct, is considered disgraceful or immoral…

As discussed in the above case, immorality is to be adjudged from a “public and secular morality” – and not from a “religious morality.”

a. Schools: Higher Standards for Teachers

In Santos v. Hagonoy Institute Inc., a private school teacher who entered into an extra-marital relationship with a co-teacher was validly dismissed on grounds of immorality.

SANTOS v. HAGONOY INSTITUTE, INC.,G.R. No. 115795, 06 March 1998

• It is to state the obvious that schools, next only to the home, wield a weighty influence upon the students, especially during the latters’ formative years, for it instills in them the values and mores which shall prepare them to discharge their rightful responsibilities as mature individuals in society. At the vanguard in nurturing their growth are the teachers who are directly charged with rearing and educating them. As such, a teacher serves as a role model for his students. Corollarily, he must not bring the teaching profession into public disrespect or disgrace. For failure to live up to the exacting moral standards demanded by his profession, [the employee] was dismissed from his employment on the ground of immorality. We uphold his dismissal.

[At] the outset, it must be stressed that to constitute immorality, the circumstances of each particular case must be holistically considered and evaluated in light of the prevailing norms of conduct and applicable laws. [American] jurisprudence has defined immorality as a course of conduct which offends the morals of the community and is a bad example to the youth whose ideals a teacher is supposed to foster and to elevate, the same including sexual misconduct. Thus, in [the employee’s] case, the gravity and seriousness of the charges against him stem from his being a married man and at the same time a teacher.

• We cannot overemphasize that having an extra-marital affair is an affront to the sanctity of marriage, which is a basic institution of society. Even our Family Code provides that husband and wife must live together, observe mutual love, respect and fidelity. This is rooted in the fact that both our Constitution and our laws cherish the validity of marriage and unity of the family. Our laws, in implementing this constitutional edict on marriage and the family underscore their permanence, inviolability and solidarity.

• As a teacher, [the employee] serves as an example to his pupils, especially during their formative years and stands in loco parentis to them. To stress their importance in our society, teachers are given substitute and special parental authority under our laws.

Consequently, it is but stating the obvious to assert that teachers must adhere to the exacting standards of morality and decency. There is no dichotomy of morality. A teacher, both in his official and personal conduct, must display exemplary behavior. He must freely and willingly accept restrictions on his conduct that might be viewed irksome by ordinary citizens. In other words, the personal behavior of teachers, in and outside the classroom, must be beyond reproach.

• Accordingly, teachers must abide by a standard of personal conduct which not only proscribes the commission of immoral acts, but also prohibits behavior creating a suspicion of immorality because of the harmful impression it might have on the students. Likewise, they must observe a high standard of integrity and honesty.

• From the foregoing, it seems obvious that when a teacher engages in extra-marital relationship, especially when the parties are both married, such behavior amounts to immorality, justifying his termination from employment.

The above-case should be contrasted and differentiated in the next case wherein a woman teacher fell in love and got married to her male high school student.

CHUA-QUA v. TAY TUNG HIGH SCHOOL, INC., G.R. No. 49549, 30 August 1990

• [The employee – a Classroom Teacher – was dismissed after marrying her student 14 years her junior.]

• This would have been just another illegal dismissal case were it not for the controversial and unique situation that the marriage of herein [employee], then a classroom teacher, to her student who was fourteen (14) years her junior, was considered by the school authorities as sufficient basis for terminating her services.

• With the finding that there is no substantial evidence of the imputed immoral acts, it follows that the alleged violation of the Code of Ethics governing school teachers would have no basis. [The employer] utterly failed to show that [the employee] took advantage of her position to court her student. If the two eventually fell in love, despite the disparity in their ages and academic levels, this only lends substance to the truism that the heart has reasons of its own which reason does not know. But, definitely, yielding to this gentle and universal emotion is not to be so casually equated with immorality. The deviation of the circumstances of their marriage from the usual societal pattern cannot be considered as a defiance of contemporary social mores.

• It would seem quite obvious that the avowed policy of the school in rearing and educating children is being unnecessarily bannered to justify the dismissal of [the employee]. This policy, however, is not at odds with and should not be capitalized on to defeat the security of tenure granted by the Constitution to labor. In termination cases, the burden of proving just and valid cause for dismissing an employee rests on the employer and his failure to do so would result in a finding that the dismissal is unjustified.

In the Chua-Qua case, it should be noted that the employer failed to prove the immoral acts that could have justified the dismissal (e.g. the teacher taking advantage of the pupil, committing sexual acts, among others). If these were proven, the result could have been different – the dismissal would have been valid as in the Hagonoy case.

SANTOS v. HAGONOY INSTITUTE, INC., G.R. No. 115795, 06 March 1998

• [The employee – a high school teacher and a married man – was dismissed after engaging in extra-marital relationship with a co-teacher.]

• On the outset, it must be stressed that to constitute immorality, the circumstances of each particular case must be holistically considered and evaluated in light of the prevailing norms of conduct and applicable laws. American jurisprudence has defined immorality as a course of conduct which offends the morals of the community and is a bad example to the youth whose ideals a teacher is supposed to foster and to elevate, the same including sexual misconduct. Thus, in [employee’s] case, the gravity and seriousness of the charges against him stem from his being a married man and at the same time a teacher.

We cannot overemphasize that having an extra-marital affair is an affront to the sanctity of marriage, which is a basic institution of society. Even our Family Code provides that husband and wife must live together, observe mutual love, respect and fidelity. This is rooted in the fact that both our Constitution and our laws cherish the validity of marriage and unity of the family. Our laws, in implementing this constitutional edict on marriage and the family underscore their permanence, inviolability and solidarity.

• As a teacher, [the employee] serves as an example to his pupils, especially during their formative years and stands in loco parentis to them. To stress their importance in our society, teachers are given substitute and special parental authority under our laws.

• Consequently, it is but stating the obvious to assert that teachers must adhere to the exacting standards of morality and decency. There is no dichotomy of morality. A teacher, both in his official and personal conduct, must display exemplary behavior. He must freely and willingly accept restrictions on his conduct that might be viewed irksome by ordinary citizens. In other words, the personal behavior of teachers, in and outside the classroom, must be beyond reproach.

• Accordingly, teachers must abide by a standard of personal conduct which not only proscribes the commission of immoral acts, but also prohibits behavior creating a suspicion of immorality because of the harmful impression it might have on the students. Likewise, they must observe a high standard of integrity and honesty.

• From the foregoing, it seems obvious that when a teacher engages in extra-marital relationship, especially when the parties are both married, such behavior amounts to immorality, justifying his termination from employment.

A scrutiny of the records of the instant petition leads us to concur with the NLRC’s finding that [the employee] indeed entered into an illicit relationship with his co-teacher. This fact was attested to by the testimonies of nine witnesses (a fourth year student, a security guard, a janitor and six co-teachers) which [the employee] failed to rebut.

The employer should take care in using immorality as a ground considering its difficulty in determining and knowing if one action or omission is immoral under “public and secular morality.”

16. Series of irregularities

In Quiambao v. Manila Electric Company, an employee who habitually takes unauthorized absences with several infractions for tardiness was validly dismissed. The employee’s unauthorized absences as well as tardiness are “habitual despite having been penalized for past infractions.” Thus, “a series of irregularities when put together may constitute serious misconduct.” (G.R. No. 171023, 18 December 2009)

In Gustilo v. Wyeth Philippines, “a series of irregularities when put together may constitute serious misconduct”. In this case, an employee who have several and repeated violations against the company policies was legally dismissed. (G.R. No. 149629, 04 October 2004)

/Updated: January 9, 2023

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