Disease

Summary

▪ Subject to procedural due process, the employer is authorized to separate an employee for any disease incurable within six (6) months as certified by a public health authority and wherein the employee’s continued employment is prohibited by law or prejudicial to his/her health, as well as of his co-employees.

▪ To be valid, the authorized cause of disease should comply with prescribed standards.

▪ The law states “any disease” and thus it is not limited to non-communicable disease.

▪ Certification from a public health authority that the disease is incurable within six (6) months is required.

▪ Burden of proof is on the employer to establish that the dismissal due to disease is valid.

1. Concept

Subject to procedural due process, the employer is authorized to separate an employee for any disease incurable within six (6) months as certified by a public health authority and wherein the employee’s continued employment is prohibited by law or prejudicial to his/her health, as well as of his co-employees.

2. Requisites

As substantive requirements, the Labor Code and its IRR require the presence of the following elements:

1) An employer has been found to be suffering from any disease.

2) His continued employment is prohibited by law or prejudicial to his health, as well as to the health of his co-employees.

3) A competent public health authority certifies 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. (Deoferio v. Intel Technology Philippines, Inc., G.R. No. 202996, 18 June 2014)

DOLE Regulation standards

The standards are:

1) The employee must be suffering from any disease;

2) The continued employment of the employee is prohibited by law or prejudicial to his/her health as well as to the health of his/her co-employees; and,

3) There must be a certification by a competent public health authority that the disease is incurable within a period of six (6) months even with proper medical treatment.( DOLE Department Order No. 147, Series of 2015)

a. Any disease

The Supreme Court applied this provision in resolving illegal dismissal cases due to non-contagious diseases such as stroke, heart attack, osteoarthritis, and eye cataract, among others. (Deoferio v. Intel Technology Philippines, Inc., supra.)

Case Law

1) In Baby Bus, Inc. v. Minister of Labor, the Supreme Court upheld the labor arbitration’s finding that Jacinto Mangalino’s continued employment – after he suffered several strokes – would be prejudicial to his health. (Ibid.)

2) In Duterte v. Kingswood Trading Co., Inc., the Supreme Court recognized the applicability of Article 284 of the Labor Code to heart attacks. In that case, the Supreme Court held that the employer-company’s failure to present a certification from a public health authority rendered Roque Duterte’s termination due to a heart attack illegal. (Ibid.)

3) The Supreme Court also applied this provision in Sy v. Court of Appeals to determine whether Jaime Sahot was illegally dismissed due to various ailments such as presleyopia, hypertensive retinopathy, osteoarthritis, and heart enlargement, among others. (Ibid.)

4) In Manly Express, Inc. v. Payong, Jr., the Supreme Court ruled that the employer-company’s non-presentment of a certification from a public health authority with respect to Romualdo Payong Jr.’s eye cataract was fatal to its defense. (Ibid.)

b. Prohibited by law or prejudicial to his/her health or his/her co-employees

With respect to the first and second elements, the Supreme Court liberally construed the phrase “prejudicial to his health as well as to the health of his co-employees” to mean “prejudicial to his health or to the health of his co-employees.” The Supreme Court did not limit the scope of this phrase to contagious diseases for the reason that this phrase is preceded by the phrase “any disease” under Article 284 of the Labor Code. (Deoferio v. Intel Technology Philippines, Inc., supra.)

Labor Code:

Art. 284. Disease as ground for termination. – An employer may terminate the services of an employee who has been found to be suffering from any disease and whose continued employment is prohibited by law or is prejudicial to his health as well as to the health of his co-employees: Provided, That he is paid separation pay equivalent to at least one (1) month salary or to one-half (1/2) month salary for every year of service, whichever is greater, a fraction of at least six (6) months being considered as one (1) whole year.

Section 8, Rule 1 of the Omnibus Rules Implementing the Labor Code sets out the requirements in order to validly terminate an employee on the foregoing ground, to wit:

SECTION 8. Disease as a ground for dismissal. — Where the employee suffers from a disease and his continued employment is prohibited by law or prejudicial to his health or to the health of his co-employees, the employer shall not terminate his employment unless there is a certification by competent public health authority that the disease is of such nature of at such a stage that it cannot be cured within a period of six (6) months even with proper medical treatment. If the disease or ailment can be cured within the period, the employer shall not terminate the employee but shall   ask the employee to take   a   leave   of absence. The employer shall reinstate such employee to his former position immediately upon the restoration of his normal health.

c. Certified by public health authority to be incurable within 6 months

Without the medical certificate, there can be no authorized cause for the employee’s dismissal. (Deoferio v. Intel Technology Philippines, Inc., supra.)

Simply stated, this requirement is not merely a procedural requirement, but a substantive one. The certification from a competent public health authority is precisely the substantial evidence required by law to prove the existence of the disease itself, its non-curability within a period of six months even with proper medical treatment, and the prejudice that it would cause to the health of the sick employee and to those of his co-employees. (Ibid.)

The requirement for a medical certificate under Article 284 of the Labor Code cannot be dispensed with; otherwise, it would sanction the unilateral and arbitrary determination by the employer of the gravity or extent of the employee’s illness and, thus, defeat the public policy on the protection of labor. (Wuerth Philippines, Inc. v. Ynson, G.R. No. 175932, 15 February 2012)

The law is unequivocal: the employer, before it can legally dismiss its employee on the ground of disease, must adduce a certification from a competent public authority that the disease of which its employee is suffering is of such nature or at such a stage that it cannot be cured within a period of six months even with proper treatment. (Duterte v. Kingswood Trading Co., Inc., G.R. No. 160325, 04 October 2007)

3. Procedure

a. Twin-notice and hearing

The Labor Code and its IRR are silent on the procedural due process required in terminations due to disease. Despite the seeming gap in the law, Section 2, Rule 1, Book VI of the IRR expressly states that the employee should be afforded procedural due process in all cases of dismissals. (Deoferio v. Intel Technology Philippines, Inc., supra.)

In Sy v. Court of Appeals and Manly Express, Inc. v. Payong, Jr., promulgated in 2003 and 2005, respectively, the Court finally pronounced the rule 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. (Ibid.)

4. Burden of proof: on the employer

The burden of proving compliance with these requisites is on the employer. Noncompliance leads to the conclusion that the dismissal was illegal. (Fuji Television Network, Inc. v. Espiritu, G.R. No. 204944-45, 03 December 2014)

The burden of proving the validity of the dismissal rests on the employer. As such, the employer must prove that the requisites for a valid dismissal due to a disease have been complied with. In the absence of the required certification by a competent public health authority, this Court has ruled against the validity of the employee’s dismissal. (Manly Express Inc. v. Payong, Jr., G.R. No. 167462, 25 October 2005)

References

1987 Philippine Constitution

Presidential Decree No. 442, a.k.a. Labor Code of the Philippines

DOLE Department Order No. 147, Series of 2015

▪ Jurisprudence or Supreme Court Decisions (as cited above)

Disclaimer: All information is for educational and general information only. These should not be taken as professional legal advice or opinion. Please consult a competent lawyer to address your specific concerns. Any statements or opinions of the author are solely his own and do not reflect that of any organization he may be connected.

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