Management prerogative refers to every employer’s inherent right to regulate, according to his own discretion and judgment, all aspects of employment, including hiring, work assignments, working methods, the time, place and manner of work, work supervision, transfer of employees, lay-off of workers, and discipline, dismissal, and recall of employees. The only limitations to the exercise of this prerogative are those imposed by labor laws and the principles of equity and substantial justice. (Peckson v. Robinsons Supermarket Corporation, G.R. No. 198534, 3 July 2013.)
However, does the principle of management prerogative authorize employers to incorporate in employment contracts or company policy a provision on stipulation against marriage?
Stipulation against marriage involving women employees
Under Article 134 of the Labor Code, it is unlawful for an employer to require, as a condition for or continuation of employment, that a woman shall not get married or to stipulate expressly or tacitly, that upon getting married, a woman employee shall be deemed resigned or separated.
It is also unlawful to actually dismiss, discharge, discriminate or otherwise prejudice a woman employee merely by reason of marriage.
In one case, an airline company implemented a policy requiring its prospective flight attendants to be single and once married are automatically separated from service. The airline reasoned that the policy was fair and reasonable considering the peculiarities of the profession. It further contended that Article 134 applies only to women employed in ordinary occupations and not to extraordinary ones like flight attendants. The said policy was declared void for being violative of Article 134 of the Labor Code prohibiting discrimination against married women. Article 134 does not distinguish whether a woman is engaged in an ordinary or special occupation as the sweeping intent of the law is to promote non-discrimination on the employment of women. (Zialcita, et al. vs. Philippine Air Lines, Case No. RO4-3-3398-76, 20 February 1977)
In another case, an employee was dismissed pursuant to the company’s policy of not accepting or of disqualifying any woman who contracts marriage. While the employee concealed her married status, and hence committed dishonesty, the Supreme Court declared the said policy as void in derogation of the provision stated in Article 134 of the Labor Code. It held that the policy was not only contrary to law, but also to good morals and public policy by depriving women of their freedom to choose their status which is considered as an inherent, intangible, and inalienable right. (Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Company v. NLRC, G.R. No. 118978 May 23, 1997)
Stipulation against marriage as a reasonable business necessity
The Labor Code speaks particularly of women in cases involving stipulation against marriage. However, jurisprudence is replete of cases with respect to stipulation against marriage regardless of sex which were imposed for a legitimate business concern in the exercise of management prerogative.
For instance, in one case, the company imposed a policy prohibiting: (a) the hiring of new applicants who are related to an employee of the same company up to the third degree of relationship; and (b) employees who developed a friendly relationship during the course of their employment from getting married unless one of them resigns.
For the policy to be considered valid, however, the employer must present undisputed proof of a reasonable business necessity. As the company failed to prove a legitimate business concern in imposing the questioned policy, the Supreme Court struck down the same and held that the implementation of the policy was an invalid exercise of management prerogative. (Star Paper Corporation v. Simbol, G.R. No. 164774, 12 April 2006)
In another case, the Supreme Court declared a pharmaceutical company’s policy prohibiting its employees from marrying employees of any competitor company as valid pursuant to the principle of reasonable business necessity. The said company policy was considered reasonable under the circumstances since personal or marital relationships might compromise and unduly affect the interest of the company. (Duncan Association of Detailman-PTGWO v. Glaxo Welcome Philippines, Inc., G.R. No. 162994, 17 September 2004.)
By adopting the said policy, an employer merely seeks to protect its economic interest, its reasonable returns on investments and to expansion and growth, including the protection of its trade secrets, marketing strategies, and other confidential programs and information from competitors.
The policy cannot be considered as a policy against marriage. Neither does the policy restrict an employee’s right from marrying anyone of his or her own choosing nor his or her personal prerogative. However, an employee’s personal decision does not prevent an employer from exercising management prerogative to ensure maximum profit and business success.
While it is true that the heart has reasons of its own which reason does not know, (Chua-Qua v. Clave G.R. No. 49549, 30 August 1990), the blossoming romance and union of employees may be barred in the employer’s exercise of management prerogative for as long as there exists a legitimate business concern.
This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not offered as and does not constitute legal advice or legal opinion.
Zyra G. Montefolca is an Associate of the Davao Branch of the Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW). ACCRALAW’s Head Office is located at Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, Metro Manila, Philippines.