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SC backs employer in dismissing worker over lewd conversations

THE Supreme Court (SC) has ruled in favor of JP Morgan Chase Bank N.A. Philippine Global Service Center, after it dismissed an employee for engaging in lewd online conversations during work hours.

In a 16-page decision, the tribunal said JP Morgan validly fired its former customer service representative for knowingly violating workplace guidelines by engaging in indecent conversation during work hours.

“His own admission of participating and using the company chatroom in uttering indecent words about female colleagues and sending out company information to his personal e-mail address amount to a willful transgression of the company’s Guidelines on Workplace Behavior,” according to the ruling written by Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F Leonen.

Under the Labor Code, misconduct is defined as 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.”

The former customer service representative, who had been hired in 2008, had participated in a private online chatroom that used obscene language about other coworkers.

The High Court noted that he had been a human resources department employee for more than six years and was well aware of company rules.

The National Labor Relations Commission had upheld an arbiter’s ruling that ordered JP Morgan to pay its former employee P1.92 million for legal fees, separation pay and back wages.

The Court of Appeals reversed the ruling saying the firm had validly dismissed him for violating company rules through the online chatroom and forwarding company information to his personal e-mail address.

“In the exercise of its management prerogative, the employer can discipline its employees, impose appropriate penalties on their infractions pursuant to company rules, and may not be compelled to continue employing persons whose continuance in the service will be inimical to its interest,” it said. — John Victor D. Ordoñez