Supreme Court rules that firing employees for marrying a co-worker is illegal

·2 min read

While one workplace may have different opinions on office romances than another, that doesn’t constitute grounds to fire an employee for getting hitched unless there’s a reasonable business necessity, the Supreme Court (SC) has ruled.

The court’s decision, which was issued on Tuesday, ends the 12-year legal battle between Catherine dela Cruz-Cagampan and her employer, One Network Bank Incorporated (ONBI), after the latter fired her for her marriage to a fellow employee — a move that the SC declared “illegal” and “discriminatory.”

In 2009, Cagampan, an accounting specialist, married her co-worker, Angelo, who was also working for the same company as a loan specialist.

Cagampan appealed for the company to reconsider its “no-spouse” stance, asserting that the policy had been put in place after she was hired and argued that there were other married couples at work.

She also requested her husband to be transferred to another branch. The company denied the request and terminated her.

The bank argued that their marriage placed the company’s funds at risk of being embezzled — an argument that the court said needed to be “based on facts and not mere speculations.”

“Friends, lovers, and couples share secrets. Any bank employee may potentially craft elaborate schemes to embezzle the bank’s funds. While a bank must observe high standards of diligence, enforcing an arbitrary no-spouse employment rule that directs the immediate dismissal of an employee who marries a co-worker cannot be justified. That is illegal dismissal,” the SC wrote in its decision.

The court argued that the termination violated the Magna Carta of Women, which ensures a woman’s right to freely choose a spouse.

The Supreme Court ordered ONBI to reinstate Cagampan to her former role, as well as pay her backwages, her 13th month pay, and other benefits from when she was fired in 2010.