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Xerox Business Services Philippines, Inc. Found Liable in Sexual Harassment Case.
The Supreme Court of the Philippines has issued two important rulings on sexual harassment cases in the workplace, one involving a service contractor and the other involving the judiciary itself.
In the first case, the Supreme Court affirmed the solidary liability of Xerox Business Services Philippines, Inc. (XBSPI) as an employer in a sexual harassment case filed by one of its former employees, Maria Lourdes T. Sereno. Sereno alleged that she was sexually harassed by her immediate supervisor, Jose Mari M. Antonio, who made unwanted sexual advances and comments towards her. She also claimed that XBSPI failed to prevent, investigate, and act on her complaint, and instead terminated her employment on the ground of redundancy.
Sereno filed a complaint for illegal dismissal, sexual harassment, and damages against XBSPI and Antonio before the Labor Arbiter. The Labor Arbiter ruled in favor of Sereno and ordered XBSPI and Antonio to pay her backwages, separation pay, moral and exemplary damages, and attorney’s fees. The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) affirmed the Labor Arbiter’s decision, but the Court of Appeals (CA) reversed it and absolved XBSPI of any liability.
The CA held that XBSPI was not Sereno’s employer, but only a service contractor that provided manpower services to another company, Affiliated Computer Services, Inc. (ACS). The CA also held that XBSPI did not condone or tolerate Antonio’s acts, and that Sereno’s dismissal was due to a valid retrenchment program.
Sereno elevated the case to the Supreme Court, which reversed the CA’s decision and reinstated the NLRC’s ruling. The Supreme Court held that XBSPI was Sereno’s employer, as it had the power to hire, fire, and control her. The Supreme Court also held that XBSPI was solidarity liable with Antonio for sexual harassment, as it failed to comply with its obligations under Republic Act No. 7877 or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995.
The Supreme Court said that XBSPI did not establish a Committee on Decorum and Investigation (CODI) to address sexual harassment complaints, did not conduct a formal investigation on Sereno’s complaint, and did not impose any sanction on Antonio. The Supreme Court also said that XBSPI did not prove that Sereno’s dismissal was due to a bona fide retrenchment, and that it was more likely a retaliation for her complaint.
The Supreme Court’s decision sends a strong message to employers and service contractors that they have a duty to prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace, and that they will be held accountable for their actions or inactions.
AuthorFebruary 2, 2024 at 4:10 PM
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