SC junks labor suit of prof who failed to get master’s degree

SC junks labor suit of prof who failed to get master’s degree

MANILA – The Supreme Court (SC) has denied for lack of merit a petition filed by a faculty member who was required by her university to earn a master’s degree as a condition for her continued employment.

In an eight-page resolution dated Sept. 27 and made available early this week, the SC’s Second Division turned down the suit filed by Fe P. Burcio who had sued her former employer, the Saint Louis University (SLU) in a labor case.

Burcio was first hired by SLU in its College of Human Sciences in 2005 on a contractual basis. She was promoted with a regular status three years with the condition that she will obtain a Master’s degree within a period of four years or until 2012, otherwise, her employment would be terminated.

She was reminded in 2009 to earn the post-graduate degree a year later and was told that otherwise, she would be considered as a part-time or contractual faculty.

In March 2012, she sent a letter to SLU requesting an extension for her to finish her master’s degree, citing an illness.

In June of that year, she was informed she would be classified as part-time faculty due to her failure to secure her Master’s degree.

She then sued for illegal termination with claims for damages and in 2014, the labor arbiter dismissed her complaint for lack of merit. The arbiter’s ruling was upheld by the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) and subsequently by the Court of Appeal (CA).

Among other things, she claimed that her permanent status was protected by her inclusion in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between her employer and the employees.

Ruling otherwise, the high court said it rejected Burcio’s contention that she automatically acquired the permanent employment status when she completed the probationary period set under the CBA.

The SC said in its ruling that a “CBA cannot override matters involving public policy such as the state’s right to regulate in the field of education”.

The tribunal said at the time of her engagement as a probationary full-time faculty member, the applicable regulation was the 1992 Manual of Regulations for Private Schools which, among other things, sets minimum faculty qualifications that for undergraduate courses, other than vocational one must be a “holder of a master’s degree, to teach largely in his major field”.

The SC noted that the petitioner in 2013 sent a letter to the university’s president, Jesse M. Hechanova declining the university’s offer of a lesser teaching load due to her predicament.

“While there was no direct mention of the word ‘resignation’ in the said letter, the clear intent of petitioner to sever her employment was evident in the wordings therein,” the SC said. (PNA)

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