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When religion comes in conflict with one’s job – Atty JBJ

Source: DIRECT FROM THE LABOR FRONT By Atty Josephus Jimenez

How easy it is for employers to say that an employee should render unto his work what rightfully pertains to his job, and to his church what properly belongs to his religion. That dictum is, of course, easier said than done. But down there in the offices or in the factories, where “the rubber hits the road”, so to say, it is quite difficult to keep a just and legal balance between the demands of one’s job, on the one hand, and the often immutable articles of faith of one’s church, on the other hand. Where do we draw the thin line that pulls one to one direction as an employee, and to the opposite pole as a member of a religious sect?

Let us cite some concrete examples. For instance, an employee in Cebu has decided to join the pilgrimage to Rome, to witness the canonization of Blessed Pedro Calungsod. He has already made all the necessary preparations, passports, visas and all. Then the employer, who belongs to another religion, disapproves his application for leave of absence, on the ground of heavy volume of work. Should he proceed with the pilgrimage, against the will of his employer, and risk being dismissed for absence without a duly approved leave? Would he give up his lucrative job, with all his perks and privileges? Or should he forego his pilgrimage in order to give preference to his work? That is not an easy decision to make.

Another difficult dilemma to resolve is when you are the owner or manager of a factory with 6-day operation each week, from Monday to Saturday. You have a job applicant who is a Seventh Day Adventist. Would you hire him despite knowing that such a worker would refuse to work on Saturdays? The labor law forbids you from discriminating on the basis of creed. Would you subject him to disciplinary work sanction for willfully refusing to comply with your regular schedules of work? Would you open your factory every Sunday, just to accommodate him and avoid a situation where you have to deduct one-day wage from his weekly compensation, based on the Labor Code principle of “ No Work, No Pay”? These are hard nuts to crack.

In labor relations, there is a principle that allows compulsory membership in a union that wins in the certification election. This is called a union security clause, which is really designed to protect the incumbent union from becoming a minority. Public policy demands stability in labor-management relations, which may be assured only when the signatory union to the collective bargaining agent, called the exclusive bargaining agent, remains the majority union during the lifetime of the CBA. Thus, when the union security clause is that of a union shop, all new employees are compelled to join the union as a condition for their continued employment. Supposed some of the new hires are Iglesia Ni Kristo members, can they be compelled to join the union?

The answer is no. By way of an exception to the rule of compulsory membership, employees have the right to refuse if their reason is based on religious belief. But if and when members of the Iglesia would opt to join, form or assist in the formation of a labor organization, they cannot be prevented from doing so. This exception is anchored on the principle that freedom of religion, enshrined in the Bill of Rights, takes precedence over the right to self-organization. Which means that unionism should give way to the religious belief of a citizen. And by the way, on another matter, Iglesia Ni Kristo members should be allowed to take a leave of absence or go on undertime in order to have a time to worship every Thursday.

Following this line, if Catholic salesgirls who are working in giant malls, department stores and supermarts should insist, on religious grounds, to choose Sundays as their rest days, then management should respect their choice. If Muslim workers would like Fridays as their rest days, they cannot be refused by their employers. It is well settled in law and jurisprudence that the management prerogatives to schedule hours of work should yield to religious choices. If the Seventh Day Adventists are allowed to rest on Saturdays, then Catholics should not be compelled to work on Sundays. We are dismayed to note however that Catholics do no seem to assert their right. Thus, they are deemed to be waiving this right.

Moreover, a Jehovah’s witness cannot be compelled to salute the Philippine flag or attend the flag ceremony, or sing the national anthem. The Supreme Court has already decided a leading case on the matter. They cannot be compelled to donate blood in a blood donation campaign. They cannot be compelled to submit to a drug test by blood exaction. Non-Catholics are not compelled to hear mass even if the same is a part of the official program in a company anniversary and other official functions. Non-Christians cannot be compelled to attend charismatic seminars and prayer meetings.