Yrasuegui vs PHILIPPINE AIRLINES, INC.

G.R. No. 168081              October 17, 2008

FACTS:

Armando Yrasuegui was a former international flight steward of Philippine Airlines, who stands at 5’8” with a large body frame (the ideal weight for his size is 166 lbs).  In 1984, due to weight problems of the petitioner, PAL advised him to go on an extended vacation leave from December 1984 to March 1985 to address his weight concern. In many instances, the petitioner  did not meet the weight standards which prompted several leave without pay.

After meeting the required weight, petitioner was allowed to return to work but petitioner’s weight problem recurred which made his off duty status retained. He was directed to report every two weeks for weight checks but he refused to do so.

PAL finally served petitioner a Notice of Administrative Charge for violation of company standards on weight requirements. Petitioner in his answer claimed that PAL discriminated against him because “the company has not been fair in treating the cabin crew members who are similarly situated.”

In 1993, PAL terminated the petitioner “effective immediately” due to to his inability to attain his ideal weight, considering the utmost leniency” extended to him “which spanned a period covering a total of almost five (5) years.

Petitioner filed a complaint for illegal dismissal against PAL

  • The LA ruled that Yrasuegui was illegally dismissed. It ruled that the weight standards of PAL are reasonable but it shouldn’t be the reason for dismissal since his weight did not hamper the performance of his duties.
  • NLRC affirmed the ruling of LA.
  •  CA held that the weight standards of NLRC are meant to be a continuing qualification for an employee’s position.

ISSUES:

(a) WON the obesity of petitioner is a ground for dismissal under Article 282(e)  of the Labor Code.

(b) Whether the dismissal of Yrasuegui for obesity can be predicated on the “bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) defense”?

HELD:

(a) YES. obesity is a ground for dismissal under Article 282(e) 44 of the Labor Code. In the context of his work as a flight attendant, it becomes an analogous cause under Article 282(e) of the Labor Code that justified his dismissal from the service. His obesity is voluntary, which means that the cause is solely attributable to the employee without any external force influencing or controlling his actions. Gross and habitual neglect , a recognized just cause, is considered voluntary although it lacks the element of intent found in Article 282(a),(c),(d).

(b) YES. The Constitution, Labor Code, and Magna Carta for Disabled Persons contain provisions similar to BFOQ. The weight standards of PAL are reasonable. The business of PAL is air transportation. As such, it has committed itself to safely transport its passengers. The primary objective of PAL in the imposition of the weight standards for cabin crew is flight safety.

The task of a cabin crew or flight attendant is not limited to serving meals or attending to the whims and caprices of the passengers. The most important activity of the cabin crew is to care for the safety of passengers and the evacuation of the aircraft when an emergency occurs. Passenger safety goes to the core of the job of a cabin attendant.  The biggest problem with an overweight cabin attendant is the possibility of impeding passengers from evacuating the aircraft, should the occasion call for it. The job of a cabin attendant during emergencies is to speedily get the passengers out of the aircraft safely. Being overweight necessarily impedes mobility.

In the case of Star Paper Corporation v. Simbol, Court held that in order to justify a BFOQ, the employer must prove that (1) the employment qualification is reasonably related to the essential operation of the job involved; and (2) that there is factual basis for believing that all or substantially all persons meeting the qualification would be unable to properly perform the duties of the job. In short, the test of reasonableness of the company policy is used because it is parallel to BFOQ. BFOQ is valid “provided it reflects an inherent quality reasonably necessary for satisfactory job performance.

Employment in particular jobs may not be limited to persons of a particular sex, religion, or national origin unless the employer can show that sex, religion, or national origin is an actual qualification for performing the job. The qualification is called a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ).

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