Former customer service rep under HR fired for 'lewd' comments in company chatroom

Supreme Court rules acts ‘rendered him unfit to continue working' for company

Former customer service rep under HR fired for 'lewd' comments in company chatroom

The Philippine Supreme Court (SC) has upheld the decision to terminate a former employee of JP Morgan Chase in the country for uttering indecent words about his female colleagues using the company chatroom.

Janssen Perez was a former customer service representative under the Human Resources department of JP Morgan Chase in the Philippines.

He was fired in October 2014 after being accused of using the company's private chatroom, Office Communicator, to talk about agents, supervisors, and other colleagues using "indecent, profane, and disrespectful language."

Perez admitted to the firm that he responded "hahaha" and "up down up down left right le[f]t right" in the private chatroom but denied using profane and abusive language.

He also admitted guilt to "using the company resources improperly" after he sent emails to his personal email address.

"Actively participating in profane conversations with co-workers using company resources during office hours and sending company information to one's personal email address in violation of company rules amount to serious misconduct, which is a just cause of terminating one's employment," said Senior Associate Justice Marvic Leonen in the SC decision released in November 2023.

Termination previously illegal

Perez's case goes back to March 2018, after the labour arbiter ruled that his termination was illegal, citing that the chatroom snapshots were "edited."

The arbiter also found no basis to determine if the contents of the emails were confidential and propriety information of JP Morgan Chase.

The arbiter determined that Perez is entitled to separation pay, back wages, and attorney's fees.

The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) also upheld this decision in September 2018, ruling that the penalty of dismissal "does not commensurate to the offense committed."

Court of Appeals overturns ruling

But the matter was raised to the Court of Appeals, which overturned it in October 2020, ruling that the NLRC ignored the evidence on records, which resulted to a gross misapprehension of facts.

The Court established that Perez clearly participated in "lewd conversation with co-workers using company resources during office hours" and sent official communication by his manager to his personal email address without authorization and justification.

Supreme Court decision

Perez later raised the matter to the Supreme Court, arguing that his admission "cannot be equated to unbecoming behavior deserving dismissal."

He also claimed he was not guilty of unauthorized sharing of confidential or propriety information since the information in the email was not proven to be confidential.

The Supreme Court ultimately upheld the decision of the Court of Appeals and sided with the employer on the case, stating that Perez failed to convince them to review the appellate court's findings.

"His own admission of participating and using the company chatroom in uttering indecent words about female colleagues and sending out company information to his personal email address amount to willful transgression of the company's Guidelines on Workplace Behavior," the SC ruled.

The SC also noted that Perez has been under the HR department for more than six years, and he should be fully aware of the company rules.

"His acts rendered him unfit to continue working for respondent. Thus, for committing serious misconduct, petitioner was validly terminated for a just cause," the SC said.

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