Q: I heard that insubordination is enough ground to terminate an employee. What exactly is "insubordination" as contemplated in termination cases that have been pronounced lawful and valid?
A: The Labor Code states that willful disobedience to lawful orders--- also called "insubordination"---is one of the just causes for termination of employment.
Willful disobedience or insubordination requires the concurrence of two elements:
(1) the employee\\\'s disobedient conduct must have been willful, i.e. characterized by a wrongful and perverse attitude; and
(2) the order that the employee violated must have been reasonable, lawful, made known to him beforehand, and must pertain to the duties which he had been hired to do.
In a long line of termination cases, the Supreme Court has consistently stated that no employer may rationally be expected to continue in employment a person who has shown lack of morals, respect, loyalty to his employer, regard for company rules and appreciation of the dignity and responsibility of his office.
Keeping such an employee would be highly prejudicial to the interests of the employer and would demoralize the rank and file once they see that the undeserving are retained in the service.
Nonetheless, in termination disputes involving insubordination, the employer still has the burden of proving that the dismissal is valid and legal. This is consistent with the principle of security of tenure as guaranteed by the Constitution and the Labor Code.
Reeza Singzon is a lawyer specializing in civil, commercial, and labor law. Before becoming a lawyer, she worked in media for more than 10 years, writing and producing news programs for TV and working as an editor and columnist for a newspaper. For questions or comments, Atty. Reeza may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.