01 March 2012

Court Rallies vs Public Service

CJ Corona Rally
With the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona reaching the one month period, many rallies were conducted by court employees to support the embattled Justice. Many of the Supreme Court employees choose to attend the rallies in lieu of reporting to work. The public is open left wondering whether they are getting what they paid for in terms of taxes.

The issue gets particularly sensitive if the purpose of the rally is to influence the decision of the impeachment court and condition the mind of the public. This is because absences to attend a political rally may tarnish the view that the judiciary is an independent force tasked to deal with cases regardless of whether they involved one of their own.

As I understand it, it is unfair labor practice for any employer to take action that retaliates against, interferes with or discourages ‘protected activity’. Accordingly, employers risk unlawfully disciplining or discharging employees for absences attributed to attendance at rallies that affects worker’s rights. On the other hand, protests that are purely political in nature such as the impeachment of Justice Corona do not constitute ‘protected activity’.

Generally, except in the health care industry, employees and unions are not required to give notice of a rally or strike intended to put pressure on the Executive or Legislative branches of government to accede to court employees’ demands. However, if a strike has a more general purpose with indirect involvement of the actual service to the public, there are competing interests at play in determining whether an advance notice for such rallies is required.

Based on these competing interests, there is a delicate balancing test of court employee’s rights against the public desire for a legitimate court service. It is my opinion that where the court employee’s right is outweighed by the public’s desire for quality service, an advance notice is required, particularly if failing to provide advance notice would cause unreasonable damage.

The question now is whether court employees are silently being compelled to attend such rallies? If we put our self in their position, would it be to my disadvantage not to attend such rallies knowing that the Justice you are serving is openly supporting the Chief Justice? This is an interesting topic that requires further research in the next article.