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H. Marriage between employees of competitor-employers

1. CONCEPT

A policy prohibiting an employee from having a relationship with an employee of a competitor company is a valid exercise of management prerogative in line with its right to protect its trade secrets. (Duncan Association of Detailman-PTGWO v. Glaxo Wellcome Philippines, Inc., G.R. No. 162994, 17 September 2004)

Duncan Association of Detailman-PTGWO v. Glaxo Wellcome Philippines, Inc.

Glaxo’s policy prohibiting an employee from having a relationship with an employee of a competitor company is a valid exercise of management prerogative.

Glaxo has a right to guard its trade secrets, manufacturing formulas, marketing strategies and other confidential programs and information from competitors, especially so that it and Astra are rival companies in the highly competitive pharmaceutical industry.

The prohibition against personal or marital relationships with employees of competitor companies upon Glaxo’s employees is reasonable under the circumstances because relationships of that nature might compromise the interests of the company. In laying down the assailed company policy, Glaxo only aims to protect its interests against the possibility that a competitor company will gain access to its secrets and procedures.

That Glaxo possesses the right to protect its economic interests cannot be denied. No less than the Constitution recognizes the right of enterprises to adopt and enforce such a policy to protect its right to reasonable returns on investments and to expansion and growth. Indeed, while our laws endeavor to give life to the constitutional policy on social justice and the protection of labor, it does not mean that every labor dispute will be decided in favor of the workers. The law also recognizes that management has rights which are also entitled to respect and enforcement in the interest of fair play.

In any event, from the wordings of the contractual provision and the policy in its employee handbook, it is clear that Glaxo does not impose an absolute prohibition against relationships between its employees and those of competitor companies. Its employees are free to cultivate relationships with and marry persons of their own choosing. What the company merely seeks to avoid is a conflict of interest between the employee and the company that may arise out of such relationships. /end

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