G.R. No. 201701, June 03, 2013
UNILEVER PHILIPPINES, INC., Petitioner, v. MARIA RUBY M. RIVERA, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered dismissing for lack of merit the illegal dismissal complaint. However, UNILEVER PHILIPPINES, INC. is hereby ordered to pay complainant the total amount of PESOS: FIFTY SEVEN THOUSAND EIGHTY TWO & 90/100 ONLY (P57,082.90) representing proportionate 13th month pay and unused leave credits.
The complaint against individual respondents Recto Sampang and Alejandro Concha are likewise dismissed for it was not shown that they acted in bad faith in the dismissal of complainant. Moreover, their legal personality is separate and distinct from that of the corporation.
All other money claims are dismissed for lack of basis.6
WHEREFORE, foregoing premises considered, the appeal is PARTIALLY GRANTED. The assailed Decision dated 28 April 2008 is hereby MODIFIED in the sense that respondent UNILEVER PHILIPPINES, INC. is hereby ordered to pay the following sums:cralavvonlinelawlibrary
1. The amount of P30,000.00 representing nominal damages for violation of complainant’s right to procedural due process;chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
2. Retirement benefits under the company’s applicable retirement policy or written agreement, and in the absence of which, to pay complainant her retirement pay equivalent to at least one-half (1/2) month salary for every year of service, a fraction of at least six (6) months being considered as one whole year;chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
3. Separation pay under the company’s applicable policy or written agreement, and in the absence of which, to pay separation pay equivalent to at least one-half (1/2) month salary for every year of service, a fraction of at least six (6) months being considered as one whole year.
The rest of the Decision is hereby AFFIRMED.
WHEREFORE, foregoing premises considered, the instant Motion for Partial Reconsideration is PARTLY GRANTED. The Resolution dated 28 November 2008 of the Commission is hereby RECONSIDERED as follows:cralavvonlinelawlibrary
(1)The award of separation pay is hereby deleted for lack of factual and legal basis; and
(2)The award of nominal damages is hereby tempered and reduced to the amount of P20,000.00.
The rest of the award for retirement benefits is affirmed in toto.
WHEREFORE, the assailed Resolution dated March 31, 2009 of the NLRC (Branch 5), Cagayan De Oro City is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Consequently, UNILEVER is directed to pay MARIA RUBY M. RIVERA the following:cralavvonlinelawlibraryUnilever filed a motion for partial reconsideration,11 but it was denied in a Resolution, dated April 25, 2012.
a) Separation pay, to be computed based on the company’s applicable policy or written agreement, or in the absence thereof, the equivalent of at least one-half (1/2) month salary for every year of service, a fraction of at least six (6) months being considered as one whole year;chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
b) P20,000.00 as nominal damages; and
c) Proportionate 13th month pay and unused leave credits, to be computed based on her salary during the period relevant to the case.
The award of retirement benefits is hereby DELETED.
THE COURT OF APPEALS SERIOUSLY ERRED AND GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN GRANTING AFFIRMATIVE RELIEFS IN FAVOR OF RIVERA EVEN IF SHE DID NOT FILE ANY PETITION FOR CERTIORARI TO CHALLENGE THE NLRC RESOLUTIONS.
THE COURT OF APPEALS SERIOUSLY ERRED AND GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN AWARDING SEPARATION PAY IN FAVOR OF RIVERA CONSIDERING THAT THE LATTER WAS VALIDLY DISMISSED FROM EMPLOYMENT BASED ON JUST CAUSES UNDER THE LAW.
THE COURT OF APPEALS SERIOUSLY ERRED AND GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN RULING THAT THE COMPANY VIOLATED RIVERA’S RIGHT TO PROCEDURAL DUE PROCESS BEFORE TERMINATING HER EMPLOYMENT, AND CONSEQUENTLY, IN AWARDING NOMINAL DAMAGES.13nadcralavvonlinelawlibrary
Sec. 7. Termination of employment by employer. — The just causes for terminating the services of an employee shall be those provided in Article 282 of the Code. The separation from work of an employee for a just cause does not entitle him to the termination pay provided in the Code, without prejudice, however, to whatever rights, benefits and privileges he may have under the applicable individual or collective agreement with the employer or voluntary employer policy or practice.
We hold that henceforth separation pay shall be allowed as a measure of social justice only in those instances where the employee is validly dismissed for causes other than serious misconduct or those reflecting on his moral character. Where the reason for the valid dismissal is, for example, habitual intoxication or an offense involving moral turpitude, like theft or illicit sexual relations with a fellow worker, the employer may not be required to give the dismissed employee separation pay, or financial assistance, or whatever other name it is called, on the ground of social justice.
A contrary rule would, as the petitioner correctly argues, have the effect, of rewarding rather than punishing the erring employee for his offense. And we do not agree that the punishment is his dismissal only and the separation pay has nothing to do with the wrong he has committed. Of course it has. Indeed, if the employee who steals from the company is granted separation pay even as he is validly dismissed, it is not unlikely that he will commit a similar offense in his next employment because he thinks he can expect a like leniency if he is again found out. This kind of misplaced compassion is not going to do labor in general any good as it will encourage the infiltration of its ranks by those who do not deserve the protection and concern of the Constitution.
The policy of social justice is not intended to countenance wrongdoing simply because it is committed by the underprivileged. At best, it may mitigate the penalty but it certainly will not condone the offense. Compassion for the poor is an imperative of every humane society but only when the recipient is not a rascal claiming an undeserved privilege. Social justice cannot be permitted to be refuge of scoundrels any more than can equity be an impediment to the punishment of the guilty. Those who invoke social justice may do so only if their hands are clean and their motives blameless and not simply because they happen to be poor. This great policy of our Constitution is not meant for the protection of those who have proved they are not worthy of it, like the workers who have tainted the cause of labor with the blemishes of their own character.19
Section 2. Standard of due process: requirements of notice. — In all cases of termination of employment, the following standards of due process shall be substantially observed.
I. For termination of employment based on just causes as defined in Article 282 of the Code:cralavvonlinelawlibrary(a) A written notice served on the employee specifying the ground or grounds for termination, and giving to said employee reasonable opportunity within which to explain his side;chanroblesvirtualawlibraryIn case of termination, the foregoing notices shall be served on the employee’s last known address.
(b) A hearing or conference during which the employee concerned, with the assistance of counsel if the employee so desires, is given opportunity to respond to the charge, present his evidence or rebut the evidence presented against him; and
(c) A written notice [of] termination served on the employee indicating that upon due consideration of all the circumstance, grounds have been established to justify his termination.
To clarify, the following should be considered in terminating the services of employees:cralavvonlinelawlibrary
(1) The first written notice to be served on the employees should contain the specific causes or grounds for termination against them, and a directive that the employees are given the opportunity to submit their written explanation within a reasonable period. "Reasonable opportunity" under the Omnibus Rules means every kind of assistance that management must accord to the employees to enable them to prepare adequately for their defense. This should be construed as a period of at least five (5) calendar days from receipt of the notice to give the employees an opportunity to study the accusation against them, consult a union official or lawyer, gather data and evidence, and decide on the defenses they will raise against the complaint. Moreover, in order to enable the employees to intelligently prepare their explanation and defenses, the notice should contain a detailed narration of the facts and circumstances that will serve as basis for the charge against the employees. A general description of the charge will not suffice. Lastly, the notice should specifically mention which company rules, if any, are violated and/or which among the grounds under Art. 282 is being charged against the employees.
(2) After serving the first notice, the employers should schedule and conduct a hearing or conference wherein the employees will be given the opportunity to: (1) explain and clarify their defenses to the charge against them; (2) present evidence in support of their defenses; and (3) rebut the evidence presented against them by the management. During the hearing or conference, the employees are given the chance to defend themselves personally, with the assistance of a representative or counsel of their choice. Moreover, this conference or hearing could be used by the parties as an opportunity to come to an amicable settlement.
(3) After determining that termination of employment is justified, the employers shall serve the employees a written notice of termination indicating that: (1) all circumstances involving the charge against the employees have been considered; and (2) grounds have been established to justify the severance of their employment.29
WHEREFORE, the March 31, 2009 Resolution of the NLRC (Branch 5), Cagayan de Oro City, is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. UNILEVER PHILIPPINES, INC., is hereby directed to pay MARIA RUBY M. RIVERA the following:cralavvonlinelawlibrarya) P30,000.00 as nominal damages; and
b) Proportionate 13th month pay and unused leave credits, to be computed based on her salary during the period relevant to the case.
The award of retirement benefit is DELETED.
Please take notice that on June 3, 2013 a Decision, copy attached herewith, was rendered by the Supreme Court in the above-entitled case, the original of which was received by this Office on June 10, 2013 at 2:50 a.m.
Very truly yours,
1Rollo, pp. 15-52.cralawlibrary
2 Id. at 54-71. Penned by Associate Justice Rodrigo F. Lim, Jr., with Associate Justice Pamela Ann Abella Maxino and Associate Justice Zenaida T. Galapate-Laguilles, concurring.cralawlibrary
3 Id. at 73-74.cralawlibrary
4 Id. at 20.cralawlibrary
5 Id. at 58.cralawlibrary
6 Id. at 24.cralawlibrary
7 Id. at 25.cralawlibrary
8 Id. at 26.cralawlibrary
9 Id. at 64-67.cralawlibrary
10 Id. at 69-70.cralawlibrary
11 Id. at 75-94.cralawlibrary
12 Id. at 15-52.cralawlibrary
13 Id. at 28.cralawlibrary
14 Id. at 35.cralawlibrary
15 ART. 282. Termination by employer. - An employer may terminate an employment for any of the following causes:cralavvonlinelawlibrarya. Serious misconduct or willful disobedience by the employee of the lawful orders of his employer or representative in connection with his work;chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
b. Gross and habitual neglect by the employee of his duties;chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
c. Fraud or willful breach by the employee of the trust reposed in him by his employer or duly authorized representative;chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
d. Commission of a crime or offense by the employee against the person of his employer or any immediate member of his family or his duly authorized representative; and
e. Other causes analogous to the foregoing.
16Tirazona v. Philippine Eds Techno-Service Inc. (PWT, Inc.), G.R. No. 169712, January 20, 2009, 576 SCRA 625, 628-629.cralawlibrary
17Yrasuegui v. Philippine Airlines, Inc., G.R. No. 168081, October 17, 2008, 569 SCRA 467, 502.cralawlibrary
18 247 Phil. 641 (1988).cralawlibrary
19Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. vs. NLRC, 247 Phil. 641, 649-650 (1988).cralawlibrary
20 G.R. Nos. 158786 & 158789, October 19, 2007, 537 SCRA 171.cralawlibrary
21Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation Workers Association (TMPCWA) v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. Nos. 158786 & 158789, October 19, 2007, 537 SCRA 171, 223.cralawlibrary
22 G.R. No. 164016, March 15, 2010, 615 SCRA 240.cralawlibrary
23Reno Foods, Inc, v. Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Manggagawa (NLM)-Katipunan, G.R. No. 164016, March 15, 2010, 615 SCRA 240, 249.cralawlibrary
24Corinthian Gardens Association Inc. v. Tanjangco, G.R. No. 160795, June 27, 2008, 556 SCRA 154, 166, citing Alauya, Jr v. Commission on Elections, 443 Phil. 893, 907 (2003).cralawlibrary
25Aklan College, Inc. v. Enero, G.R. No. 178309, January 27, 2009, 577 SCRA 64, 79-80.cralawlibrary
26Corinthian Gardens Association Inc. v. Tanjangco, supra note 25, citing Acebedo Optical Company, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 385 Phil. 956, 976 (2000).cralawlibrary
27Rollo, pp. 44
28 553 Phil. 108 (2007).cralawlibrary
29King of Kings Transport, Inc. v. Mamac, 553 Phil. 108, 115-116 (2007).cralawlibrary
30Agabon v. NLRC, 485 Phil. 248, 287-288 (2004).