PLDT v. Teves (G.R. No. 143511; November 15, 2010)


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FACTS: Petitioner terminated respondent through an Inter-Office Memorandum dated on account of his three (3) unauthorized leaves of absence committed within three (3) years in violation of petitioners rules and regulations.

Respondent filed a Complaint for illegal dismissal. Labor Arbiter (LA) Benigno C. Villarente, Jr. rendered his Decision declaring that the dismissal of complainant LEGAL. Respondent interposed an appeal with the NLRC. NLRC rendered its Decision reversing the LAs Decision. Petitioner's motion for reconsideration was denied by the NLRC. Petitioner filed a Petition for Certiorari with prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and/or injunction assailing the Decisin and Resolution of NLRC. CA rendered its assailed Decision, which affirmed and reiterated the NLRC decision.

The CA found that (1) petitioner complied with the two-notice requirement which was essential to respondent's right to due process; (2) respondent was given a notice to explain in writing why no disciplinary action should be meted on him for his unauthorized absences from February 11 to 19, 1992; and (3) when respondents explanation proved unacceptable to petitioner, respondent was sent another notice informing him of his termination by reason of three unauthorized absences within a three-year period, a conduct which was circumscribed in petitioner's rules and regulations. Notwithstanding compliance with the requirement of due process, the CA affirmed the illegality of respondent's dismissal finding that respondent's comportment cannot be characterized as grave so as to constitute grave misconduct; that his first two leaves of absence were satisfactorily justified; and that he should not have been suspended from service by reason of such absences. However, the CA found that respondents failure to report for work on February 11 to 19, 1992 appeared to be the only unauthorized and unjustified leave of absence during his 11 years of stay with petitioner, and it did not merit the harsh penalty of dismissal.

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, but was denied by the CA.ISSUE: Was respondent illegally dismissed?

HELD: Even assuming that respondent's absenteeism constitutes willful disobedience, such offense does not warrant respondent's dismissal. Not every case of insubordination or willful disobedience by an employee reasonably deserves the penalty of dismissal. There must be a reasonable proportionality between the offense and the penalty.

While management has the prerogative to discipline its employees and to impose appropriate penalties on erring workers, pursuant to company rules and regulations, however, such management prerogatives must be exercised in good faith for the advancement of the employers interest and not for the purpose of defeating or circumventing the rights of the employees under special laws and valid agreements. The Court is wont to reiterate that while an employer has its own interest to protect, and pursuant thereto, it may terminate an employee for a just cause, such prerogative to dismiss or lay off an employee must be exercised without abuse of discretion. Its implementation should be tempered with compassion and understanding. The employer should bear in mind that, in the execution of said prerogative, what is at stake is not only the employees position, but his very livelihood, his very breadbasket.

Dismissal is the ultimate penalty that can be meted to an employee. Even where a worker has committed an infraction, a penalty less punitive may suffice, whatever missteps maybe committed by labor ought not to be visited with a consequence so severe. This is not only the laws concern for the workingman. There is, in addition, his or her family to consider. Unemployment brings untold hardships and sorrows upon those dependent on the wage-earner. DENIED.

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