United Lab v. Domingo (G.R. No. 186209; September 21, 2011)


Sometime in 2001, under a Physical Distribution Master Plan (PDMP), Unilab consolidated its finished goods inventories and logistics activities (warehousing, order processing and shipping) into one distribution center located in Metro Manila. As a result, Unilab closed down its sixteen (16) provincial depots. The job functions of the employees working thereat were declared redundant and their positions were abolished. Unilab gave the redundant employees a separation package of two and a half (2 1/2) months' pay for every year of service.IaHDA

In the succeeding year, on 7 January 2002, respondents wrote Unilab requesting for their separation or retirement from service under a separation package similar or equivalent to that of the redundant employees in the provincial depots. Respondents referred to this separation package as theagong Sibolrogram./span>

On 9 April 2002, respondents' counsel, on their behalf, wrote Unilab reiterating respondents' previous request to be separated from service under Unilab's purportedagong SibolProgram. Particularly, respondents were keen on retiring and receiving 2 1/2 months' pay for every year of service, and all the other benefits which Unilab had extended to the redundant employees in the provincial depots. The message and sentiment were that "they should likewise be retired under the same redundancy plan or retirement scheme [because] their positions are similarly situated [to] the 'retired employees' of [Unilab's] distribution centers under the principle that 'things that are alike should be treated alike' since they also hold the position of 'distribution personnel.'"

ISSUE: Is constructive dismissal applicable to the respondents?

Constructive dismissal is a derivative of dismissal without cause; an involuntary resignation, nay, a dismissal in disguise.It occurs when there isessation of workecause continued employment is rendered impossible, unreasonable, or unlikely as when there is a demotion in rank or diminution in pay or when a clear discrimination, insensibility, or disdain by an employer becomes unbearable to the employee leaving the latter withother option but to quit. In turn, dismissal without cause is prohibited because of the Constitutional security of tenure of workers.

Thus, it is stated in Article XIII, Section 3 of the Constitution that: [Workers] shall be entitled to security of tenure, humane conditions of work, and a living wage.From the start, respondents insisted that Unilab has unjustifiably refused to grant them the same separation package granted to the redundant employees in the provincial depots. Respondents demanded that this higher separation package be applied for their retirement as they are "similarly situated" with the redundant employees. Respondents wished for the cessation of their employment, specifying, however, their availment of retirement benefits equivalent to the separation package of the redundant employees. Effectively, respondents were exercising their right to terminate their employment, invoking a hodgepodge of provisions from the Unilab Retirement Plan, Unilab's purported Bagong Sibol Program, and the Labor Code.

The Labor Code describes as basic policy the worker's security of tenure. Thus:

ART. 3. Declaration of basic policy. The State shall afford protection to labor, promote full employment, ensure equal work opportunities regardless of sex, race or creed, and regulate the relations between worker and employers.he State shall assure the rights of workerso self-organization, collective bargaining,ecurity of tenure, and humane conditions of work.

ART. 279. Security of Tenure. In cases of regular employment, the employer shall not terminate the services of an employee except for a just cause or when authorized by this Title. An employee who is unjustly dismissed from work shall be entitled to reinstatement without loss of seniority rights and other privileges and to his full backwages, inclusive of allowances, and to his other benefits or their monetary equivalent computed from the time his compensation was withheld from him up to the time of his actual reinstatement.

Simply put, security of tenure from which springs the concept of constructive dismissal is not an absolute right. It cannot be pleaded to avoid the transfer or assignment of employees according to the requirements of the employer's business. Such transfer or assignment becomes objectionable only when it is not for "reasonable returns on investments," and for "expansion and growth" which are constitutionally recognized employer's rights, but is sought merely as a convenient cover for oppression. GRANTED.