UTP v. Kemplin (G.R. No. 205453; February 5, 2014)


FACTS: In 1995, Jersey, with the help of two American expatriates, Kemplin and the late Mike Dunne, formed UTP, a sole proprietorship business entity engaged in the printing and distribution of promotional brochures and maps for tourists.

In 2002, UTP employed Kemplin to be its President for a period of five years, to commence on March 1, 2002 and to end on March 1, 2007, "renewable for the same period, subject to new terms and conditions".

Kemplin continued to render his services to UTP even after his fixed term contract of employment expired. On May 12, 2009, Kemplin, signing as President of UTP, entered into advertisement agreements with Pizza Hut and M. Lhuillier.

On July 30, 2009, UTPs legal counsel sent Kemplin a letter informing his Employment contract has expired and never been renewed. However, because of his past services to companys clients, by coming to the office, as such he was given monthly commissions with allowances.

But because of his inhuman treatment to the rank and file employees which caused great damage and prejudices to the company, a case for Grave Oral Threat pending Preliminary Investigation, a Summary Deportation and for Grave Coercion and Grave Threats was filed. Subsequently, he received a notice from UTPs counsel ordering him to cease and desist from entering the premises of UTP offices.

Kemplin filed before the NLRC a Complaint against UTP and its officer for: (a) illegal dismissal; (b) non-payment of salaries, 13th month and separation pay, and retirement benefits; (c) payment of actual, moral and exemplary damages and monthly commission ofP200,0000.00; and (d) recovery of the company car, which was forcibly taken from him, personal laptop, office paraphernalia and personal books.

He claimed that even after the expiration of his employment contract on March 1, 2007, he rendered his services as President and General Manager of UTP.

UTP, on its part, argued that the termination letter sent to Kemplin on July 30, 2009 was based on (a) the expiration of the fixed term employment contract they had entered into, and (b) an employers prerogative to terminate an employee, who commits criminal and illegal acts prejudicial to business.

The LA held in favor of Kemplin adjudging he was illegally dismissed by UTP and Jersey.

LA Joses ratiocinations are:

Kemplin was able to show that he was still officially connected with [UTP] as he signed in his capacity as President of UTP an advertisement agreements with Pizza Hut and M. Lhuillier Phils. as late as May 12, 2009. This only goes to show that [UTP and Jerseys] theory of toleration has no basis in fact.

It would appear now, per record, that Kemplin was allowed to continue performing and suffered to work much beyond the expiration of his contract. Such being the case, Kemplins fixed term employment contract was converted to a regular one under Art. 280 of the Labor Code, as amended. Viernes vs. NLRC, et al., G.R. No. 108405, April 4, 2003.

Kemplins tenure having now been converted to regular employment, he now enjoys security of tenure under Art. 279 of the Labor Code, as amended. Simply put, Kemplin may only be dismissed for cause and after affording him the procedural requirement of notice and hearing. Otherwise, his dismissal will be illegal.

UTP and Jersey argued that Kemplin was not illegally terminated, for his termination was according to Art. 282 of the Labor Code, as amended, i.e., loss of trust and confidence allegedly for various and serious offenses.

However, upon closer scrutiny, in trying to justify Kemplins dismissal on the ground of loss of trust and confidence, [UTP and Jersey] failed to observe the procedural requirements of notice and hearing, or more particularly, the two-notice rule. It would appear that [UTP and Jerseys] cease and desist letter compressed the two notices in one. Besides, the various and serious offenses alluded thereto were not legally established before [Kemplins] separation. Ostensibly, Kemplin was not confronted with these offenses and given the opportunity to explain himself.

Respondents miserably failed to discharge their onus probandi. Hence, illegal dismissal lies.

The NLRC affirmed LA Joses Decision.

When appealed to the CA, it affirmed the disquisitions of the LA and NLRC. Hence, this petition.ISSUE: Did the CA err in invalidating the termination of Kemplin?

HELD: The advertisement agreements with Pizza Hut and M. Lhuillier entered into by Kemplin, who signed the documents as President of UTP on May 12, 2009, or more than two years after the supposed expiration of his employment contract. They validate Kemplins claim that he, indeed, continued to render his services as President of UTP well beyond March 2, 2007.

Moreover, in the letterdated July 30, 2009, Kemplin was ordered to cease and desist from entering the premises of UTP. The twin requirements of notice and hearing were not complied with by respondents.

The charges against Kemplin were not clearly specified. While the letter stated that Kemplins employment contract had expired, it likewise made general references to alleged criminal suits filed against him. One who reads the letter is inevitably bound to ask if Kemplin is being terminated due to the expiration of his contract, or by reason of the pendency of suits filed against him. Anent the pendency of criminal suits, the statement is substantially bare.

It also bears stressing that the letter failed to categorically indicate which of the policies of UTP did Kemplin violate to warrant his dismissal from service. Further, Kemplin was never given the chance to refute the charges against him as no hearing and investigation were conducted. Corollarily, in the absence of a hearing and investigation, the existence of just cause to terminate Kemplin could not have been sufficiently established.

Kemplin should have been promptly apprised of the issue of loss of trust and confidence in him before and not after he was already dismissed.


APO Chemical Manufacturing Corporation v. Bides, G.R. No. 186002, September 19, 2012is instructive anent the instances when separation pay and not reinstatement shall be ordered. The Court is well aware that reinstatement is the rule and, for the exception of "strained relations" to apply, it should be proved that it is likely that, if reinstated, an atmosphere of antipathy and antagonism would be generated as to adversely affect the efficiency and productivity of the employee concerned.

Under the doctrine of strained relations, the payment of separation pay is considered an acceptable alternative to reinstatement when the latter option is no longer desirable or viable. On one hand, such payment liberates the employee from what could be a highly oppressive work environment. On the other hand, it releases the employer from the grossly unpalatable obligation of maintaining in its employ a worker it could no longer trust. Moreover, the doctrine of strained relations has been made applicable to cases where the employee decides not to be reinstated and demands for separation pay.


Being a managerial employee, the petitioner is not entitled to 13th month pay. Pursuant to Memorandum Order No. 28, as implemented by the Revised Guidelines on the Implementation of the 13th Month Pay Law dated November 16, 1987, managerial employees are exempt from receiving such benefit without prejudice to the granting of other bonuses, in lieu of the 13th month pay, to managerial employees upon the employer's discretion. In Torres v. Rural Bank of San Juan, Inc., G.R. No. 184520, March 13, 2013.

The award to Harland B. Kemplin of a 13th month benefit was deleted. In lieu of his reinstatement, he is awarded separation pay to be computed at the rate of one (1) month pay for every year of service, with a fraction of at least six (6) months considered as one whole year to be reckoned from the time of his employment on March 1, 2002 until the finality of this Decision.