Standards & Requirements of Retrenchment

In Lopez Sugar Corporation v. Federation of Free Workers, this Court had the opportunity to lay down the following standards that a company must meet to justify retrenchment to prevent abuse by employers:

Firstly, the losses expected should be substantial and not merely de minimis in extent. If the loss purportedly sought to be forestalled by retrenchment is clearly shown to be insubstantial and inconsequential in character, the bona fide nature of retrenchment would appear to be seriously in question. Secondly, the substantial loss apprehended must be reasonably imminent, as such imminence can be perceived objectively and in good faith by the employer. There should, in other words, be a certain degree of urgency for the retrenchment, which is after all a drastic recourse with serious consequences for the livelihood of the employees retired or otherwise laid-off. Because of the consequential nature of retrenchment, it must, thirdly, be reasonably necessary and likely to effectively prevent the expected losses. The employer should have taken other measures prior or parallel to retrenchment to forestall losses, i.e., cut other costs other than labor costs. An employer who, for instance, lays off substantial numbers of workers while continuing to dispense fat executive bonuses and perquisites or so-called golden parachutes, can scarcely claim to be retrenching in good faith to avoid losses. To impart operational meaning to the constitutional policy of providing full protection to labor, the employers prerogative to bring down labor costs by retrenching must be exercised essentially as a measure of last resort, after less drastic means e.g., reduction of both management and rank-and-file bonuses and salaries, going on reduced time, improving manufacturing efficiencies, trimming of marketing and advertising costs, etc. have been tried and found wanting.

Lastly, but certainly not the least important, alleged losses if already realized, and the expected imminent losses sought to be forestalled, must be proved by sufficient and convincing evidence. The reason for requiring this quantum of proof is readily apparent: any less exacting standard of proof would render too easy the abuse of this ground for termination of services of employees. In Ariola v. Philex Mining Corporation, the Court summarized the requirements for retrenchment, as follows:

Thus, the requirements for retrenchment are: (1) it is undertaken to prevent losses, which are not merely de minimis, but substantial, serious, actual, and real, or if only expected, are reasonably imminent as perceived objectively and in good faith by the employer; (2) the employer serves written notice both to the employees and the DOLE at least one month prior to the intended date of retrenchment; and (3) the employer pays the retrenched employees separation pay equivalent to one month pay or at least month pay for every year of service, whichever is higher. The Court later added the requirements that the employer must use fair and reasonable criteria in ascertaining who would be dismissed and x x x retained among the employees and that the retrenchment must be undertaken in good faith. Except for the written notice to the affected employees and the DOLE, non-compliance with any of these requirements render[s] the retrenchment illegal. (G.R. No. 173231; December 28, 2007)

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