CASE DIGEST: Apo Chemical vs. Bides

G.R. No. 186002 : September 19, 2012




Ronaldo Bides (Bides) was an employee of Apo Chemical Manufacturing Corporation (ACMC) for eleven (11) years. Matthew Cheng (Matthew), the plant manager of ACMC, sent a written memorandum requiring Bides to explain his refusal to sign the disciplinary form in connection with his alleged infractions of loitering in the comfort room for about five (5) to eight (8) minutes, two (2) to three (3) times a day, on different dates, under pain of revocation of his housing privileges. Bides explained that urinating, as he was "nababalisawsaw" at the time, was not an infraction. Allegedly, Matthew confronted Bides and prohibited him from working the following day as he would be terminated from the ACMC. Thus, Bides filed a complaint for illegal dismissal against ACMC.

The LA ruled that Bides was illegally dismissed. The NLRC reversed the LAs decision. The CA affirmed with modification the NLRCs decision. The CA ruled that ACMC is not liable for illegal dismissal but ordered ACMC to pay Bides separation pay in lieu of reinstatement, taking into account the strained relations between the parties.

ISSUE: Whether strained relations exist between ACMC and Bides to bar the latter's reinstatement and justify the award of separation pay?

HELD: The Court finds no merit in the petition.

LABOR LAW: doctrine of strained relations

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.

In the present case, Bides has consistently maintained, from the proceedings in the LA up to the CA, his refusal to be reinstated due to his fear of reprisal which he could experience as a consequence of his return. By doing so, Bides unequivocally foreclosed reinstatement as a relief.