Case Digest: Bilbao v. Saudi Arabian Airlines

G.R. No. 183915 : December 14, 2011

MA. JOY TERESA O. BILBAO, Petitioner, v. SAUDI ARABIAN AIRLINES,Respondent.

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,J.:

FACTS:


Bilbao was a former employee of respondent Saudia, having been hired as a Flight Attendant from Saudia. The In-Flight Service Senior Manager of Saudia assigned in Manila received an inter-office Memorandum from its Jeddah Office regarding the transfer of 10 flight attendants from Manila to Jeddah. Bilbao was among the 10 flight attendants to be transferred.Bilbao initially complied with the transfer order and proceeded to Jeddah for her new assignment.However, on September 7, 2004, she opted to resign and relinquish her post by tendering a resignation letter. Bilbao executed and signed an Undertakingsimilar to that of a Receipt, Release and Quitclaim wherein she acknowledged receipt of a sum of money as full and complete end-of-service award with final settlement and have no further claims whatsoever against Saudi Arabian Airlines.In spite of this signed Undertaking, however, Bilbao filed with the NLRC a complaint for reinstatement and payment of full backwages; moral, exemplary and actual damages; and attorneys fees.Bilbao maintained that her resignation from Saudia was not voluntary.She narrated that she was made to sign a pre-typed resignation letter and was even reminded that the same was a better option than termination which would tarnish her record of service with Saudia.Bilbao and her co-complainants shared a common theory that their transfer to Jeddah was a prelude to their termination since they were all allegedly between 39 and 40 years of age.

Upon the other hand, Saudia averred that the resignation letters from Bilbao and her co-complainants were voluntarily made since they were actually hand-written and duly signed.Saudia asserted that Bilbao and her co-complainants were not subjected to any force, intimidation, or coercion when they wrote said resignation letters and even their undertakings, after receiving without protest a generous separation package despite the fact that employees who voluntarily resign are not entitled to any separation pay.Saudia also added that the transfer of flight attendants from their Manila Office to the Jeddah Office was a valid exercise of its management prerogative.The Labor Arbiter rendered a Decisiondeclaring that Bilbao, together with co-complainants, was illegally dismissed, and ordering Saudia to pay each of the complainants full backwages from the time of the illegal dismissal until the finality of the decision, separation pay of one month for every year of service less the amount already received, plus ten percent (10%) attorneys fees on the amounts actually determined to be due the complainants.The NLRC granted Saudias appeal, and reversed and set aside the decision of the Labor Arbiter. On appeal, the CA affirmed the resolutions of the NLRC.
ISSUE:

Whether or not Bilbao was illegally dismissed.
HELD:

LABOR LAW


Bilbao voluntarily resigned from her employment with Saudia.Her resignation letter and undertaking that evidenced her receipt of separation pay, when taken together with her educational attainment and the circumstances surrounding the filing of the complaint for illegal dismissal, comprise substantial proof of Bilbaos voluntary resignation.Resignation is the voluntary act of an employee who is in a situation where one believes that personal reasons cannot be sacrificed in favor of the exigency of the service, and one has no other choice but to dissociate oneself from employment.It is a formal pronouncement or relinquishment of an office, with the intention of relinquishing the office accompanied by the act of relinquishment.As the intent to relinquish must concur with the overt act of relinquishment, the acts of the employee before and after the alleged resignation must be considered in determining whether he or she, in fact, intended to sever his or her employment.In the instant case, Bilbao tendered her resignation letter a week after her transfer to the Jeddah office.In the said letter, Bilbao expressed her gratitude for the support which Saudia had given her for her eighteen years of service.Clearly, her use of words of appreciation and gratitude negates the notion that she was forced and coerced to resign.Besides, the resignation letter was hand-written by Bilbao on a Saudia form and was in English, a language she is conversant in.

Additionally, instead of immediately filing a complaint for illegal dismissal after she was allegedly forced to resign, Bilbao executed an Undertaking in favor of Saudia, wherein she declared that she received her full and complete end-of-service award with final settlement. What is more, Bilbao waited for more than 10 months after her separation from Saudia to file a complaint for illegal dismissal.

Even assuming that Saudia prepared the form in which Bilbao wrote her resignation letter as claimed, this Court is not convinced that she was coerced and intimidated into signing it.Bilbao is no ordinary employee who may not be able to completely comprehend and realize the consequences of her acts.She is an educated individual.It is highly improbable that with her long years in the profession and her educational attainment, she could be tricked and forced into doing something she does not intend to do.Under these circumstances, it can hardly be said that Bilbao was coerced into resigning from Saudia. Besides, Bilbao did not adduce any competent evidence to prove that she was forced or threatened by Saudia.

Anent the Undertaking signed by Bilbao, this Court is of the opinion that the same was validly and voluntarily executed.Indeed, not all waivers and quitclaims are invalid as against public policy.There are legitimate waivers and quitclaims that represent a voluntary and reasonable settlement of workers claims which should be respected by the courts as the law between the parties. And if such agreement was voluntarily entered into and represented a reasonable settlement, it is binding on the parties and should not later be disowned.

DENIED

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