Case Digest: Coca-Cola v. Gacayan

G.R. No. 149433 : June 22, 2011



Employees of Coca-Cola were allowed reimbursement of meal and transportation expenses incurred when the employee worked overtime for at least four hours on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday, and for at least two hours on weekdays. It was in connection with this company policy that respondent Gacayan, then a Senior Financial Accountant, was made to explain the alleged alterations in three (3) receipts which she submitted to support her claim for reimbursement of meal expenses, to wit: 1) McDonald Receipt No. 875493 dated October 1, 1994 for P111.00; 2) Shakey Pizza Parlor Receipt No. 122658 dated November 20, 1994 forP174.06; and 3) Shakey Pizza Parlor Receipt No. 41274 dated July 19, 1994 for P130.50.

Petitioner company sent respondent Gacayan several memoranda requiring her to explain why her claims for reimbursement should not be considered fraudulent since there were alterations in the dates and prices thereof. Consequently, respondent Gacayan submitted her explanation denying any personal knowledge in the commission of the alterations on the subject receipts.

Petitioner company then conducted a hearing and formal investigation, such eventually led to the dismissal of Gacayan for fraudulently submitting tampered and/or altered receipts in support of her petty cash reimbursements in gross violation of the company rules and regulations.

On June 6, 1995, respondent Gacayan filed a complaint with the NLRC. In a Decision dated June 17, 1996, the Labor Arbiter dismissed respondent Gacayan complaint for lack of merit. This was affirmed by the NLRC in its Resolution dated April 14, 1998.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the NLRC and ruled that the penalty imposed on respondent Gacayan was too harsh. The Court of Appeals ordered the immediate reinstatement of respondent Gacayan to her former position or to a substantially equivalent position without loss of seniority rights and with full backwages.

In a petition for review on certiorari, the Supreme Court denied Coca-cola petition and ruled that Clarita P. Gacayan was illegally dismissed from her employment with petitioner company.

Petitioner company now begs the Supreme Court to reconsider this pronouncement, arguing that respondent Gacayan position as a "Senior Financial Accountant with the Job Description of a Financial Project Analyst" has duties which clearly qualify her as one occupying a position of trust and responsibility.

ISSUE: Whether or not Gacayan occupies a position of trust and responsibility?

HELD: This Motion for Reconsideration is impressed with merit.

It is well-settled that loss of trust and confidence constitutes a just and valid cause for an employee termination.

Respondent Gacayan was the Senior Financial Accountant of petitioner company. While respondent Gacayan denies that she is handling or has custody of petitioner funds, a re-examination of the records of this case reveals that she indeed handled delicate and confidential matters in the financial analyses and evaluations of the action plans and strategies of petitioner company. Respondent Gacayan was also privy to the strategic and operational decision-making of petitioner company, a sensitive and delicate position requiring the latter utmost trust and confidence. As such, she should be considered as holding a position of responsibility or of trust and confidence.

The findings of the Labor Arbiter, as affirmed by the NLRC indicates that respondent Gacayan betrayed the trust and confidence reposed on her when she, ironically a Senior Financial Accountant tasked with ensuring financial reportorial/regulatory compliance from others, repeatedly submitted tampered or altered receipts to support her claim for meal reimbursements, in gross violation of the rules and regulations of petitioner company. Upon review, even the Court of Appeals did not absolve respondent Gacayan of wrongdoing but rather merely held that dismissal was too harsh a penalty for her infraction.

It has oft been held that loss of confidence should not be used as a subterfuge for causes which are illegal, improper and unjustified. It must be genuine, not a mere afterthought to justify an earlier action taken in bad faith. It bears stressing that what is at stake here are the sole means of livelihood, the name and the reputation of the employee. Thus, petitioner company must sufficiently and convincingly show that the loss of trust and confidence in respondent Gacayan was founded on clearly established facts, incidents and substantial evidence.

In its motion for reconsideration, petitioner company emphasized the clear and convincing evidence on record that respondent Gacayan breached the trust and confidence reposed in her when she repeatedly submitted tampered or altered receipts to support her claim for meal reimbursement. Petitioner company maintained that respondent Gacayan cannot mistakenly file a claim for overtime meal allowance reimbursement for a day she knew she was not entitled to, as she did not actually render overtime work. Petitioner company reiterated its evidence showing that respondent Gacayan acted with wrongful, malicious and fraudulent intent when she repeatedly submitted tampered or altered receipts.

Respondent Gacayan intentionally, knowingly, purposely, and without justifiable excuse, submitted tampered or altered receipts to support her claim for meal reimbursement. Respondent Gacayan failed to sufficiently refute the charges against her for the submission of said fraudulent items of expense. All she did was to deny any personal knowledge in the commission of the alterations in the subject receipts and to point fingers at other people who may have done the alterations.

Although the amounts involved in the subject receipts were relatively small, or only the dates and/or items ordered were altered or tampered with, respondent Gacayan act of submitting fraudulent items of expense adversely reflected on her integrity and honesty, which is ample basis for petitioner company to lose its trust and confidence in her.