Case Digest: Dongon v. Rapid Movers

G.R. No. 163431 : August 28, 2013




Petitioner Rapid is engaged in the hauling and trucking business while private respondent Nathaniel T. Dongon is a former truck helper leadman. Private respondents area of assignment is the Tanduay Otis Warehouse where he has a job of facilitating the loading and unloading of the petitioners trucks. On 23 April 2001, private respondent and his driver, Vicente Villaruz, were in the vicinity of Tanduay as they tried to get some goods to be distributed to their clients.

Tanguay's security guard called the attention of private respondent as to the fact that Mr. Villaruz was not wearing an Identification Card (I.D. Card). Private respondent, then, assured the guard that he will secure a special permission from the management to warrant the orderly release of goods.

Instead of complying with his compromise, private respondent lent his I.D. Card to Villaruz; and by reason of such misrepresentation, private respondent and Mr. Villaruz got a clearance from Tanduay for the release of the goods. However, the security guard, who saw the misrepresentation committed by private respondent and Mr. Villaruz, accosted them and reported the matter to the management of Tanduay.

After conducting an administrative investigation, private respondent was dismissed from the petitioning Company. Private respondent filed a case for illegal dismissal against the company. LA dismissed the complaint. On appeal, however, the NLRC reversed the Labor Arbiter, and held that Rapid Movers had not discharged its burden to prove the validity of petitioners dismissal from his employment and that his dismissal was a penalty disproportionate to the act of petitioner complained of. It awarded him backwages and separation pay in lieu of reinstatement.

Rapid Movers brought a petition for certiorari in the CA, averring grave abuse of discretion on the part of the NLRC. The CA promulgated its assailed decision reinstating the decision of the Labor Arbiter, and upholding the right of Rapid Movers to discipline its workers. Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration but the same was denied hence, petitioner appealed to the SC.

ISSUE: Whether or not the dismissal was valid?

HELD: No. CA decision reversed and set aside. NLRC decision reinstated.

Labor Law- The prerogative of the employer to dismiss an employee on the ground of willful disobedience to company policies must be exercised in good faith and with due regard to the rights of labor.

Petitioner maintains that willful disobedience could not be a ground for his dismissal because he had acted in good faith and with the sole intention of facilitating deliveries for Rapid Movers when he allowed Villaruz to use his company ID.

Willful disobedience to the lawful orders of an employer is one of the valid grounds to terminate an employee under Article 296 (formerly Article 282) of the Labor Code. For willful disobedience to be a ground, it is required that : (a) the conduct of the employee must be willful or intentional; and (b) the order the employee violated must have been reasonable, lawful, made known to the employee, and must pertain to the duties that he had been engaged to discharge.

Under the foregoing standards, the disobedience attributed to petitioner could not be justly characterized as willful within the contemplation of Article 296 of the Labor Code. He neither benefitted from it, nor thereby prejudiced the business interest of Rapid Movers. His explanation that his deed had been intended to benefit Rapid Movers was credible. There could be no wrong or perversity on his part that warranted the termination of his employment based on willful disobedience.

It is true that an employer is given a wide latitude of discretion in managing its own affairs. The broad discretion includes the implementation of company rules and regulations and the imposition of disciplinary measures on its employees. But the exercise of a management prerogative like this is not limitless, but hemmed in by good faith and a due consideration of the rights of the worker.

Dismissal should only be a last resort, a penalty to be meted only after all the relevant circumstances have been appreciated and evaluated with the goal of ensuring that the ground for dismissal was not only serious but true. The cause of termination, to be lawful, must be a serious and grave malfeasance to justify the deprivation of a means of livelihood. This requirement is in keeping with the spirit of our Constitution and laws to lean over backwards in favor of the working class, and with the mandate that every doubt must be resolved in their favor.

Considering that petitioners motive in lending his company ID to Villaruz was to benefit Rapid Movers as their employer by facilitating the loading of goods at the Tanduay Otis Warehouse for distribution to Rapid Movers clients, and considering also that petitioner had rendered seven long unblemished years of service to Rapid Movers, his dismissal was plainly unwarranted.