CASE DIGEST: Hechanova Bugay Vilchez Lawyers v. Matorre

G.R. No. 198261 : OCTOBER 16, 2013




Atty. Matorre claimed that on August 1, 2008, she was employed by HBV Law Firm as a Senior Associate Attorney.Due to her work experience, her probationary period was waived and she was immediately employed as a regular employee of the said law firm with a monthly salary of P40,000, consultancy fee of P5,000, and an incentive pay equivalent to 8% of P1,500 per billable hour. As the managing partner of HBV Law Firm, Atty. Hechanova was the one who supervised Atty. Matorre and gave her work assignments.

On August 11, 2008, Atty. Matorre, orally or through e-mails, started to express her feelings of being harassed by Atty. Hechanova. Atty. Matirre also explained that she intended to improve her work and that she was not making excuses when she could not accomplish assigned tasks on time.

During a meeting between Atty. Matorre and Atty. Hechanova on August 19, 2008, Atty. Matorre told Atty. Hechanova that since she (Atty. Hechanova) was not satisfied with her work and because they were frequently arguing with each other, it would be best if she (Atty. Matorre) resigns from the firm.Atty. Matorre requested that her resignation be made effective on September 30, 2008, but thinking that the said date was too far off, Atty. Hechanova accepted the resignation, with the condition that it be made effective on September 15, 2008.

On September 1, 2008, Atty. Matorre filed a complaint for constructive illegal dismissal against HBV Law Firm. The Labor Arbiter rendered a decision in favor of HBV Law Firm. It held that Atty. Matorree voluntarily resigned from her employment and that Atty. Hechanova readily accepted Atty. Matorre oral resignation. The NLRC reversed the decision of the Labor Arbiter and declared that Atty. Matorre was illegally dismissed. The CA upheld the decision of NLRC and held that no voluntary resignation took place.

ISSUE: Whether or not Atty. Matorre voluntarily resigned or was constructively dismissed by petitioners?

HELD: The resignation was voluntary

LABOR LAW: constructive dismissal

The case of Vicente v. Court of Appeals (Former 17th Div.) is instructive on this matter. In the case at bar and in Vicente, the fact of resignation is not disputed, but only the voluntariness thereof. In Vicente, the employee alleged that her employer forced her to resign. The Court held that she voluntarily resigned and was not constructively dismissed.The Court said: Hence, petitioner cannot take refuge in the argument that it is the employer who bears the burden of proof that the resignation is voluntary and not the product of coercion or intimidation. Having submitted a resignation letter, it is then incumbent upon her to prove that the resignation was not voluntary but was actually a case of constructive dismissal with clear, positive, and convincing evidence. Petitioner failed to substantiate her claim of constructive dismissal. Bare allegations of constructive dismissal, when uncorroborated by the evidence on record, cannot be given credence.

Digitel Telecommunications Philippines, Inc. v. Soriano is similarly enlightening. In that case, the employee, a Director for Market and Communications, claimed that her employers harassed her to compel her to resign. This Court found that the employee failed to present a single witness to substantiate her claims of harassment and that her narration of events was unbelievable and contrary to human experience. It was then held that she failed to prove that she was constructively dismissed.

First, Atty. Matorre was not able to present a single witness to corroborate her claims of verbal abuse and insults from Atty. Hechanova. She was only able to adduce transcriptions of what she claims were conversations between her and Atty. Hechanova, and nothing more. These are indeed self-serving and uncorroborated and should not be given evidentiary weight.On the other hand, the body of evidence presented by HBV Law Firm would show affidavits demonstrating that the other personnel in the said law firm neither heard nor saw any inappropriate behavior on the part of Atty. Hechanova towards Atty. Matorre.

Second, the act of HBV Law Firm of moving the effectivity date of Atty. Matorre resignation from September 30, 2008 to September 15, 2008 is not an act of harassment, as Atty. Matorre would have us believe. The 30-day notice requirement for an employee resignation is actually for the benefit of the employer who has the discretion to waive such period. Its purpose is to afford the employer enough time to hire another employee if needed and to see to it that there is proper turn-over of the tasks which the resigning employee may be handling.

Third, the fact that HBV Law Firm was no longer assigning new work to Atty. Matorre after her resignation is not an act of harassment, but is also an exercise of management prerogative. Expecting that Atty. Matorre would no longer be working for HBV Law Firm after three to four weeks, she was no longer given additional assignments to ensure a smooth turn-over of duties and work. Indeed, having an employee focus on her remaining tasks and not assigning new ones to her would be beneficial on the part of HBV Law Firm as there would in fact be less tasks to be turned over to Atty. Matorre replacement.

Since Atty. Matorre failed to prove that she was illegally or constructively dismissed, there is no need to discuss the issue of her monetary claims due to her lack of entitlement thereto.

Petition for review on certiorari is GRANTED.