Case Digest: Lores Realty v. Pacia (1st Version)

G.R. No. 171189 : March 9, 2011.

LORES REALTY ENTERPRISES, INC., LORENZO Y. SUMULONG III, Petitioners, v. VIRGINIA E. PACIA, Respondent.

MENDOZA, J.:


FACTS:

Respondent Virginia E. Pacia(Pacia)was hired by Lores Realty Enterprises, Inc. (LREI). At the time of her dismissal, she was the assistant manager and officer-in-charge of LREI's Accounting Department under the Finance Administrative Division.

LREI's acting general manager, Sumulong, ordered Pacia to prepare a check amounting to P150,000.00, an order which she was slow to follow. Pacia eventually complied with the order, nevertheless. Pacia was ordered to prepare another check, this time amounting to P175,000.00. She was again slow to comply, but eventually the order was complied with. To explain her refusal to immediately follow the directive, Pacia reasoned out that the funds in LREIs account were not sufficient to cover the amounts to be indicated in the checks.

Thereafter Pacia received a notice of termination stating, among others, that she was being dismissed because of her willful disobedience and their loss of trust and confidence in her.

Pacia then filed a Complaint for Unfair Labor Practice due to Harassment, Constructive Dismissal, Moral and Exemplary Damages against LREI and Sumulong. Subsequently, Pacia filed an Amended Complaint to include the charges of illegal dismissal and non-payment of salaries. The Labor Arbiter(LA)rendered a decision finding that the dismissal of Pacia was for a just and valid cause but ordering payment of what was due her.On appeal, the NLRC in its decision reversed the LA's Decision and found LREI and Sumulong guilty of illegal dismissal. The case was elevated to the CA. The CA held that LREI and Sumulong failed to establish with substantial evidence that the dismissal of Pacia was for a just cause.It found that Pacias initial reluctance to obey the orders of her superiors was for a good reason - to shield the company from liability in the event that the checks would be dishonored for insufficiency of funds.

ISSUE: Whether or not Pacias termination was justified under the circumstances

HELD:

The petition has no merit.


LABOR LAW: Just causes for termination.

At the outset, it must be emphasized that the issues raised in this petition are questions of fact which are not proper subjects of an appeal by certiorari.A disharmony between the factual findings of the LA and the NLRC, however,opens the door to a review by this Court.Factual findings of administrative agencies are not infallible and will be set aside when they fail the test of arbitrariness. Moreover, when the findings of the NLRC contradict those of the LA, this Court, in the exercise of its equity jurisdiction, may look into the records of the case and re-examine the questioned findings.

Article 282 of the Labor Code enumerates the just causes for which an employer may terminate the services of an employee, to wit:

(a)Serious misconduct or willful disobedience by the employee of the lawful orders of his employer or representative in connection with his work;

(b)Gross and habitual neglect by the employee of his duties;

(c)Fraud or willful breach by the employee of the trust reposed in him by his employer or duly authorized representative;

(d)Commission of a crime or offense by the employee against the person of his employer or any immediate member of his family or his duly authorized representative; and

(e)Other causes analogous to the foregoing.

The offense of willful disobedience requires the concurrence of two (2) requisites:

(1) the employee's assailed conduct must have been willful, that is characterized by a wrongful and perverse attitude; and

(2) the order violated must have been reasonable, lawful, made known to the employee and must pertain to the duties which he had been engaged to discharge.

The Court finds nothing unlawful in the directive of Sumulong to prepare checks in payment of LREI's obligations. The availability or unavailability of sufficient funds to cover the check is immaterial in the physical preparation of the checks. Pacias initial reluctance to prepare the checks, however, which was seemingly an act of disrespect and defiance, was for honest and well intentioned reasons. Protecting LREI and Sumulong from liability under the Bouncing Checks Law. was foremost in her mind.It was not wrongful or willful. Neither can it be considered an obstinate defiance of company authority.The Court takes into consideration that Pacia, despite her initial reluctance, eventually did prepare the checks on the same day she was tasked to do it. Pacias apprehension was justified when the check was dishonored.This clearly affirms her assertion that she was just being cautious and circumspect for the company's sake.Thus, her actuation should not be construed as improper conduct.

Petition is DENIED.

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