Case Digest: The University of the Immaculate Concepcion & David v. NLRC & Axalan

G.R. No. 181146, January 26, 2011




Private respondent Axalan is a regular faculty member in the University of Immaculate Concepcion and also the elected president of the employees' union. She attended a seminar in Quezon City on website development. However, she received a letter from the Dean asking her to explain why she should not be dismissed for having been absent without official leave. She explained that she still held online classes while she was away and that she thought she would not be considered absent because of such action. The Dean asked her to write a letter of apology but she opted not to comply, believing she could not be deemed absent since she held online classes. By then, an ad hoc grievance committee had been created to investigate the AWOL charge.

Thereafter, Axalan attended another seminar, this time on advanced paralegal training. The Dean informed her that her participation in said seminar was the subject of a second AWOL charge. Axalan explained that she sought the approval of the Vice-President for Academics. However, the Vice-President denied having approved the application for official leave.

Meanwhile, the ad hoc grievance committee found Axalan to have incurred AWOL on both instances and recommended that Axalan be suspended without pay for 6 months on each AWOL charge. The university president approved the recommendation. After the expiration of the suspension period, Axalan resumed teaching in the university.

Axalan filed a complaint against the University for illegal suspension, constructive dismissal, reinstatement with backwages and unfair labor practice. The university moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground of jurisdiction but this was denied.

The Labor Arbiter ruled that Axalan's suspension amounted to constructive dismissal, entitling her to reinstatement and payment of backwages, salary differentials, damages and attorney's fees. The university appealed the decision to the NLRC on the subject of jurisdiction but the NLRC upheld the ruling of the Labor Arbiter and so did the CA.

ISSUE: Whether the CA erred in ruling that Axalan was constructively dismissed.

HELD: The petition is meritorious.

LABOR LAW; Constructive dismissals

Constructive dismissal occurs when there is cessation of work because continued employment is rendered impossible, unreasonable, or unlikely as when there is a demotion in rank or diminution in pay or when a clear discrimination, insensibility, or disdain by an employer becomes unbearable to the employee leaving the latter with no other option but to quit.

In this case however, there was no cessation of employment relations between the parties. It is unrefuted that Axalan promptly resumed teaching at the university right after the expiration of the suspension period. In other words, Axalan never quit. Hence,Axalan cannot claim that she was left with no choice but to quit, a crucial element in a finding of constructive dismissal. Thus,Axalan cannot be deemed to have been constructively dismissed.

Significantly, at the time the Labor Arbiter rendered his Decision on 11 October 2004, Axalan had already returned to her teaching job at the university on 1 October 2004. The Labor Arbiters Decision ordering the reinstatement of Axalan, who at the time had already returned to work, is thus absurd.

Petition is DENIED.