Case Digest: Wuerth Philippines v. Ynson

G.R. No. 175932 : February 15, 2012

WUERTH PHILIPPINES, INC., Petitioner, v. RODANTE YNSON, Respondent.

PERALTA, J.:

FACTS:


On August 15, 2001, Wuerth Philippines, Inc., a subsidiary of Wuerth Germany, hired respondent Rodante Ynson, as its National Sales Manager (NSM) for Automotive. As NSM, respondent was required to travel to different parts of the country so as to supervise the sales activities of the company sales managers, make a schedule of activities geared towards increasing the sales of petitioner's products, and submit said schedule to Marlon Ricanor, Chief Executive Officer of petitioner company.

In an email dated January 4, 2003 sent to Ricanor, respondent furnished the former with a copy of his sales targets for the year 2003 and coverage plan for the month of January 2003, and indicated that he intends to be on leave from January 23 to 24, 2003. However, respondent was not able to follow the said coverage plan starting January 26, 2003, as he failed to report to work since then. It turned out that on January 24, 2003, he suffered a stroke, and on the succeeding days, he was confined at the Davao Doctor's Hospital. He immediately informed petitioner about his ailment.

On June 9, 2003, respondent sent an e-mail to Hans Sigrit of Wuerth Germany, informing the latter that he can return to work on June 19, 2003, but in view of the recommendation of doctors that he should continue with his rehabilitation until July, he requested that administrative work be given to him while in Davao City, until completion of his therapy.

Thereafter, Ricanor sent a letter dated June 12, 2003 to respondent, directing him to appear before the former office in Manila, on July 1, 2003 at 9:00 a.m., for an investigation, relative to the following violations which carry the penalty of suspension and/or dismissal, based on the following alleged violations: (1) absences without leave since January 24, 2003 to date, and (2) abandonment of work. In a letter dated June 26, 2003, respondent replied that his attending physician advised him to refrain from traveling, in order not to disrupt his daily schedule for therapy and medication.

On June 18, 2003, Knapp sent an e-mail to respondent, informing him that his request for detail in Davao was disapproved, as petitioner did not have any branch in Davao and there was no available administrative work for him. Meanwhile, petitioner company bewailed that its sales suffered, as nobody was performing the duties of the NSM and the office space reserved for respondent remained vacant.

In his letters dated July 21, 2003 and August 12, 2003, respondent reiterated the reasons for his inability to attend the investigation proceedings in Manila and, instead, suggested that Ricanor come to Davao and conduct the investigation there. Finally, in a letterdated August 27, 2003, Ricanor informed respondent of the decision of petitioner's management to terminate his employment, effective upon date of receipt, on the ground of continued absences without filing a leave of absence.

On September 5, 2003, respondent filed a Complaint against petitioner and Ricanor, in his capacity as petitioner company's Chief Executive Officer, for illegal dismissal and non-payment of allowances, with claim for moral and exemplary damages and attorney fees, in the NLRC.

In its July 15, 2004 decision, the Labor Arbiter found herein petitioner and Ricanor guilty of illegal dismissal. On appeal with the NLRC, it affirmed with modification the Decision of the Labor Arbiter reducing the total awards of moral and exemplary damages from P3,000,000.00 to P600,000.00 and P300,000.00, respectively. On August 26, 2005, petitioner and Ricanor filed their Motion for Reconsideration. In a Resolution dated November 24, 2005, the NLRC modified its Decision, further reducing the awards of moral damages fromP600,000.00 to P150,000.00, and exemplary damages from P300,000.00 to P50,000.00, respectively.

Aggrieved, petitioner and Ricanor filed before the CA a Petition for Certiorari with Application for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction.

On July 13, 2006, the CA rendered a Decision,finding the petition partly meritorious. It found that petitioner had the right to terminate the employment of respondent, and that it had observed due process in terminating his employment. While the CA deleted the awards of backwages and moral and exemplary damages, it nonetheless ordered petitioner to pay respondent the following amounts: P1,225,000.00 (representing his salary from February 2003 to August 29, 2003), medical expenses of P94,100.00, temperate damages of P100,000.00, 13th month pay of P175,000.00, and attorney fees of 10% of the total monetary award.

ISSUE: Whether or not there was herein respondent was validly dismissed?

HELD:

LABOR LAW


Article 284 of the Labor Code provides that an employer may terminate the services of an employee who has been found to be suffering from any disease and whose continued employment is prohibited by law or is prejudicial to his health, as well as to the health of his co-employees.

In order to validly terminate employment on this ground, Section 8, Rule I, Book VI of the Omnibus Rules Implementing the Labor Code requires that:

Section 8. Disease as a ground for dismissal. Where the employee suffers from a disease and his continued employment is prohibited by law or prejudicial to his health or to the health of his co-employees, the employer shall not terminate his employment unless there is a certification by a competent public health authority that the disease is of such nature or at such a stage that it cannot be cured within a period of six (6) months even with proper medical treatment. If the disease or ailment can be cured within the period, the employer shall not terminate the employee but shall ask the employee to take a leave. The employer shall reinstate such employee to his former position immediately upon the restoration of his normal health.

In Triple Eight Integrated Services, Inc. v. NLRC, the Court held that the requirement for a medical certificate under Article 284 of the Labor Code cannot be dispensed with; otherwise, it would sanction the unilateral and arbitrary determination by the employer of the gravity or extent of the employee illness and, thus, defeat the public policy on the protection of labor. In the present case, there was no showing that prior to terminating respondent's employment, petitioner secured the required certification from a competent public health authority that the disease he suffered was of such nature or at such a stage that it cannot be cured within six months despite proper medical treatment, pursuant to Section 8, Rule I, Book VI of the Omnibus Rules Implementing the Labor Code.

As of June 4, 2003, respondent would have been capable of returning to work. However, despite notices sent by the petitioner, i.e., letter dated June 12, 2003, requiring respondent to attend an investigation set on July 14, 2003; letter dated July 4, 2003, requiring respondent to appear on July 25, 2003 for investigation; and letter dated July 31, 2003, requiring respondent to appear for the hearing and investigation on August 18, 2003, respondent refused to report to his office, either to resume work or attend the investigations set by the petitioner. Even considering the directive of respondent's doctor to continue with his present regimen for at least another month and a half, it could be safely deduced that, counted from June 4, 2003, respondent's rehabilitation regimen ended on July 19, 2003. Despite the completion of his treatment, respondent failed to attend the investigations set on July 25, 2003 and August 18, 2003. Thus, his unexplained absence in the proceedings should be construed as waiver of his right to be present therein in order to adduce evidence that would have justified his continued absence from work.

Respondent alleged in his lettersdated July 21, 2003 and August 12, 2003 that he is not capable of returning to work, because he is still undergoing medications and therapy. However, apart from the clearance of respondent's doctors allowing him to return to work, he has failed to provide competent proof that he was actually undergoing therapy and medications. It is puzzling why despite respondent's submission that he was still undergoing treatment in July and August 2003, he failed to submit official receipts showing the medical expenses incurred and physician professional fees paid by reason of such treatment. This casts serious doubt on the true condition of the respondent during the prolonged period he was absent from work and investigations, and as to whether he is still suffering from any form of illness from July to August 2003.

Being the NSM, respondent should have reported back to work or attended the investigations conducted by petitioner immediately upon being permitted to work by his doctors, knowing that his position remained vacant for a considerable length of time. During his absence, nobody was performing the duties of NSM, which included, among others, supervising and monitoring of respondent's sales area which is vital to the company orderly operation and viability. He did not even show any sincere effort to return to work.

Clearly, since there is no more hindrance for him to return to work and attend the investigations set by petitioner, respondent's failure to do so was without any valid or justifiable reason. Respondent's conduct shows his indifference and utter disregard of his work and his employer's interest, and displays his clear, deliberate, and gross dereliction of duties.

It bears stressing that respondent was not an ordinary rank-and-file employee. With the nature of his position, he was reposed with managerial duties to oversee petitioner's business in his assigned area. As a managerial employee, respondent was tasked to perform important and crucial functions and, thus, bound by more exacting work ethic. He should have realized that such sensitive position required the full trust and confidence of his employer in every exercise of managerial discretion insofar as the conduct of the latter's business is concerned. The power to dismiss an employee is a recognized prerogative inherent in the employer's right to freely manage and regulate his business. The law, in protecting the rights of the laborers, authorizes neither oppression nor self-destruction of the employer. The worker's right to security of tenure is not an absolute right, for the law provides that he may be dismissed for cause.As a general rule, employers are allowed wide latitude of discretion in terminating the employment of managerial personnel. The mere existence of a basis for believing that such employee has breached the trust and confidence of his employer would suffice for his dismissal.Needless to say, an irresponsible employee like respondent does not deserve a place in the workplace, and it is petitioner's management prerogative to terminate his employment. To be sure, an employer cannot be compelled to continue with the employment of workers when continued employment will prove inimical to the employer's interest.

To condone such conduct will certainly erode the discipline that an employer should uniformly apply so that it can expect compliance with the same rules and regulations by its other employees. Otherwise, the rules necessary and proper for the operation of its business would be gradually rendered ineffectual, ignored, and eventually become meaningless. As applied to the present case, it would be the height of unfairness and injustice if the employer would be left hanging in the dark as to when respondent could report to work or be available for the scheduled hearings, which becomes detrimental to the orderly daily operations of petitioner's business.

CIVIL LAW

In order to justify a grant of actual or compensatory damages, it is necessary to prove, with a reasonable degree of certainty, premised upon competent proof and on the best evidence obtainable by the injured party, the actual amount of loss. One is entitled to an adequate compensation only for such pecuniary loss suffered by him as he has adequately proved. Damages, to be recoverable, must not only be capable of proof, but must be actually proved with a reasonable degree of certainty. The Court cannot simply rely on speculation, conjecture or guesswork in determining the amount of damages. Actual proof of expenses incurred for the purchase of medicines and other medical supplies necessary for his treatment and rehabilitation should have been presented by respondent, in the form of official receipts, to show the exact cost of his medication, and to prove that, indeed, he went through medication and rehabilitation. Aside from the letter of Dr. De la Paz, respondent miserably failed to produce even a single receipt showing his alleged medical and rehabilitation expenses. By reason thereof, petitioner should not be held liable for the P94,000.00 medical expenses of respondent as actual or compensatory damages, for lack of basis. Verily, in the absence of official receipts or other competent evidence to prove the actual expenses incurred, the CA's award of medical expenses in favor of respondent should be negated.

Under Article 2224 of the Civil Code, temperate or moderate damages are more than nominal but less than compensatory, and may be recovered when the court finds that some pecuniary loss has been suffered, but the amount cannot, from the nature of the case, be proved with certainty. The CA found that respondent paid for the doctor's professional fees and incurred other hospital expenses; however, the records failed to show that he presented proof of the actual amount of expenses therein, which served as the basis for the CA to award temperate damages in the amount of P100,000.00.

However, the SC reduced the amount of temperate damages awarded by the CA, from P100,000.00 toP50,000.00, considering that the stroke suffered by respondent was not debilitating in nature and the records showed that his health condition remained stable. Moreover, there were no instances of subsequent or recurring ailment that necessitates prolonged medical attention.

PARTLY GRANTED

REMANDED

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