SC: Negative feedback NOT enough to get coworker fired

SUMMARY: According to the Supreme Court, it is not enough that coworkers of an employee write or inform the employer of some negative feedback against the latter to prove attitude problem. There should be more evidence than a negative report. The employer has to show by SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE that the employee's attitude is detrimental to the company and, because of it, she can upset and strain the working environment.

In the case of Heavylift Manila v. CA (G.R. NO. 154410, October 20, 2005), the employer [petitioner] asserts that it terminated Galay [the employee] because she had an attitude problem.

This situation, according to employer, is analogous to loss of trust and confidence. It is argued that the employee did not deny the strained and irreconcilable relationship between them, in effect, admitting the same.

Further, employer avers that having lost their trust and confidence on Galay, they could no longer make her in-charge of the confidential Crew Information System which accounts for the personnel, management and professional records of all the employees of and seamen connected with the company. Lastly, the employer maintains that because of Galay's attitude, the company's work atmosphere had become very strained and had gravely affected the workers and their outputs. Galay's dismissal, according to the employer, was merely an act of self-preservation.

The employer explained that they sent the employee a letter of notice dated February 23, 1999, apprising her of her low performance and her attitude problem, before the letter of her termination dated August 16, 1999. The employer claims that the company waited for six months, to give Galay a chance to undergo counseling before dismissing her from the service.

Galay counters that her employer failed to show a just and valid cause for her termination, and that letters of notice and termination did not comply with the twin requirement of notice and hearing. Galay argues that the letter dated February 23, 1999 neither informed her of her infraction of any company rule that warrants disciplinary action; nor required her to submit an explanation.

An employee who cannot get along with his co-employees is detrimental to the company for he can upset and strain the working environment. Without the necessary teamwork and synergy, the organization cannot function well. Thus, management has the prerogative to take the necessary action to correct the situation and protect its organization. When personal differences between employees and management affect the work environment, the peace of the company is affected. Thus, an employee's attitude problem is a valid ground for his termination. It is a situation analogous to loss of trust and confidence that must be duly proved by the employer. Similarly, compliance with the twin requirement of notice and hearing must also be proven by the employer.However, the Supreme Court was NOT CONVINCED that in the present case, the employer has shown sufficiently clear and convincing evidence to justify Galay's termination. Though the employer are correct in saying that in this case, proof beyond reasonable doubt is not required, still there must be substantial evidence to support the termination on the ground of attitude.

The mere mention of negative feedback from her team members, and the letter dated February 23, 1999, are not proof of her attitude problem. Likewise, her failure to refute her employer's  allegations of her negative attitude does not amount to admission. Technical rules of procedure are not binding in labor cases. Besides, the burden of proof is not on the employee but on the employer who must affirmatively show adequate evidence that the dismissal was for justifiable cause.