Constructive dismissal if workplace turns harsh, hostile

In the case of Channel Technologies v. Ligaya (G.R. No. 231817. January 08, 2018), the Supreme Court found no basis for the National Labor Relations Commission's (NLRC's) declaration that respondent employee (Ligaya) was guilty of abandonment since, as pointed out by the Court of Appeals (CA), petitioning employer (Channel Technologies) failed to establish that she had clearly and unequivocally intended to abandon her job.

Ligaya's act of returning to work after she was unceremoniously asked to go home on December 6, 2013 and her filing the instant case against Channel Technologies are strong indicators of her intention to return to her work. Petitioning employer's statement in the notice of termination that Ligaya had abandoned her work due to her failure to return after the expiry of her preventive suspension holds no water and appears to be a mere afterthought since there was no return to work order given to respondent.

Instead, what the High Court saw in this a case a situation of constructive dismissal where the employee was forced to take a leave of absence and subjected to harsh, hostile, and unfavorable conditions by the employer by compounding her alleged wrongdoings in one notice to explain months after they had occurred.

Time and again, jurisprudence has taught that the test of constructive dismissal is whether a reasonable person in the employee's position would have felt compelled to give up his position under the circumstances. It is an act amounting to dismissal but is made to appear as if it were not. It is a dismissal in disguise. The law recognizes and resolves this situation in favor of employees in order to protect their rights and interests from the coercive acts of the employer.What can be learned from this case of Channel Technologies v. Ligaya is that the employer's act of unceremoniously asking an employee to go home, thereby subjecting the latter (employee) to harsh, hostile, and unfavorable conditions may be considered constructive dismissal (removal from work).

In the case of Ligaya, the constructive dismissal is properly interpreted to start from the time when the employer, in one single notice, compounded all her alleged wrongdoings and asked her to explain all of them despite the fact that they allegedly occurred months prior.

In such a case, the employer may set up three possible defenses:
  1. Abandonment but the intention to abandon (animus non-revertandi) must be clearly and unequivocally proved by the employer;
  2. Resignation or the voluntary act of an employee who is in a situation where one believes that personal reasons cannot be sacrificed in favor of the exigency of the service, and one has no other choice but to dissociate oneself from employment. It is a formal pronouncement or relinquishment of an office, with the intention of relinquishing the office accompanied by the act of relinquishment. As the intent to relinquish must concur with the overt act of relinquishment, the acts of the employee before and after the alleged resignation must be considered in determining whether lie or she, in fact, intended to sever his or her employment; or
  3. A return-to-work order having been issued to the employee but the latter still refuses to return to work, which can be used to prove the intention to abandon work.
Whether or not the above defenses will work depends on the factual background of each case. In other words, labor courts may decide one way or another, depending on the pieces of evidence presented in court.


[1] Ang v. San Joaquin (G.R. No. 185549; August 7, 2013).
[2] Leonen's dissent in Laya v. PVB (G.R. No. 205813).
[3] Raul C. Cosare v. Broadcom Asia, Inc. and Dante Arevalo, G.R. No. 201298, February 5, 2014.
[4] Mario B. Dimagan v. Dacworks United, Incorporated and/or Dean A. Cancino, G.R. No. 191053, November 28, 2011.

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