Illegal dismissal if employee not given new assignments

As a rule, employment cannot be terminated by an employer without any just or authorized cause. No less than the 1987 Constitution in Section 3, Article 13 guarantees security of tenure for workers and because of this, an employee may only be terminated for just or authorized causes that must comply with the due process requirements mandated by law. Hence, employers are barred from arbitrarily removing their workers whenever and however they want. The law sets the valid grounds for termination as well as the proper procedure to take when terminating the services of an employee.[1]

The validity of the dismissal of an employee hinges not only on the fact that the dismissal was for a just or authorized cause, but also on the very manner of the dismissal itself. It is elementary that the termination of an employee must be effected in accordance with law. It is required that the employer furnish the employee with two written notices: (1) a written notice served on the employee specifying the ground or grounds for termination, and giving to said employee reasonable opportunity within which to explain his side; and (2) a written notice of termination served on the employee indicating that upon due consideration of all the circumstances, grounds have been established to justify his termination.[2]

It should be stressed that in termination cases, the burden of proving that the dismissal of the employees was for a valid and authorized cause rests on the employer. It is incumbent upon the employer to show by substantial evidence that the dismissal of the employee was validly made and failure to discharge that duty would mean that the dismissal is not justified and therefore illegal.[3]

Abandonment is a matter of intention and cannot lightly be inferred or legally presumed from certain equivocal acts. For abandonment to exist, two requisites must concur: first, the employee must have failed to report for work or must have been absent without valid or justifiable reason; and second, there must have been a clear intention on the part of the employee to sever the employer-employee relationship as manifested by some overt acts.[4]In People's Security v. Flores (G.R. No. 211312, December 05, 2016), the Supreme Court was not convinced that the respondent employees failed to report for work or have been absent without valid or justifiable cause. After the petitioners (security agency and its corporate president, Racho) relieved them from their previous assignment in Sta. Ana, Manila, the respondents were no longer given any assignment. Indeed, the petitioners failed to show that new assignments were given to the respondents and that the latter were informed of the same. Moreover, the Court said that the respondents' act of filing a complaint for illegal dismissal against the petitioners negates any intention on their part to sever the employer-employee relationship.[5]

There is no merit in the employer's claim that the employees were not dismissed, but were merely relieved from their respective assignments. Yes, true, the special order issued by People's Security to the dismissed employees indicated that the latter were merely relieved from the warehouse in Sta. Ana, Manila, such fact alone would not negate the claim of illegal dismissal. Indeed, the respondent employees pointed out that after they were relieved from their previous assignment, the petitioners refused to provide them with new assignments.

Also, the High Court, in deciding the case, considered the hard economic times in which the Philippines is in. Said the Court, it is incongruous for the respondents to simply abandon their employment after being relieved from their previous assignment. No employee would recklessly abandon his job knowing fully well the acute unemployment problem and the difficulty of looking for a means of livelihood nowadays.[6]

[1] Alert Security and Investigation Agency, Inc. and/or Dasig v. Pasawilan, et al., 673 Phil. 291, 301 (2011).

[2] Lynvil Fishing Enterprises, Inc., et al. v. Ariola, et al., 680 Phil. 696, 715 (2012).

[3] See Columbus Philippines Bus Corporation v. NLRC, 417 Phil. 81, 100 (2001).

[4] Seven Star Textile Company v. Dy, 541 Phil. 468, 481 (2007).

[5] See Hodieng Concrete Products v. Emilia, 491 Phil. 434, 439-440 (2005).

[6] See Hantex Trading Co., Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 438 Phil. 737, 744 (2002).