419-427 Serious Misconduct 282 (a)

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  419. Serious Misconduct (Definition and Acts) RENE P. VALIAO, petitioner Vs. COURT OF APPEALS, Respondent Facts:  Rene P. Valiao is an employee of respondent West Negros College (WNC) and was placed under preventive suspension following the investigation of his unexplained tardiness and absenteeism, aggravated by his arrest for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972. He was subsequently terminated from the service for serious misconduct and gross and habitual neglect of duty. Petitioner filed a complaint for illegal dismissal and damages. The Labor Arbiter ordered WNC to pay the petitioner his salary for the period of his preventive suspension as there was no  justifiable reason to place him under preventive suspension. However, the Labor  Arbiter found the dismissal of the petitioner from WNC to be valid due to absenteeism and habitual tardiness. On appeal to the NLRC, the latter affirmed the decision of the LA. Petitioner filed a petition before the Court of Appeals, but the same was dismissed. Petitioner’s motion for reconsideration was denied. Hence, this petition.   ISSUE:  WON the dismissal of herein petitioner Valiao is illegal? HELD:  No. The Supreme Court ruled that the Labor Arbiter’s findings that petitioner’s habitual absenteeism and tardiness constitute gross and habitual neglect of duties that justified his termination of employment were sufficiently supported by evidence on record. Petitioner’s repeated acts of absences without leave and his frequent tardiness reflect his indifferent attitude and lack of motivation in his work. His repeated and habitual infractions, committed despite several warnings, constitute g ross misconduct unexpected from an employee for petitioner’s stature. Habitual absenteeism without leave constitute gross negligence and is sufficient to justify termination of an employee. 420.   Serious Misconduct (Definition and Acts)   VILLAMOR GOLF CLUB, Petitioner Vs. RODOLFO F. PEHID, respondent Facts:  On September 20, 1975, Rodolfo F. Pehid was employed by the Villamor Golf Club (VGC) as an attendant in the men’s locker room, and, thereafter, he became the Supervisor-in-Charge. His subordinates included Juanito Superal, Jr., Patricio Parilla, Ricardo Mendoza, Cesar Velasquez, Vicente Casabon, Pepito Buenaventura and Carlito Modelo. On May 1, 1998, the afore-mentioned employees agreed to establish a common fund from the tips they received from the customers, guests and members of the club for their mutual needs and benefits. Each member was to contribute the amount of P100.00 daily. By October 31, 1998, the contributions of the employees had reached the aggregate amount of P17, 990.00 based on the logbook maintained on the locker room. This agreement, however, was not known to the VGC management.  An audit of the Locker Room section of the golf club was conducted and found out that there was an undeclared and unrecorded aggregate amount of P17, 900.00 for the fund during the period of May 1998 to October 1998. It was further recommended in the said report that an investigation be conducted to determine the whereabouts of said amount and who was accountable therefor.  After the formal investigation, Pehid received Office Order No. 11-99 from the General Manager of the club informing him that his employment was terminated effective July 1, 1999 for gross misconduct in the performance of his duties in violation of Paragraph IV-E(d) of the VGC Rules and Regulations. He was also informed that he committed acts of dishonesty which caused and tend to cause prejudice to the club for misappropriating the common fund of P17, 900 for his personal benefit. ISSUE:  WON the termination of employment of Pehid is illegal? HELD:  Yes. Under the afore- quoted VGC rule, the dishonesty of an employee to be a valid cause for dismissal must relate to or involve the misappropriation or malversation of the club funds or cause or tend to cause prejudice to the VGC. The substantial evidence on record indicates that the P17, 900.00 which was  accumulated from a portion of the tips given by the golfers from May 1998 to October 1998 and was allegedly misappropriated by the respondent as the purported custodian thereof, did not belong to the VGC but to the forced savings of its locker personnel. Hence, the claim of VGC that its interest was prejudiced was no factual basis. Clearly, based on the grounds of termination provided under Article 282 of the Labor Code and the VGC rules and regulations, the common denominator thereof to constitute misconduct as a ground for valid termination of the employee, is that it is committed in the connection with latter’s work or employment. In the instant case, the alleged petitioner’s misappropriation or malversa tion was committed, against the common fund of the Locker Room personnel which did not belong nor sanctioned by respondent VGC. A fortiori, respondent VGC was not prejudiced or damaged by the loss or misappropriation thereof. Undoubtedly, the parties who were prejudiced or damaged by the alleged embezzlement, were locker room personnel, who may ventilate any proper civil or criminal action to whomsoever responsible therefor. Applying the principle in statutory construction of ejusdem generis , i.e. , “where general words follow an enumeration of persons or things, by words of a particular and specific meaning, such general words are not to be construed in their widest extent, but are to be held as applying only to persons or things of the same kind or class as those specifically mentioned” ( United Residents of Dominican Hill, Inc. vs. Commission on Settlement of Land Problems, 352 SCRA 782). Elementary is the rule that when laws or rules are clear, it is incumbent upon the judge to apply them regardless of personal belief or predilections - when the law is unambiguous and unequivocal, application not interpretation thereof is imperative ( De Guzman vs. Sison, 355 SCRA 69 ). “ Serious misconduct” as a valid cause for the dismissal of an emp loyee is defined as improper or wrong conduct; the transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, willful in character, and implies wrongful intent and not mere error in judgment. To be serious within the meaning and intendment of the law, the misconduct must be of such grave and aggravated character and not merely trivial or unimportant. However serious such misconduct, it must, nevertheless, be in connection with the employee’s work to constitute just cause for his separation. The act complained of must be related to the performance of the employee’s duties such as would show him to be unfit to continue working for the employer. 421 Lakpue Drug v. Belga G.R. No. 166379 473 SCRA 617 October 20, 2005 Serious Misconduct Facts: In 1995, Petitioner Tropical Biological Phils., Inc. (Tropical, a subsidiary of Lakpue Group of Companies, hired respondent Ma. Lourdes Belga (Belga) as bookkeeper and later promoted as Assistant Cashier. In 2001, Belga brought her daughter to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) for treatment of bronchopneumonia. On her way to the hospital, she dropped by the house of Ms. Vegafria, Technical Manager of Tropical and handed documents worked on and gave notice of her emergency leave. While in the hospital, Belga, who is pregnant experienced labor pains and gave birth on the same day. Two days after giving birth, the company summoned her to report for work but failed to comply. A follow up memorandum was given to her informing of the scheduled clarificatory conference. When the respondent attended the conference, she was terminated and dismissed that day. Belga thus filed a complaint with the Public Assistance and Complaint Unit (PACU) of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). Attempts to settle the case failed, hence the parties brought the case before the NLRC-NCR. Tropical alleged that the work of Belga was not merely clerical; concealed her pregnancy from the company; did not apply for leave and her absence disrupted Tropical’s financial transactions. The petitioner terminated her employment on the grounds of: (1) Absence without official leave for 16 days; (2) Dishonesty, for deliberately concealing her pregnancy; and (3) Insubordination, for her deliberate refusal to heed and comply with company’s memoranda.  The LA ruled in favour Belga and found that she was illegally dismissed. Tropical appealed to the NLRC, which reversed and set aside the findings of the LA.  Issue: Whether the respondent was illegally dismissed by the petitioner on the ground of serious misconduct. Ruling: We have defined misconduct as a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, wilful in character, and implies wrongful intent and not mere error in judgment. The misconduct to be serious must be of such grave and aggravated character and not mere error in judgment. The misconduct to be serious must be of such grave and aggravated character and not merely trivial and unimportant. Such misconduct, however serious, must, nevertheless, be in conn ection with the employee’s work to constitute just cause for his separation. Belga’s failure to formally inform Tropical of her pregnancy can not be considered as grave misconduct directly connected to her work as to constitute just cause for her separation. Thus, Belga is entitled to be reinstated to her former or equivalent position and to the payment of full backwages. The instant petition is Denied. 422 Coca-Cola Bottlers, Phils., Inc. v. Kapisanan ng Malayang Manggagawa sa Coca-Cola-FFW 452 SCRA 480 Serious Misconduct/Dishonesty Facts: The Petitioner Coca-Cola Bottlers Phil., Inc. is a domestic corporation engaged in the manufacture, sale and distribution of softdrinks, with plants in Southern parts of the country. In 1982, the petitioner hi red Florentino Ramirez as “”driver  - helper”. He became a member of the respondent Kapisanan ng Malayang Manggagawa Sales Force Union, the bargaining representative of the rank-and-file employees. In 1996, he was the “shop steward” of the union at the company’s Batangas Sales Office. This time the route of the salesman was unavailable, thus temporarily substituted by Ramirez for routes M11, AMC and LPR. Thereafter, the OIC of Batangas Sales Office informed the OIC of DDS-District 44, that a review of the copies of invoices related to the transactions of the respondent revealed discrepancies as to the number of cases, empty bottles, and the amounts in selected Sales Invoices. Ramirez and the Union filed a Complaint for unfair labor practice and illegal dismissal against the company for the alleged shortage in the bodega and violations in his official functions and designation. He claimed that he was terminated by the respondents in utter bad faith, as the decision on the said termination was arrived without just and valid cause. The petitioner company alleged that the dismissal of Ramirez was based on facts unearthed during the formal investigation, and that he was guilty of serious misconduct, a valid ground for his termination. Issue: Whether the respondent was legally dismissed by the petitioner on the ground of dishonesty. Ruling: The Court ruled that an employer enjoys a wide latitude of discretion in the promulgation of policies, rules, and regulations on work-related activities of the employees so long as they are exercised in good faith for the advancement of the employer’s interest and not for the purpose of defeating or circumventing the rights of the employees under special laws or under valid agreements. Company policies and regulations are generally valid and binding on the parties and must be complied with until finally revised or amended, unilaterally or preferably through negotiation, by competent authority. For misconduct or improper behaviour to be a just cause for dismissal, the same must related to the performance of the employee’s duties and must show that he has become unfit to continue working for the employer. The designation of the respondent, who was employed as driver-helper, but temporarily assigned as route salesman for a period of three (3) days, did not automatically make him an employee on whom the petitioner reposed trust and confidence. Despite his additional duties, the respondent remained a driver-helper of the petitioner. Thus respondent cannot be dismissed pursuant to Article 282 of the Labor Code.  We agree with the CA. As the Court ruled in Pepsi-Cola Distributors of the Philippines, Inc. V. NLRC ...Moreover, private respondent was already penalized with suspension in some of the infractions imputed to him in this case, like sleeping while on route rides, incomplete accomplishment of sales report and his failure to achieve sales commitments. He cannot again be penalized for those misconduct. The foregoing acts cannot be added to support the imposition of the ultimate penalty of dismissal which must be based on clear and not on ambiguous and ambivalent ground. Considering the factual backdrop in this case, the Court find and rule that for his infractions, the respondent should be meted a suspension of two (2) months. 423 Genuino Ice Company v. Magpantay G.R. No. 147790 Serious Misconduct Facts: Alfonso Magpantay (respondent) was employed by Genuino Ice Co., Inc. (petitioner) as machine operator. In 1996, the respondent filed against petitioner a Complaint for illegal dismissal for the alleged valid ground for he led an illegal strike at it’s sister company, Genuino  Agro Industrial Development Corporation which brought losses. This act was tantamount to serious misconduct or willful disobedience, gross and habitual neglect of duties, and breach of trust. Subsequently included insubordination among the grounds. Respondent appealed from the LA. The NLRC, in its Decision dated June 30, 1999, sustained the findings of the LA. All appeals are denied. Issue: Whether the respondent’s actions on holding a strike, four  -day absences a habitual and neglect of duty and insubordination be valid grounds for his dismissal. Ruling: On the issue of illegal dismissal, both the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC were one in concluding that petitioner had just cause for dismissing respondent, as his act of leading a strike at petitioner’s sister company.  Under Article 282 of the Labor Code, as amended, an employer may terminate an employment for serious misconduct or willful disobedience by the employee of the lawful orders of his employer or representative in connection with his work. The employer has the burden of proving that the dismissal was for a just cause; failure to show this would necessarily mean that dismissal was unjustified and, therefore, illegal. Neglect of duty, to be a ground for dismissal, must be both gross and habitual. Gross negligence connotes want of care in the performance of o ne’s duties for a period of time, depending upon the circumstances. On the other hand, fraud and wilful neglect of duties imply bad faith on the employee of in failing to perform his job to the detriment of the employer and the latter’s business. Thus, the single or isolated act of negligence does not constitute a just cause for the dismissal of the employee. Thus, the Court agrees with the CA that respondent’s four  -day absence is not tantamount to a gross and habitual neglect of duty. His absences did not contribute to the detriment of GICI’s operations and caused it irreparable damage.   On the issue of illegal strike, the petitioner’s memorandum showed glaring violations of his right to substantive and procedural due process and reveal the true circu mstances of his dismissal as failure to abide with the management’s decision to transfer him. The rule is that the transfer of an employee ordinarily lies within the ambit of the employer’s prerogatives and exercises it for a valid reason and according to the requirement of its business, provided such transfer does not result in demotion in rank or diminution of the employee’s salary, benefits, and other privileges. The Court cannot accept the proposition that when an employee opposes his employer’s dec ision to transfer him to another work place, there being no bad faith or underhanded motives on the part of either party, it is the employee’s wishes that should be made to prevail.
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