Echo 2000 Commercial Corporation vs. FILIPINO-ECHO 2000 CHAPTER-CLO, G.R.
No. 214092, January 11, 2016
Echo, a unionized company, received information about shortages in peso value arising from the movement of products to and from its warehouse. After an immediate audit, Echo suspected that there was a conspiracy among the employees in the warehouse. Since an uninterrupted investigation was necessary, Echo, in the exercise of its management prerogative, decided to re-assign the staff. The respondents were among those affected.
A memorandum was issued transferring respondents to Delivery Section. Somido wrote Echo a letter indicating his refusal to be promoted as a “Delivery Supervisor.” He explained that he was already happy as a Warehouse Checker. Further, he was not ready to be a Delivery Supervisor since the position was sensitive and required more expertise and training, which he did not have. Cortes similarly declined Echo’s offer of promotion claiming that he was contented in his post then as a Forklift Operator. He also alleged that he would be more productive as an employee if he remained in his post. He also lacked prior supervisory experience.
Echo, sans consent of the respondents, informed the latter of their assignments/designations, effective July 17, 2009, as Delivery Supervisors. Echo alleged that the respondents did not perform the new duties assigned to them. Hence, they were each issued a memorandum requiring them to explain in writing their failure to abide with the new assignments. Echo clarified through another memo that the respondents were designated as “Delivery Coordinators” and not “Supervisors.”
Thereafter, successive memoranda were issued by Echo to the respondents, who refused to acknowledge receipt and comply with the directives therein. The Memoranda suspended them without pay for five days for their alleged insubordination. Another Memoranda were issued informing them of their termination from employment by reason of their repeated refusal to acknowledge receipt of Echo’s memoranda and flagrant defiance to assume the duties of Delivery Coordinators. Respondents filed before the NLRC a complaint against Echo for unfair labor practice, illegal dismissal, illegal suspension, illegal deductions and payment of money claims, damages and attorney’s fees. The respondents claimed that they were offered promotions, which were mere ploys to remove them as rank-and-file employees, and oust them as Union members. The petitioners, on the other hand, insisted that the respondents were merely transferred, and not promoted.
LA Hernandez dismissed the complaint stating that the claims of union-busting, harassment and discrimination were not supported by evidence; no promotions occurred as the duties of the Delivery Supervisors/Coordinators were merely reportorial in nature and not indicative of any authority to hire, fire or change the status of other employees; and Echo properly exercised its management prerogative to order the transfer, and this was done without intended changes in the ranks, salaries, status or places of assignment of the respondents. Respondents filed an appeal assailing LA Hernandez’s ruling.
In sustaining the respondents’ arguments, the NLRC explained that at the time of the former’s dismissal, they had been employed by Echo for several years since 2002 and 2004, respectively. There were no prior untoward incidents. However, things changed when the Union was formed. When the two did not agree to be transferred, they were terminated for insubordination, a mere ploy to lend a semblance of legality to a pre-conceived management strategy. The NLRC denied the petitioners’ motion for reconsideration.
Petitioners filed a petition for certiorari.
The CA affirmed in toto the NLRC’s ruling holding that the dismissal of [the respondents] was tainted with bad faith as they were dismissed by ECHO for refusing to accept their promotion as Delivery Supervisor[s]/Coordinator[s]. The act of transferring [the respondents] from Forklift Operator and Warehouse Checker to Delivery Supervisors/Coordinators was aimed to remove them among the rank-and-file employees which amounts to union interference. Without the leadership of Cortes, as Vice-President, and Somido, as an active member, the union would be severely weakened, especially since most of its officers were already terminated by ECHO.
Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration, which the CA denied. Thus, the petition.
Whether or not the personnel movement was a transfer or promotion.
Whether or not the refusal was a valid ground for dismissal
The SC partially granted the petition holding that the offer of transfer is, in legal contemplation, a promotion, which the respondents validly refused. Such refusal cannot be the basis for the respondents’ dismissal from service. The finding of unfair labor practice and the award of moral and exemplary damages do not however follow solely by reason of the dismissal.
Citing Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines, Inc. v. Del Villar the management has the prerogative to transfer or assign employees from one office or area of operation to another – provided there is no demotion in rank or diminution of salary, benefits, and other privileges; and the action is not motivated by discrimination, made in bad faith, or effected as a form of punishment or demotion without sufficient cause. A transfer is a movement from one position to another which is of equivalent rank, level or salary, without break in service. Promotion, on the other hand, is the advancement from one position to another with an increase in duties and responsibilities as authorized by law, and usually accompanied by an increase in salary.
An employee is not bound to accept a promotion, which is in the nature of a gift or reward. Refusal to be promoted is a valid exercise of a right. Such exercise cannot be considered in law as insubordination, or willful disobedience of a lawful order of the employer, hence, it cannot be the basis of an employee’s dismissal from service.
Hence, despite the fact that no salary increases were effected, the assumption of the post of a Delivery Supervisor/Coordinator should be considered a promotion. The respondents’ refusal to accept the same was therefore valid.