HSY Marketing Ltd., Co. vs. Villastique
G.R. No. 219569, August 17, 2016
Petitioner hired respondent as a field driver for Fabulous Jeans & Shirt & General Merchandise (Fabulous Jeans), tasked to deliver ready-to-wear items and/or general merchandise. Respondent figured in an accident when the service vehicle he was driving in Iligan City bumped a pedestrian. Fabulous Jeans shouldered the hospitalization and medical expenses of Dorataryo which respondent was asked to reimburse, but to no avail. Respondent was allegedly required to sign a resignation letter, which he refused to do. A couple of days later, he tried to collect his salary for that week but was told that it was withheld because of his refusal to resign. Convinced that he was already terminated on February 26, 2011, he lost no time in filing a complaint for illegal dismissal with money claims against petitioner, Fabulous Jeans, and its owner, Alexander G. Arqueza before the NLRC.
For their part, petitioners contended that respondent had committed several violations in the course of his employment, and had been found by his superior and fellow employees to be a negligent and reckless driver, which resulted in the vehicular mishap involving Dorataryo. After they paid for Dorataryo’ s hospitalization and medical expenses, respondent went on absence without leave, presumably to evade liability for his recklessness. Since respondent was the one who refused to report for work, he should be considered as having voluntarily severed his own employment. Thus, his money claims cannot prosper as he was not terminated.
The LA dismissed the charge of illegal dismissal, finding no evidence to substantiate respondent’s claim that he was dismissed from his job on February 26, 2011. The LA declared that neither was there a notice of termination issued to him, nor was he prevented from showing up in petitioner’s place of business. There was likewise no evidence submitted by petitioner that respondent had indeed voluntarily resigned. According to the LA, mere absence or failure to report for work, even after a notice to return, is not tantamount to abandonment.
Also, the LA awarded respondent the amount of P16,418.75 as service incentive leave pay, pointing out that respondent was a field driver who regularly performed work outside petitioner’s place of business and whose hours of work could not be ascertained with reasonable certainty; and that petitioner had failed to present the payroll or pay slips to prove that respondent was paid such benefit.
Aggrieved, petitioners appealed to the NLRC.
The NLRC affirmed the finding of the LA that there was no illegal dismissal to speak of, stressing the failure of respondent to discharge the burden of proof, which shifted to him when his employer denied having dismissed him. Similarly, the NLRC found no evidence of deliberate or unjustified refusal on the part of respondent to resume his employment, or of overt acts unerringly pointing to the fact that respondent did not want to work anymore.
Petitioners moved for reconsideration but was denied. Undaunted, they elevated the case to the CA by way of certiorari.
The CA affirmed in toto the NLRC Resolutions, observing that the failure of petitioner, et al. to present the alleged resignation letter of respondent belied their claim that he voluntarily resigned; and that the fact of filing by respondent of the labor complaint was inconsistent with the charge of abandonment. Thus, the CA found no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the NLRC in sustaining the award of separation pay, which respondent had expressly prayed for from the very start of the proceedings, thereby foreclosing, by implication, reinstatement as a relief.
In addition, the CA held that reinstatement was no longer feasible considering the resentment and enmity between the parties. On the issue of respondent’s entitlement to service incentive leave pay, the CA declared that respondent was not a field personnel but a regular employee whose task was necessary and desirable to the usual trade and business of his employer, which, thus, entitled him to the benefit in question.
Respondent was not dismissed from service.
Other than the employee’s unsubstantiated allegation of having been verbally terminated from his work, no substantial evidence was presented to show that he was indeed dismissed or was prevented from returning to his work. In the absence of any showing of an overt or positive act proving that petitioner had dismissed respondent, the latter’s claim of illegal dismissal cannot be sustained, as such supposition would be self-serving, conjectural, and of no probative value.
No dismissal and no abandonment of work; Effect
There being no dismissal or abandonment to speak of, the appropriate course of action is to reinstate the employee (in this case, herein respondent) without, however, the payment of backwages.
No separation pay where there was no dismissal
The reinstatement ordered should not be construed as a relief proceeding from illegal dismissal; instead, it should be considered as a declaration or affirmation that the employee may return to work because he was not dismissed in the first place.
The liability for the payment of separation pay is but a legal consequence of illegal dismissal where reinstatement is no longer viable or feasible. As a relief granted in lieu of reinstatement, it goes without saying that an award of separation pay is inconsistent with a finding that there was no illegal dismissal. This is because an employee who had not been dismissed, much less illegally dismissed, cannot be reinstated.
The doctrine of strained relations does not apply when reinstatement is not proper
Moreover, as there is no reinstatement to speak of, respondent cannot invoke the doctrine of strained relations to support his prayer for the award of separation pay.
In the case of Capili v. NLRC, the Court explained that: The award of separation pay cannot be justified solely because of the existence of “strained relations” between the employer and the employee. It must be given to the employee only as an alternative to reinstatement emanating from illegal dismissal. When there is no illegal dismissal, even if the relations are strained, separation pay has no legal basis.
Entitlement of supervised field personnel to SIL
The Court has already held that company drivers who are under the control and supervision of management officers -like respondent herein -are regular employees entitled to benefits including service incentive leave pay.