Return to unit directive of the agency to security guards on account of replacement of guards by the client is not constructive dismissal. Case filed before the expiration of six months is premature.
Spectrum Security Services, Inc. vs. David Grave, et al.
G.R. No. 196650, June 7, 2017
Petitioner Spectrum Security Services, Inc. is a domestic corporation engaged in the business of providing security services -employed and posted the Grave, et al. at the premises of Ibiden Philippines, Inc. (Ibiden) located in the First Philippine Industrial Park in Sto. Tomas, Batangas.
The controversy started when the Spectrum Security Services implemented an action plan as part of its operational and manpower supervision enhancement program geared towards the gradual replacement of security guards at Ibiden. Pursuant to the action plan, it issued separate “Notice(s) to Return to Unit” to the Grave, et al. in July and August 2008 directing them to report to its head office and to update their documents for re-assignment.
On August 14, 2008, the Grave, et al. filed their complaint against the Spectrum Security Services for constructive dismissal claiming that the implementation of the action plan was a retaliatory measure against them for bringing several complaints along with other employees of the Spectrum Security Services to recover unpaid holiday pay and 13th month pay.
The complaints were consolidated, and a decision was later on rendered ordering the Spectrum Security Services to pay to the Grave, et al. and their co-employees their unpaid entitlements corresponding to the period from October 16, 2007 to June 30, 2008.
The Labor Arbiter dismissed the complaint for constructive dismissal upon finding that “there is no evidence adduced by complainants in the form of a termination letter and the like to substantiate their claim that they were indeed unceremoniously terminated by [Spectrum Security Services] Spectrum.”
He declared that the return to work notices issued by the Spectrum Security Services belied the Grave, et al.’ charge of illegal dismissal, opining that a security guard could be considered as having been constructively dismissed only when he had been placed on floating status for a period of more than six months.
Aggrieved, the Grave, et al. appealed to the NLRC.
The NLRC reversed the Labor Arbiter’s dismissal, and ordered the Spectrum Security Services to reinstate the Grave, et al. with backwages. It noted that had the Spectrum Security Services really intended to re-assign the Grave, et al. to new posts, the Spectrum Security Services should have indicated in the notices the new postings or re-assignments.
The NLRC denied the motion for reconsideration of the Spectrum Security Services. The Spectrum Security Services assailed the adverse ruling of the NLRC in the CA on certiorari, contending that the NLRC gravely abused its discretion amounting to lack or excess of its jurisdiction in arbitrarily ruling that the Grave, et al. had been illegally dismissed by the Spectrum Security Services.
The CA promulgated its assailed decision upholding the NLRC.
The CA concluded that although the complaint for illegal dismissal was prematurely filed because six months had not yet elapsed to warrant considering the dismissal as constructive dismissal, the continued failure to give the Grave, et al. new assignments during the proceedings before the Labor Arbiter that exceeded the reasonable six-month period rendered the Spectrum Security Services liable for constructive dismissal of the Grave, et al..
The claim that the Grave, et al. had abandoned their employment was bereft of basis. Abandonment as a just ground for dismissal required clear, willful, deliberate and unjustified refusal on the part of the employees to resume their employment; hence, their mere absence from work or failure to report for work even after the notice to return was not tantamount to abandonment.
Whether or not there is constructive dismissal if security guards were ordered to return to unit to update their documents for re-assignment after the client decided to change security guards
Whether or not a prematurely filed case of constructive dismissal by the off-detailed security guards will prosper if they are not furnished work during the pendency of the case which exceeded six months
Labor Code 2017 is now available
The security of tenure of security guards, though it shields them from demotions in rank or diminutions of salaries, benefits and other privileges, does not vest them with the right to their positions or assignments that will prevent their transfers or re-assignments (unless the transfers or re-assignments are motivated by discrimination or bad faith, or effected as a form of punishment or demotion without sufficient cause). Such peculiar conditions of their employment render inevitable that some of them just have to undergo periods of reserved or off-detail status that should not by any means equate to their dismissal. Only when the period of their reserved or off-detail status exceeds the reasonable period of six months without re-assignment should the affected security guards be regarded as dismissed.
The notices sent to Grave, et al. contained nothing from which to justly infer their having been terminated from their employment. Moreover, their complaint for illegal dismissal was even prematurely filed on August 14, 2008 because the notices were sent to each of them only in the period from July 3, 2008 to August 2, 2008.
In illegal dismissal cases, the general rule is that the employer has the burden of proving that the dismissal was legal. To discharge this burden, the employee must first prove, by substantial evidence, that he had been dismissed from employment. In this case, the SC found otherwise.
Grave, et al. failed to properly establish that they were dismissed by the Spectrum Security Services. Aside from the Grave, et al.’ plain allegation that they were illegally dismissed by the Spectrum Security Services, no other evidence was presented by the Grave, et al. to support their contentions.
Despite having been notified of the need for them to appear before the Spectrum Security Services’s head office to update their documents for purposes of reposting, the Grave, et al., except Lucito P. Samarita and Saidomar M. Marohom, refused to receive the notices, and did not sign the same, 20 without first knowing the contents of the memo.
Furthermore, assuming arguendo that when Grave, et al. reported to the human resource office and the company did not provide them with new assignments at that time, the six-month period had not yet lapsed. Note that the position paper submitted by the Grave, et al. to the NLRC was only received by the NLRC on December 11, 2008. The reckoning of the end of the six-month period from the supposed termination (i.e., July and August 2008, the period when they were each given the “Notice to Return to Unit”) would only be in January or February 2009.
Lastly, the CA erred in holding that the Spectrum Security Services was guilty of providing the Grave, et al. with new assignments during the pendency of the proceedings. It appears, indeed, that by the time the Grave, et al. appealed their case in the NLRC, some of them had already gained regular employment as security guards elsewhere during their reserved status with the Spectrum Security Services and prior to the lapse of the six-month period.
Contrary to the findings of the CA, the Grave, et al. intended to sever their employer-employee relationship with the Spectrum Security Services because they applied for and obtained employment with other security agencies while they were on reserved status. Their having done so constituted a clear and unequivocal intent to abandon and sever their employment with the Spectrum Security Services. Thereby, the filing of their complaint for illegal dismissal was inconsistent with the established fact of their abandonment.