Employee dismissal arises when the employee was told about the turnover. It simply connotes “to transfer”, “to yield” or “to return.” In employment parlance, the word “turnover” is associated with severance of employment. An employee makes proper “turnover” of pending work before he leaves his employment.
Thus, the Supreme Court held in the October 4, 2017 case as follows:
Allan John Uy Reyes vs. Global Beer Below Zero, Inc.
G.R. No. 222816, October 4, 2017
Petitioner Reyes was an employee of respondent Global as Operations Manager. On January 18, 2012, Reyes, in accordance with his duties, reported to the main office of respondent Global in Makati instead of going to the Pasig warehouse in order to request for budget because there was a scheduled delivery the following day.
The following day, Reyes ran late because according to him, his three-year-old son was sick. Around 10:30 a.m. of the same day, respondent Global’s Vice-President for Operations, Vinson Co Say (Co Say), Reyes’ immediate and direct superior at that time, called Reyes and asked him why he was not yet at the office.
Reyes apologized and said that he was on his way. According to Reyes, he tried to explain why he was late, but Co Say did not listen and the latter shouted at the other end of the line and told Reyes not to report for work anymore. Reyes further claimed that Co Say angrily retorted that he will talk to him the following week before Co Say hung up the phone.
As instructed, Reyes did not report for work on the following days and waited for further instructions from Co Say. On January 24, 2012, Reyes received a text message from Co Say stating the following, “Allan, let’s meet thu, puno aka today, bukas.”
Around 1:28 p.m. of January 26, 2012, Reyes received a text message from Co Say which says, “Allan, let’s meet in Starbucks Waltermart around 3:00.” During the said meeting, Co Say told Reyes to no longer report for work and insisted that he file a resignation letter which Reyes refused to do because he believed that he had not done anything that would warrant his dismissal from the company.
Thus, Reyes instituted a complaint for constructive dismissal on February 22, 2012 and amended the same complaint on March 29, 2012, changing his cause of action to illegal dismissal.
Respondent Global, on the other hand, claimed that Reyes was not dismissed from service, but the latter stopped reporting for work on his own volition after repeatedly violating company rules and regulations. He committed a total of six (6) absences constituting those without filing leave of absence and not following the prior notice rule. He also incurred a total balance of PhP7,977 .10 for personal use of WAP services, and his absences resulted in several work remaining undone.
The LA ruled in favor of complainant.
According to the LA Reyes had no intention of quitting his job as seen from his filing of applications of leaves of absences days before he supposedly abandoned his job and his texting Co Say about is work on the day he supposedly abandoned his job.
It also found that the accusation that Reyes committed serious misconduct and was negligent in the performance of his duty is more consistent with a finding that there was dismissal than with a finding that there was an abandonment of employment. The Labor Arbiter further ruled that the word “turnover” in Co Say’s last text message to Reyes indicates that on the date that it was sent, the latter was already expected to turnover his duties to his replacement and belies the claim of Co Say that he asked Reyes to return to work in order to possibly explain his numerous absences, negligence in performing his duties and serious misconduct.
On appeal, the NLRC affirmed the LA.
The NLRC ruled that Reyes sufficiently alleged the surrounding circumstances of his dismissal and was able to state, with the required particularities how he was terminated from his employment; thus, respondent Global should have proven that the was legally done.
According to the NLRC, respondent Global failed to disprove Reyes’ allegation that he was verbally dismissed twice by Co Say, hence, there is no evidence showing that Reyes was dismissed from his job for cause and that he was afforded procedural due process.
Respondent filed with the CA a petition for certiorari under Rule 65.
The CA reversed the NLRC.
In finding merit to respondent Global’ s petition, the CA ruled that the “text” messages allegedly sent by Co Say and Tet Manares to Reyes could hardly meet the standard of clear, positive and convincing evidence to prove Reyes’s dismissal from employment.
It also held that aside from Reyes’ bare assertion that he was verbally terminated from employment by Co Say, no corroborative and competent evidence was adduced by Reyes to substantiate his claim that he was illegally dismissed.
The CA, instead, found that there was no overt or positive act on the part of respondent Global proving that it had dismissed Reyes. Hence, the present petition, after the denial of Reyes’ motion for reconsideration.
Whether or not the word “turnover” means dismissal from employment
Whether or not unauthenticated text message can be given credence in a labor case.
The SC found merit in the petition.
Verbal notice of termination can hardly be considered as valid or legal. To constitute valid dismissal from employment, two requisites must concur: (1) the dismissal must be for a just or authorized cause; and (2) the employee must be afforded an opportunity to be heard and to defend himself.
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In justifying that such verbal command not to report for work from respondent Global’ s Vice-President for Operations Co Say as not enough to be construed as overt acts of dismissal, the CA cited the case of Noblejas v. Italian Maritime Academy Phils., Inc. In the said case, an employee filed an illegal dismissal case after the secretary of the company’s Managing Director told him, “No, you better pack up all your things now and go, you are now dismissed and you are no longer part of this office -clearly, you are terminated from this day on.” There was no dismissal to speak of because the secretary’s words were not enough to be construed as overt acts of dismissal.
Be that as it may, the factual antecedents of that case is different in this case. In the present case, the one who verbally directed Reyes to no longer report for work was his immediate or direct supervisor, the Vice-President for Operations, who has the capacity and authority to terminate Reyes’s services, while in Noblejas, the one who gave the instruction was merely the secretary of the company’s Managing Director. Hence, in Noblejas, the Court found it necessary that the employee should have clarified the statement of the secretary from his superiors before the same employee instituted an illegal dismissal case.
In the present case, Co Say’s verbal instruction, being Reyes’ immediate supervisor, was authoritative, therefore, Reyes was not amiss in thinking that his employment has indeed already been terminated.
The text messages produced in a machine copy by Reyes tended to show that he was actually dismissed from his work. The text message purportedly sent by respondent Co Say that: “Tet will contact you plus turnover” was clear enough.
A literal interpretation of said text message leaves no doubt that the complainant’s days with the respondent company was numbered. The word “turnover” simply connotes “to transfer”, “to yield” or “to return.” In employment parlance, the word “turnover” is associated with severance of employment. An employee makes proper “turnover” of pending work before he leaves his employment.
The text message of respondent Co Say was followed by another message from Ms. Tet Manares which stated that: “Kuya, pinaayos ko na kay gen salary mo.” This is consistent with the first message that Tet will contact the complainant. True enough, Ms. Tet Manares contacted the complainant informing him that his salary was already being prepared.
The two (2) text messages, when taken together, support complainant’s insistence that he was actually dismissed from his work. Respondent Co Say’s text message regarding “turnover” and Ms. Manares’ text message regarding the preparation of the complainant’s salary were quite consistent with the complainant’s allegation that he was dismissed by respondent Co Say during their telephone conversation and during their meeting at Starbucks Waltermart.
Global’s assertion that the purported text messages submitted by Reyes should not be given credence as he failed to authenticate the same in accordance with the Rules of Court, deserves scant consideration. In labor cases, the strict adherence to the rules of evidence may be relaxed consistent with the higher interest of substantial justice. In labor cases, rules of procedure should not be applied in a very rigid and technical sense. They are merely tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice, and where their strict application would result in the frustration rather than promotion of substantial justice, technicalities must be avoided.
Technicalities should not be permitted to stand in the way of equitably and completely resolving the rights and obligations of the parties. Where the ends of substantial justice shall be better served, the application of technical rules of procedure may be relaxed. (Tres Reyes v. Maxim’s Tea House, G.R. No. 140853, February 27, 2003, 398 SCRA 288).
It is well settled that the application of technical rules of procedure may be relaxed to serve the demands of substantial justice, particularly in labor cases. Thus, the “text” messages may be given credence especially if they corroborate the other pieces of evidence presented. Again, while as a rule, the Court strictly adheres to the rules of procedure, it may take exception to such general rule when a strict implementation of the rules would cause substantial injustice to the parties.
Having thus proven the fact of being dismissed, the burden to prove that such dismissal was not done illegally is now shifted to the employer. In illegal dismissal cases, the burden of proof is upon the employer to show by substantial evidence that the employee’s termination from service is for a just and valid cause.
In this case, respondent Global asserts that there was no dismissal; instead, there was an abandonment on the part of Reyes of his employment. The Labor Arbiter, however, found that on the days that Reyes supposedly abandoned his employment according to respondent Global, no such indication was found as Reyes filed applications for leave and even sent “text” messages to his immediate or direct superior regarding his work.
Abandonment requires the deliberate, unjustified refusal of the employee to resume his employment, without any intention of retuming. For abandonment to exist, two factors must be present: (1) the failure to report for work or absence without valid or justifiable reason; and (2) a clear intention to sever employer-employee relationship, with the second element as the more determinative factor being manifested by some overt acts.
In this case, no such abandonment was proven by respondent Global. In fact, Reyes would not have filed a case for illegal dismissal if he really intended to abandon his work. Employees who take steps to protest their dismissal cannot logically be said to have abandoned their work.