Illegal dismissal renders the employer liable for backwages, among others. To require the employee to submit another or new medical certificate despite the prior submission of medical certificate as attached in the SSS notification prior to giving work amounts to illegal dismissal.
Marina’s Creation Enterprises and Jerry B. Alfonso vs. Romeo V. Ancheta
G.R. No. 218333, December 7, 2016
Petitioner Marina Creation Enterprises (Marina) is engaged in the business of making shoes and bags. Marina hired Romeo V. Ancheta (Ancheta) as a sole attacher in Marina. Ancheta suffered an intra-cranial hemorrhage (stroke) and was placed under home care. Ancheta suffered a second stroke and was confined at St. Victoria Hospital in Marikina City for four days.
Ancheta filed a Sickness Notification with the Social Security System (SSS) and was paid sickness benefits. The physician who physically examined Ancheta stated that Ancheta would be fit to resume work after ninety (90) days.
When said date arrived, Ancheta reported for work. Marina, however, wanted Ancheta to submit a new medical certificate before he could resume his work in Marina. Ancheta did not comply and was not able to resume his work in Marina.
Ancheta filed a complaint with the Labor Arbiter against Marina and its registered owner Jerry B. Alfonso for illegal dismissal and non-payment of separation pay.
Ancheta alleged that after he recovered from his illness he reported for work in Marina but was advised by Marina to just wait for the company’s call. When Ancheta went back to Marina, he was told to take more rest. Ancheta claimed that Marina had employed two new workers as his replacement. Ancheta alleged that he was not served a notice for his termination and a subsequent notice for hearing as mandated by the Labor Code. Ancheta claimed he was illegally dismissed by Marina.
Updated and re-numbered Labor Code 2018 Edition by Atty. Villanueva
Marina claimed that Ancheta was employed on a piece rate basis and was not terminated but instead was refused job assignments due to his failure to submit a medical clearance showing that he was fit to resume his work. Marina claimed that the medical certificate was a precautionary measure imposed by the company to avoid any incident that could happen to Ancheta who already had a pre-existing medical condition. Marina alleged that Ancheta did not present any evidence to prove that he was illegally dismissed.
The Labor Arbiter (LA) dismissed Ancheta’s complaint for illegal dismissal and non-payment of separation pay.
The LA ruled that Ancheta failed to convincingly prove that he was illegally dismissed. The LA found no positive or overt act on the part of Marina that would support Ancheta’s claim of illegal dismissal.
The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) affirmed the ruling of the Labor Arbiter.
The NLRC ruled that Ancheta was not able to establish the fact that he was dismissed by Marina. The NLRC held that Ancheta, who was the employee of Marina, had to first establish the fact of his dismissal before the burden could be shifted to Marina, the employer, to prove that his dismissal was legal.
The NLRC held that Marina’s requirement of having Ancheta submit another medical certificate before he could resume work was reasonable. The NLRC ruled that Marina cannot be faulted for refusing to admit Ancheta back to work in the absence of a new medical certificate because it was in the mutual interest of Ancheta and Marina that Ancheta would be medically found capable of withstanding the rigors of work.
Ancheta filed a motion for reconsideration with the NLRC which was denied. Ancheta filed with the CA a petition for certiorari.
The CA reversed the decision of the NLRC.
The CA ruled that Ancheta was illegally dismissed by Marina. The CA held that the fact of Ancheta’s dismissal was established through Marina’s own admission in its position paper that the company had refused to give Ancheta job assignments due to Ancheta’s failure to submit a medical certificate.
The CA ruled that the absence of a medical certificate did not justify Marina’s refusal to furnish Ancheta work assignments. The CA considered the certification by Ancheta’s examining physician attached to Ancheta’s SSS Sickness Notification as proof that Ancheta was fit to resume his work in Marina on 12 August 2011.
The CA held that according to the Implementing Rules of the Labor Code, it was Marina and not Ancheta who had the burden of proving that Ancheta’s disease could not be cured within a period of at least six months in order to justify Ancheta’s dismissal. Finally, the CA ruled since Ancheta was illegally dismissed, Ancheta was entitled to backwages and separation pay from Marina.
Marina filed a motion for reconsideration with the CA which was denied. Hence, this petition by Marina.
Whether or not refusal to furnish work to an employee on the ground of non-submission of another medical certificate constitutes illegal dismissal
The SC did not find merit in the petition.
In its petition, Marina argues that the company’s action of requiring Ancheta to undergo a medical examination and to submit a medical certificate was a valid exercise of management prerogative. Marina’s contention is not correct. Article 279 of the Labor Code provides that in cases of regular employment, the employer shall not terminate the services of an employee except for a just cause or when authorized by the Labor Code. Since Ancheta was a regular employee of Marina, Ancheta’s employment can only be terminated by Marina based on just or authorized causes provided in the Labor Code.
It is Marina’s position that Ancheta’s employment would not continue if Ancheta would not submit a new medical certificate. Marina’s action in refusing to accept Ancheta notwithstanding the medical certificate attached to Ancheta’s SSS Sickness Notification stating that Ancheta was physically fit to resume his work in Marina amounts to an illegal dismissal of Ancheta.
Citing Book VI, Rule I, Section 8 of the Implementing Rules of the Labor Code the SC held that the law rules impose upon the employer the duty not to terminate an employee until there is a certification by a competent public health authority that the employee’s disease is of such nature or at such a stage that it cannot be cured within a period of six months even with proper medical treatment.
In this case, Marina terminated Ancheta from employment without seeking a prior certification from a competent public health authority that Ancheta’s disease is of such nature or at such a stage that it cannot be cured within a period of six months even with proper medical treatment. Hence, Ancheta was illegally dismissed by Marina.
Guide to Valid Dismissal of Employees Second Edition by Atty. Villanueva