Misconduct is generally defined as “a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, willful in character, and implies wrongful intent and not mere error in judgment.” In labor cases, misconduct, as a ground for dismissal, must be serious-that is, it must be of such grave and aggravated character and not merely trivial or unimportant. In addition, the act constituting misconduct must be connected with the duties of the employee and performed with wrongful intent.
Thus, the SC held in the following case, as follows:
Stanfilco – A Division of DOLE Philippines, Inc. vs. Tequillo
G.R. No. 209735, July 17, 2019
Serious misconduct; Physical violence; Physical violence inflicted by one employee on another constitutes serious misconduct, which justifies the former ‘s dismissal; The employer bears the onus of proving that the attack was work-related and has rendered the erring employee unfit to continue working; The burden is not overcome by the mere fact that the act occurred within company premises and during work hours; The employer must establish a reasonable connection between the purported offense and the employee’s duties; Fighting by employees; Not every fight within company would automatically warrant dismissal from service; The confrontation be “rooted on workplace dynamics” or connected with the performance of the employees’ duties; Time and location do not, by themselves, determine whether violence should be classified as work-related; Underlying cause or motive of a fight;
Petitioner Stanfilco is a duly organized domestic corporation that operates a banana plantation in Lantapan, Bukidnon. On the other hand, Tequillo was a Farm Associate who worked on Stanfilco’s plantation until he was terminated for mauling his co-worker, Resel Gayon (Gayon), and consuming intoxicating beverages within company premises and during work hours.
Every week, Stanfilco hosts a company-initiated employee gathering known as the “Kaibigan Fellowship.” While the assembly touches on matters that are not work-related, Stanfilco also uses it as a venue for company announcements and production updates.
In one of the “Kaibigan Fellowships” instead of attending the gathering, opted to go on a drinking spree at the farmshed area of Stanfilco’s premises with several of his fellow workers. Gayon, who was sent to assist Tequillo at an assigned area of the farm, chanced upon the group, and was eventually prevailed upon to join them. At the time, Tequillo was expressing resentment towards Stanfilco’s refusal to provide him with a performance incentive. Since Gayon was not yet a regular employee of Stanfilco, Tequillo advised him not to work at the plantation, warning the former that he, too, might meet the same fate, and not receive any incentive for his efforts. Instead of heeding to the advice, Gayon told Tequillo to air his grievances to Stanfilco’s higher-ranking employees. Irked by the suggestion, Tequillo proceeded to maul Gayon.
Stanfilco served Tequillo with a memorandum, requiring him to explain why no disciplinary action should be taken against him for the drinking and mauling incident. In response to the charge, Tequillo admitted to mauling Gayon, but averred that the act was done in self-defense.
However, anent the accusation of drinking, the former remained silent. Administrative hearings were held during which Tequillo was given the chance to explain his side. However, Stanfilco found his explanations unsatisfactory, and eventually terminated him on the ground of serious misconduct. Consequently, Tequillo filed before the Labor Arbiter (LA) a complaint for illegal dismissal.
The LA rendered a Decision in favor of Stanfilco. In ruling Tequillo’s dismissal to be valid, the LA held that the drinking and fighting incident had been duly proved. To the LA, Tequillo’s acts constituted serious misconduct and willful disobedience to company rules, thus justifying Stanfilco’s decision to dismiss him.
Tequillo then appealed to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), claiming thlat the LA erred in finding him guilty of serious misconduct.
The NLRC promulgated a Resolution reversing the LA’s decision.
According to the NLRC, Tequillo was illegally dismissed since he was not performing official work at the time he mauled Gayon. It followed, then, that Tequillo’s act could not be work-related.
Stanfilco then moved that the NLRC reconsider the above ruling, but to no avail. The former was thus compelled to seek relief before the CA through a petition for certiorari.
The CA affirmed the NLRC’s resolution through the assailed Decision.
Finding that no grave abuse of discretion tainted said resolution, the appellate court held that Tequillo’s dismissal was illegal. According to the CA, the act of mauling Gayon was not work-related, and at most amounted only to simple misconduct.
Stanfilco then moved for reconsideration only to be denied through the challenged October 14, 2013 Resolution. Hence, the instant petition before the SC.
Whether or not mauling of a co-employee during the time of company activity where the employee did not attend but within the company premises constitutes serious misconduct
Whether or not work-relatedness of fighting of employees requires only determination of the time and location that the fight happened
The SC found the petition meritorious.
The SC held that under the law, an employee’s termination may be justified on the ground of serious misconduct. Misconduct is generally defined as “a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, willful in character, and implies wrongful intent and not mere error in judgment.”
In labor cases, misconduct, as a ground for dismissal, must be serious-that is, it must be of such grave and aggravated character and not merely trivial or unimportant. In addition, the act constituting misconduct must be connected with the duties of the employee and performed with wrongful intent. Hence, for an employee’s termination to be justified on the ground of serious misconduct, the following requisites must concur:
a) the misconduct must be serious;
(b) it must relate to the performance of the employee’s duties, showing that the employee has become unfit to continue working for the employer; and
(c) it must have been performed with wrongful intent.
Physical violence between and among employees may constitute serious misconduct regardless of whether such violence occurred during working hours and within company premises. Although the Court has recognized that workplace violence may constitute serious misconduct, it has also held that not every fight within company would automatically warrant dismissal from service.
Jurisprudence requires that the confrontation be “rooted on workplace dynamics” or connected with the performance of the employees’ duties. Stated otherwise, time and location do not, by themselves, determine whether violence should be classified as work-related. Rather, such determination will depend on the underlying cause of or motive behind said violence.
In Technol Eight Philippines Corporation vs. National Labor Relations Commission Dennis Amular (Amular) got into a fistfight with his team leader, Rafael Mendoza (Mendoza). The fight occurred not within company premises, but at the Surf City Internet Cafe in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. Because of the incident, Amular’s employment was terminated, causing him to file a complaint for illegal dismissal before the LA. When the case eventually reached the Court, Almular’s termination was deemed valid. Brushing aside the fact that the incident took place outside of company premises and after work hours, the Court held that the fight’s work connection rendered Almular unfit to continue his employment with the company. It was found that Almular purposefully confronted Mendoza because of the latter’s remarks about the farmer’s questionable behavior at work. Apparently, Mendoza made Almular the subject of a negative performance report. It was thus held that the assault was occasioned by Almular’s urge to get even for a perceived wrong, which constituted a valid cause that justified his termination.
Clearly then, the fact that the act complained of in this case, particularly the mauling of Gayon, took place at the plantation and while the “Kaibigan Fellowship” was being held is of no moment. Based on Technol, the enquiry should be into the proximate cause of or the motive behind the attack. This will allow the Court to determine whether Tequillo’s act was related to the performance of his duties, whether it has rendered him unfit to work for Stanfilco, and whether it was performed with wrongful intent.
The work-relatedness of and wrongful intent behind Tequillo’s violent conduct cannot be questioned. Tequillo himself admitted that he mauled Gayon out of emotional disturbance, which was ultimately caused by Stanfilco’s refusal to provide the former employee with a productivity incentive. The attack was clearlly unfounded, as it remains undisputed that Stanfilco’s refusal to furnish said incentive was due to Tequillo’s failure to meet his work quotas. Worse, Gayon had said or done nothing to sufficiently provoke the attack.
Therefore, it remains undisputed that Stanfilco’s refusal to furnish said incentive was due to Tequillo’s failure to meet his work quotas. Worse, Gayon had said or done nothing to sufficiently provoke the attack. Therefore, while it may be true that Tequillo acted out of resentment towards Stanfilco, the same resentment was essentially attributable to his own work-related neglect. It follows, then, that the attack was connected to the sub-standard performance of Tequillo ‘s duties, and that it was fundamentally rooted in his confounded notion of workplace dynamics.
Further, there exists a substantial basis to believe that Tequillo is capable of repeating his violent act. As mentioned above, the attack occurred because he did not receive a productivity incentive. This shows that Tequillo may be irked without reason and that he possesses an egregious disposition that is detrimental not only to Stanfilco, but to his co–employees. Verily, to allow him to remain in Stanfilco’s employ would put his fellow farm workers at risk of physical harm every time he feels wronged.
Taken together, these show that Tequillo’s violent act amounted to serious misconduct. The incident disturbed the peace in the farm and breached the discipline expected by Stanfilco from its employees.46 That Tequillo is ill-suited to continue working is shown by his perverse attitude and by the possibility that the attack may be repeated. On the other hand, his wrongful intent is shown by the arbitrary and unfounded manner in which he attacked Gayon. Hence, all the requisites of serious misconduct are present in this case.
Having said that, the NLRC clearly misappreciated the evidence and undisputed facts. Without a doubt, this constituted grave abuse of discretion that the CA should have rectified when the case was brought before it on certiorari. It follows then that the NLRC’s resolution, “as well as the” CA decision affirming it, both declaring that Tequillo was illegally dismissed, must be set aside. With the foregoing disquisition, the Court deems it unnecessary to belabor on the issue of willful insubordination.