Acquire Mastery of HR/Labor Doctrines, Rules and Principles with Atty. Elvin’s HR Bundle Books at Discounted Rate

Strong words from the employer do not necessarily make the working environment unbearable. When these are uttered without palpable reason or are expressed only for the purpose of degrading the dignity of employee, then a hostile work environment will be created.

Thus, the SC held in the following case:

Cokia Industries Holdings Management, Inc. vs. Beatriz C. Bug-os
G.R. No. 236322, November 27, 2019

Resignation; Constructive dismissal; Allegation of constructive dismissal must be proven by the employee; Strong words from employer do not necessarily make the working environment unbearable


Respondent Beatriz C. Bug-os (Bug-os) was employed as Cokia Industries Holdings Management, Inc. (CIHMI)’s accounting personnel. She was tasked to prepare salary payrolls, vouchers, and contributions. Also, process loans and submit remittances of the company to various government agencies like the Social Security System (SSS), Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), and Pagtulungan sa Kinabukasan: Ikaw, Bangko, Industria at Gobyerno (Pag-Ibig) Fund; and serve as liaison officer to various government agencies.

When Binage L. Co (Biange) died, he was replaced by his sister, Shirly L. Co (Shirley), as Corporate Finance Officer/Treasurer of CIHMI. Shirley reviewed the documents of the company and discovered that there was a record of a Pag-Ibig loan in her name even though she did not apply for it. After she informed the Chief Operating Officer George Lee (George) of her discovery, they began investigating the matter.

They discovered several irregularities, including forgeries and falsifications on the Pag-Ibig loan supposedly obtained by Shirley, and on the remittances to Pag-Ibig. The documents for the loan under Shirley’s name bore her forged signature and that of Biange’s.

On July 4, 2015 George issued an Office Memorandum to Bug-os, directing her to explain the incidents. She denied having knowledge of the irregularities. Allegedly, Gina Co (Gina), sister-in-law of George and Bug-os’ immediate supervisor, was the one responsible for the forgery. Bug-os claimed that she merely prepared the loan forms and submitted it to Pag-Ibig.

Two days after the memo, or on July 6, 2015, Bug-os tendered her departure through a handwritten resignation letter, which became effective at the close of office hours on the same day. The following day, she sent another handwritten letter authorizing her cousin to withdraw her salaries and other benefits. Thereafter, Bug-os filed a complaint for illegal dismissal against CIHMI and George (collectively, CIHMI,et al.).

LA Ruling:

The Labor Arbiter (LA) dismissed Bug-os’ complaint with prejudice and for lack of merit.

The LA held that Bug-os’ unjustified failure to submit her position paper is suffucient ground to dismiss her complaint. In an case, the LA ruled that CIHMI, et al. were able to show that she voluntarily resigned.

There was no proof that she was merely compelled to do so. She even sent another letter authorizing another person to claim her monetary benefits on her behalf after she resigned. The LA opined that she opted a graceful exit rather than be dismissed.

Bug-os appealed to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).

NLRC Ruling:

The NLRC dismissed the appeal and affirmed the ruling of the LA.

The NLRC agreed with the LA that failure to submit position paper was inexcusable. Bug-os resigned without waiting for the outcome of the investigation. The contents of her resignation, position, an undergraduate degree in accounting, 18 units of Masters in Business Administration, work experience and the circumstances before and after her departure, constitute substantial proof of her voluntary resignation.

In addition, Bug-os did not submit evidence that George was hostile towards her. Overall, there was no proof of her constructive dismissal. Bug-os filed a Motion for Reconsideration. The NLRC granted the motion.

The NLRC ruled that Bug-os was forced to resign because CIHMI, et al. subjected her to harsh words and treatment. George gave his orders in a high-pitched voice, direted her to do something despite being busy working in the payroll, forced her to run when she was given orders, and made her feel like a slave.

CIHMI, et al. filed a motion for reconsideration, but the NLRC denied it. Thus, they filed a petition for certiorari before the Court of Appeals (CA).

CA Ruling:

The CA denied the petition and affirmed the Resolutions of the NLRC.

The CA was convinced that Bug-os would not have resigned if not for the harsh words and treatment fromCIHMI, et al. Therefore, the CA held that the NLRC did not commit grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.

CIHMI, et al. filed a motion for reconsideration. After the CA denied it, they filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC).


Whether or not the employer has the burden of proving voluntariness in resignation

Whether or not the employee has the burden of proving constructive dismissal

Whether or not strong words from the employer make the working environment unbearable

SC Ruling:

The SC found the petition meritorious.

The SC held that constructive dismissal exists if an act of clear discrimination, insensibility, or disdain by an employer becomes so unbearable on the part of the employee that it could foreclose any choice by him or her except to forego his or her continued employment. The test for determining if an employee was constructively dismissed is whether a reasonable person in the employee’s position would feel compelled to give up his or her employment under the prevailing circumstances.

In contrast, resignation refers to the voluntary act of an employee who is in a situation where one believes that personal reasons cannot be sacrificed in favor of the exigency of the service, and one has no other choice but to dissociate oneself from employment. The acts of the employee before and after the alleged resignation must be considered in determining whether he or she, in fact, intended to sever his or her employment.

The employer has the burden of proving that an employee voluntarily resigned. However, an allegation of constructive dismissal must be proven by the employee, especially when he or she has given a resignation letter to the employer, as held in the case of Gan vs. Galderma Philippines, Inc.

Whether the parties were able to discharge their respective burdens involves a review of the factual findings of the courts a quo. As proof of Bug-os’ voluntary resignation, CIHMI, et al. submitted a copy of her handwritten resignation letter. On its face, the letter does not have any indication that she was forced to execute it. She made no mention of what she claims are false accusations against her. Her words ofgratitude further undermine her assertion that she was coerced to resign.

Bug-os claims that George and his mother subjected her to harsh treatment the moment the irregular transactions were discovered and that she was scolded. The SC held that strong words from the employer do not necessarily make the working environment unbearable. When these are uttered without palpable reason or are expressed only for the purpose of degrading the dignity of employee, then a hostile work environment will be created. Bug-os did not cite the statements made by George that were demeaning to her. Hence, it cannot be said whether he uttered words which made working in CIHMI unbearable for her, or simply expressed his anger over the misappropriation of CIHMI’s funds.

For the SC, Bug-os’ resignation merely two days after she was given the memorandum indicates an incredulous amount of time to claim that she was subjected to so much harassment that it made working for CIHMI unbearable. While there is no fixed period for constructive dismissal, the period from the time she was asked to explain the irregularities discovered until she resigned simply does not lend credibility to her claim that she was constructively dismissed.

Conversely, CIHMI, et al. submitted evidence to prove that Bug-os committed irregularities. Affidavits of individuals attest that there was no loan from Pag-Ibig and that Bug-os reported an amount for remittance to Pag-Ibig in excess of what was actually deducted from salaries. She then credited the excess to her loan. She deducted from the salaries of other employees but credited the amount deducted to the payment of her own loan and that of other persons. She reported an amount for remittance that is higher than what was actually deducted from her salary.

error: Content is protected !!