Jomar Verdadero vs Barney Autolines Group of Companies Transport, Inc. et al
Labor Law – Labor Standards – Security of Tenure – Illegal Dismissal – Remedies therefor
Jomar Verdadero is a bus conductor of Barney Autolines. In January 2008, he had an altercation with Gerardo Gimenez, a Disciplinary Officer employed by Barney Autolines. The altercation resulted from a misunderstanding when Verdadero failed to give Gimenez’s wife a free ride (under Barney Autolines’s guidelines, employees and their wives are given free rides in Barney buses). Later, Gimenez filed an administrative complaint against Verdadero. Barney and Rosela Chito, owners of Barney Autolines, presided over the case. The administrative case however was fruitless and thereafter Verdadero failed to report to work as he allegedly feared Gimenez and his friends – Gimenez has a higher rank than Verdadero. Verdadero would only report to Barney Autolines premises if Gimenez is not around and would only sign the logbook. He also failed to meet with the Chitos. Despite this, the Chitos advised Verdadero to report to work and also to submit a letter of apology to Gimenez (as requested by Gimenez). But instead of complying, Verdadero filed a case for illegal dismissal against Barney Autolines as he claimed that he was constructively dismissed when he was not given any more work assignments and when he was berated by Gimenez during their altercation. Verdadero is praying that due to his strained relations with the owners, he should be awarded separation pay and backwages.
ISSUE: Whether or not Verdadero was illegally dismissed (constructively dismissed) and as such entitled to separation pay and backwages.
HELD: No. As a rule, reinstatement and backwages are reliefs available to an illegally dismissed employee. Reinstatement restores the employee who was unjustly dismissed to the position from which he was removed, that is, to his status quo ante dismissal, while the grant of backwages allows the same employee to recover from the employer that which he had lost by way of wages as a result of his dismissal. If reinstatement is not possible due to strained relations, separation pay as well as backwages are in order. HOWEVER, in this case, there is no constructive or illegal dismissal. Verdadero brought this to himself. He was being ordered to return to work but he refused to do so based on his unfounded fear of Gimenez. How can the Chitos assign him any work when he refused to appear before them? Further, the alleged act of Gimenez berating him cannot be imputed as an act of illegal dismissal on the part of the Chitos. Gimenez and Verdadero are both employees of the Chitos. Unlawful acts committed by a co-employee will not bring the matter within the ambit of constructive dismissal. Gimenez may be of higher rank than Verdadero but his functions as a disciplinary officer do not involve the power or authority to dismiss or even suspend an employee. Such power is exclusively lodged in the Barney Autolines management. Without such illegal dismissal, there can be no strained relations to speak of, hence there can be no award of separation pay or backwages in favor of Verdadero. In fact, the Chitos intimated that they are willing take back Verdadero as their employee without any demotion should he report for work.
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