Petitioner Redentor Y. Agustin filed a complaint for illegal dismissal against respondent Alphaland Corp. praying for reinstatement and payment of backwages. The Labor Arbiter (LA) ruled in his favor and awarded him payment for the unexpired portion of his probationary employment, proportionate 13th month pay and attorney’s fees. Alphaland appealed to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) which affirmed the decision of the LA.
Alphaland filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals (CA). In his Comment opposing the petition, Agustin prayed for reinstatement and payment of additional backwages from the date of his illegal dismissal. The CA affirmed the decision of the NLRC. It denied however his claims for reinstatement and additional backwages for his failure to appeal these awards.
Did the CA err in denying these claims?
Pursuant to Article 294 of the Labor Code, an illegally dismissed employee is entitled to the following reliefs: (1) reinstatement without loss of seniority rights and other privileges; (2) full backwages, inclusive of allowances; and (3) other benefits or their monetary equivalent.
Notably, the lower courts awarded backwages merely for the unexpired portion of Agustin’s probationary employment. The fact that Agustin did not appeal the decision of the LA does not bar this Court from awarding additional backwages, i.e., backwages from the time of his illegal dismissal until reinstatement as a regular employee. Following the ruling in St. Michael’s Institute, the grant of such additional backwages is “necessary in arriving at a complete and just resolution of the case” and is a relief granted by substantive law which cannot be defeated by mere procedural lapses. This award is merely a logical consequence of the finding that Agustin was a regular employee who has been illegally dismissed by Alphaland.
Agustin is thus entitled to backwages reckoned from the time he was illegally dismissed on Nov. 4, 2011, with a P122,500 monthly salary, until his reinstatement. However, this Court finds that the award of separation pay in lieu of reinstatement will be in the best interest of both parties. This Court recognizes the fact that a continued relationship between Agustin and Alphaland is no longer viable due to the strained relations and antagonism definitely brought about by the long lapse or passage of time that Agustin was out of Alphaland’s employment from the date of his dismissal until the final resolution of this case. (Redentor Y. Agustin vs. Alphaland Corp., et al., G.R. 218282, September 2020).