Almirante: Constructive dismissal

Dominador A. Almirante
·4 min read

On June 9, 2006, petitioner Charlie Lamb (Lamb) hired respondent Pedrita Heloisa B. Pre (Pre) as legal officer for his companies known as CLAMB Group of Companies. On February 23, 2007, she was promoted to corporate affairs manager and headed the human resources and legal departments of CLAMB, particularly Bayview.

During Pre’s employment, petitioner Rosemarie Moradilla, president of Phil-Amer and Bayview, discussed her new and additional assignment as customer service representative (CSR) which was assigned by her immediate superior, petitioner Frank Gordon. She was told to answer phone calls and jot down notes of her communications with clients. Since the CSR task was far from a managerial job, Pre suggested a different procedure, which elicited a negative reaction from Gordon calling her stupid and incompetent.

On December 6, 2011, Moradilla verbally advised Pre to resign which was followed up by Gordon on December 7, 2011. On December 9, 2011, Moradilla again asked Pre to resign and be given a separation pay to which Pre demanded the amount of P1 million including damages and attorney’s fees in exchange for her resignation. Moradilla denied her demand. Subsequently, Gordon and the other heads of the CLAMB Group of Companies treated her indifferently. She received emails implying she was remiss in her duties, imputing matters

that she was not responsible for to make it appear that she was incompetent. Thus, on March 29, 2012, she was constrained to file a complaint for constructive illegal dismissal.

Does her complaint prosper?

Ruling: Yes.

Here, the Court found several instances of acts of disdain and hostile actions committed against Pre, which degraded her dignity as a person and eventually led her to file a case for constructive illegal dismissal.

First, she was assigned to work as customer service representative by answering phone calls and writing notes of communications, a function fit for a rank-and-file employee, while she already held the position of corporate affairs manager as head of human resources and legal departments. The Court agrees with the CA’s conclusion that Pre’s new assignment is a form of demotion, because she was instructed to perform functions that were below her position. But this is not just a demotion. It is also an act of disdain and disrespect as she was treated as if she was unworthy of her managerial position. This is a ground for constructive illegal dismissal.

Second, Pre knew that the CSR work was way below her position and so she assigned another person to do the job, which did not sit well with petitioners. She also suggested a different procedure, but her boss, Gordon, reacted negatively and told her she was stupid and incompetent -- “No you don’t know anything stupid, stupid, I don’t care about what you say, if you do not accept this project by doing the procedure of answering phone calls from clients and jot down your communication with them and fill in the forms provided then resign, we do not need you here, all you have to do is put in writing that you are not accepting this project and that you are incompetent.” These words are plainly demeaning, degrading, and disrespectful to the dignity of Pre. It clearly worsened the already hostile working environment which eventually pushed her to file a complaint for constructive illegal dismissal.

Third, she was asked to resign on more than one occasion and then later taken back as she was told to stay in the company. The company readily offered her financial assistance or separation pay, which included her four years of work at Phil-Amer. It shows that petitioners were eager to remove her from their employ.

Fourth, after the petitioners took back their resignation offer and Pre was assured that she could keep her job, Pre was treated indifferently by the management. This was the straw which led to the filing of the complaint for constructive illegal dismissal.

All the above incidents involved acts of disdain which created an atmosphere of antagonism and animosity between Pre and the company officials. The petitioners made continued and concerted efforts that made Pre’s tenure unbearable. She was first asked to do menial tasks which are way below her status as a manager. When this failed, she was on more than one occasion asked to resign from employment. Worse, she was humiliated when her boss Gordon called her stupid and incompetent for no valid reason. Despite assurance of tenure, the management treated her indifferently. Pre’s overall experience is mentally, emotionally and psychologically burdensome and made her tenure unbearable, which prompted her to involuntarily give up her employment. (Bayview Management Consultants, Inc., et al. vs. Pedrita Heloisa B. Pre, G.R. No. 220170, August 19, 2020).