ON June 4, 2012, respondent Marie Jean Daguiso filed a complaint for illegal dismissal against petitioner Nippon Express Philippines Corp. (NEPC) and its officers. Acting on her complaint, the Labor Arbiter (LA) found merit in it and awarded her full backwages, separation pay and nominal damages.
Not fully satisfied with the decision, she appealed before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) contending among others, that the LA gravely abused his discretion in not ordering her reinstatement. The NLRC affirmed the LA’s award of separation pay in lieu of reinstatement reasoning that there already exists an atmosphere of antagonism and antipathy between the parties, especially between Daguiso and her immediate supervisor, Yolanda G. De Vera whom she wanted to be solidarily liable with NEPC. There was also a shouting match between Daguiso and Dianne Aguirre, human resource specialist.
The Court of Appeals (CA) found that the NLRC gravely abused its discretion in not ordering the reinstatement of Daguiso.
Did the CA err?
We agree with the Court of Appeals that the NLRC gravely abused its discretion in ruling against the reinstatement of Daguiso due to strained relations on these bases: (1) Daguiso’s resentment toward senior manager De Vera was apparent when she insisted in her appeal that De Vera be held personally liable for her illegal dismissal; and (2) Daguiso did not deny that she was involved in a shouting match with her subordinate, Aguirre, which shows that Daguiso’s continuance in her employment could not foster a harmonious workplace.
First, it must be emphasized that Daguiso was dismissed without just cause and without due process as ruled by the LA. The NEPC did not appeal the decision of the LA, which implies its acquiescence to the LA’s findings.
Second, the NEPC failed to prove with substantial evidence that Daguiso committed an act in the performance of her duties which justifies its loss of confidence in her to merit the NLRC’s reasoning that “it would be unjust to compel respondents-appellees to maintain in their employ complainant-appellant (Daguiso), in whom they have already lost their trust and confidence.
Third, we have discussed that to deny Daguiso reinstatement due to “strained relations” between her and senior manager De Vera would be an injustice to Daguiso, the one bypassed by De Vera. The NEPC failed to present competent evidence as basis for concluding that its relationship with Daguiso has reached a point where it is best severed. In fact, Daguiso asks to be reinstated.
The doctrine of strained relations should not be applied indiscriminately to cause the non-reinstatement of a supervisory employee who is dismissed without just cause and without due process by the employer due to an altercation caused by its senior officer who bypassed the dismissed employee. An employee’s occupation is his/her means of livelihood, which is a precious economic right; hence, it should not just be taken away from the employee by applying the exception of “strained relations” that is not justified. The State guarantees security of tenure to workers; thus, all efforts must be exerted to protect a worker from unjust deprivation of his/her job. (Nippon Express Philippines Corp. vs. Marie Jean Daguiso, G.R. 217970, June 17, 2020).