CASE 2014-0041: MIRANT (PHILIPPINES) CORPORATION AND EDGARDO A. BAUTISTA, PETITIONERS, – VERSUS – JOSELITO A. CARO, RESPONDENT. (G.R. NO. 181490, 23 APRIL 2014, VILLARAMA, J.) SUBJECT/S: ILLEGAL DISMISSAL; NON-FORUM SHOPPING; QUITCLAIMS; COMPANY POLICIES; (BRIEF TITLE: MIRANT ET AL. VS. CARO)
“WHEREFORE, the petition for review on certiorari is DENIED. The assailed Decision dated June 26, 2007 and the Resolution dated January 11, 2008 in CA-G.R. SP No. 96153 are AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that only petitioner corporation is found GUILTY of the illegal dismissal of respondent Joselito A. Caro. Petitioner Edgardo A. Bautista is not held personally liable as then President of petitioner corporation at the time of the illegal dismissal.
No pronouncement as to costs.
RESPONDENT FAILED TO SUBSCRIBED THE VERIFICATION AND CERTIFICATION OF NON-FORUM SHOPPING (ATTACHED TO HIS PETITION TO C.A. BEFORE A NOTARY PUBLIC. C.A. DID NOT DISMISS THE CASE. WAS C.A. CORRECT?
CA WAS CORRECT. IN THE FIELD OF LABOR PROTECTION A LIBERAL STANCE TOWARDS THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE RULES OF PROCEDURE IN ORDER TO SERVE THE ENDS OF SUBSTANTIAL JUSTICE.
This jurisdiction has adopted in the field of labor protection a liberal stance towards the construction of the rules of procedure in order to serve the ends of substantial justice. This liberal construction in labor law emanates from the mandate that the workingman’s welfare should be the primordial and paramount consideration.45 Thus, if the rules of procedure will stunt courts from fulfilling this mandate, the rules of procedure shall be relaxed if the circumstances of a case warrant the exercise of such liberality. If we sustain the argument of petitioners in the case at bar that the petition for certiorari should have been dismissed outright by the CA, the NLRC decision would have reached finality and respondent would have lost his remedy and denied his right to be protected against illegal dismissal under the Labor Code, as amended.
PETITIONER COMPANY’S POLICY STATES THAT IF AN EMPLOYEE FAILED TO TAKE THE RANDOM DRUG TEST AS SCHEDULED, SUCH FAILURE METES THE PENALTY OF TERMINATION. RESPONDENT FAILED TO TAKE THE RANDOM DRUG TEST. HE WAS DISMISSED. IS HIS DISMISSAL LEGAL?
NO. THERE WAS ILLEGAL DISMISSAL IN THE CASE AT BAR. WHILE THE ADOPTION AND ENFORCEMENT BY PETITIONER CORPORATION OF ITS ANTI-DRUGS POLICY IS RECOGNIZED AS A VALID EXERCISE OF ITS MANAGEMENT PREROGATIVE AS AN EMPLOYER, SUCH EXERCISE IS NOT ABSOLUTE AND UNBRIDLED.
We agree with the disposition of the appellate court that there was illegal dismissal in the case at bar.
While the adoption and enforcement by petitioner corporation of its Anti-Drugs Policy is recognized as a valid exercise of its management prerogative as an employer, such exercise is not absolute and unbridled. Managerial prerogatives are subject to limitations provided by law, collective bargaining agreements, and the general principles of fair play and justice.46 In the exercise of its management prerogative, an employer must therefore ensure that the policies, rules and regulations on work-related activities of the employees must always be fair and reasonable and the corresponding penalties, when prescribed, commensurate to the offense involved and to the degree of the infraction.47 The Anti-Drugs Policy of Mirant fell short of these requirements.
WAS PETITIONER CORPORATION’S SUBJECT ANTI-DRUGS POLICY FAIR AND REASONABLE?
NO BECAUSE OF THE FOLLOWING REASONS:
FIRST. THE POLICY WAS NOT CLEAR ON WHAT CONSTITUTES “UNJUSTIFIED REFUSAL” WHEN THE SUBJECT DRUG POLICY PRESCRIBED THAT AN EMPLOYEE’S “UNJUSTIFIED REFUSAL” TO SUBMIT TO A RANDOM DRUG TEST SHALL BE PUNISHABLE BY THE PENALTY OF TERMINATION FOR THE FIRST OFFENSE.
SECOND. THE PENALTY OF TERMINATION IMPOSED BY PETITIONER CORPORATION UPON RESPONDENT FELL SHORT OF BEING REASONABLE. COMPANY POLICIES AND REGULATIONS ARE GENERALLY VALID AND BINDING BETWEEN THE EMPLOYER AND THE EMPLOYEE UNLESS SHOWN TO BE GROSSLY OPPRESSIVE OR CONTRARY TO LAW50– AS IN THE CASE AT BAR.
RESPONDENT ALREADY EXECUTED QUITCLAIM. DOES THIS MAKE HIS CASE MOOT?
NO. QUITCLAIMS EXECUTED BY LABORERS ARE INEFFECTIVE TO BAR CLAIMS FOR THE FULL MEASURE OF THEIR LEGAL RIGHTS,52 ESPECIALLY IN THIS CASE WHERE THE EVIDENCE ON RECORD SHOWS THAT THE AMOUNT STATED IN THE QUITCLAIM EXACTLY CORRESPONDS TO THE AMOUNT CLAIMED AS UNPAID WAGES BY RESPONDENT UNDER ANNEX A53 OF HIS REPLY54 FILED WITH THE LABOR ARBITER.
As to the other issue relentlessly being raised by petitioner corporation that respondent’s petition for certiorari before the CA should have been considered moot as respondent had already previously executed a quitclaim discharging petitioner corporation from all his monetary claims, we cannot agree. Quitclaims executed by laborers are ineffective to bar claims for the full measure of their legal rights,52 especially in this case where the evidence on record shows that the amount stated in the quitclaim exactly corresponds to the amount claimed as unpaid wages by respondent under Annex A53 of his Reply54 filed with the Labor Arbiter. Prima facie, this creates a false impression that respondent’s claims have already been settled by petitioner corporation – discharging the latter from all of respondent’s monetary claims. In truth and in fact, however, the amount paid under the subject quitclaim represented the salaries of respondent that remained unpaid at the time of his termination – not the amounts being claimed in the case at bar.
INDIVIDUAL PETITIONER BAUTISTA WAS HELD PERSONALLY LIABLE BY CA. WAS THE DECISION CORRECT?
NO. CA DID NOT DISCUSS THE BASIS OF THE PERSONAL LIABILITY OF PETITIONER BAUTISTA. BOARD OF DIRECTORS WHO MAY ONLY BE HELD PERSONALLY LIABLE FOR DAMAGES IF IT IS PROVEN THAT THEY ACTED WITH MALICE OR BAD FAITH
A corporation has a personality separate and distinct from its officers and board of directors who may only be held personally liable for damages if it is proven that they acted with malice or bad faith in the dismissal of an employee. 57 Absent any evidence on record that petitioner Bautista acted maliciously or in bad faith in effecting the termination of respondent, plus the apparent lack of allegation in the pleadings of respondent that petitioner Bautista acted in such manner, the doctrine of corporate fiction dictates that only petitioner corporation should be held liable for the illegal dismissal of respondent.
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