An Employer’s Last Resort

In 1990, Cathay Pacific Airways Limited (Cathay) hired Salvacion as cabin crew. On May 19, 2007, Cathay received a report that Salvacion and other crew members were caught in possession of goods, specifically bottled water and magazines, after alighting from the aircraft.

After receiving a written explanation from Salvacion, Cathay terminated her services effective immediately for committing serious misconduct by removing company property without authorization. According to Cathay, it could no longer repose its trust and confidence on Salvacion considering the seriousness of her violation.

Hence, Salvacion instituted a complaint for illegal dismissal against Cathay.

Was Salvacion validly dismissed on the ground of loss of trust and confidence?

No. The Supreme Court ruled that Salvacion was illegally dismissed from employment.

The Court explained that Salvacion’s termination was not commensurate to the infraction committed.

There is loss of trust and confidence when an employee fraudulently and willfully committed acts or omission in breach of the trust reposed in her/him by the employer. Two requisites must be complied with to justify this ground for termination. First, the employee must be holding a position of trust, and second, the employer shall sufficiently establish the employee’s act that would justify loss of trust and confidence. The act must be characterized as real wherein the facts that brought about such act were clearly established, and that the employee committed the same without any justifiable reason.

Cathay has complied with the two aforementioned requisites for loss of trust and confidence.

The Court declared that Salvacion’s position was imbued with trust and confidence.

The Court then found that the nature of Salvacion’s duties and obligations required the highest degree of trust and confidence because she had in her control properties of Cathay. In this regard, the Court held that Salvacion’s position was imbued with trust and confidence. According to the Court, she had in her custody and control company properties which are of significant value, and she also had the responsibility of informing the In-flight Service Manager whether there was defective or missing equipment. Moreover, she had oversight over two to four cabin crew members assigned in her section of the aircraft and rated their performance for promotion purposes. She had been entrusted with the custody and control of valuable company properties in the normal and routine exercise of her duties.

Likewise, the Court ruled that the airline clearly demonstrated that Salvacion committed an infraction of company policy that breached its trust and confidence on her. Said the Court, pilferage of company property is an act characterized by fraud or dishonesty which may be meted with summary dismissal as specifically provided in Cathay’s Disciplinary & Grievance Policy,

The Court stated that Cathay attached a confirmation from the bottled water brand that the batch number of the Evian water confiscated from Salvacion belonged to the batch of bottled water that was exclusively shipped to Cathay. This certainly established that the bottle of water confiscated from her was Cathay’s property. Admittedly, Salvacion transgressed Cathay’s Disciplinary and Grievance Policy by taking out the bottle of water without authorization.

The Court stressed that Salvacion’s infraction was clearly a case of misconduct considering that it is “a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, willful in character, and implies wrongful intent and not mere error in judgment.” It evidently eroded Cathay’s trust and confidence in her.

However, the Court also considered that this was Salvacion’s first infraction in her 17 years of service in the airline which involved a mere bottle of water.

Thus, although Cathay had laid down penalties for violation of its policies, the Court cautioned that all surrounding circumstances must be considered and the penalty must be commensurate to the violation committed by an employee. Termination of the services of an employee should be the employer’s last resort especially when other disciplinary actions may be imposed, considering the employee’s long years of service in the company, devoting time, effort and invaluable service in line with the employer’s goals and mission, as in Salvacion’s case.

In the present case, the Court found that during Salvacion’s span of employment, she did not commit any infraction or was ever sanctioned except in the incident subject of the present controversy. In this regard, the Court stated that to impose a penalty as grave as dismissal for a first offense and considering the value of the property allegedly taken would be too harsh under the circumstances. The Court accordingly concluded that Salvacion was illegally dismissed from service.

Further reading:

  • Lamadrid v. Cathay Pacific Airways Limited, G.R. No. 200658, June 23, 2021.