Stubborn Unwillingness to Return to Work

In October 1988, Jose was employed as a security guard by Twinstar Professional Protective Services, Inc. (Twinstar). He was deployed at the Las Haciendas in Tarlac City.

Sometime in January 2011, Jose sought assistance from the program of a certain Mr. Tulfo to complain about the underpayment of his salaries. On January 24, 2011, Twinstar directed Jose to report to its office in Quezon City. Jose stated that upon reporting to the office the next day, Twinstar informed him that he was being placed on floating status. Jose also stated that his floating status lasted for more than six (6) months.

This was why he filed a complaint for illegal dismissal against Twinstar.

The Office of the Labor Arbiter held that Jose was constructively dismissed from employment. The National Labor Relations Commission reversed the ruling of the Office of the Labor Arbiter and held that no constructive dismissal took place. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the National Labor Relations Commission.

Was Jose constructively dismissed from employment?

The Supreme Court ruled in the negative.

Jurisprudence teaches that there is constructive dismissal when an employer’s act of clear discrimination, insensibility or disdain becomes so unbearable on the part of the employee so as to foreclose any choice on his part except to resign from such employment. It exists where there is involuntary resignation because of the harsh, hostile and unfavorable conditions set by the employer. The standard for constructive dismissal is “whether a reasonable person in the employee’s position would have felt compelled to give up his employment under the circumstances.”

However, the Court emphasized that “not every inconvenience, disruption, difficulty, or disadvantage that an employee must endure sustains a finding of constructive dismissal.” What is vital is the weighing of the evidence presented and a consideration of whether, given the totality of circumstances, the employer acted fairly in exercising a prerogative.

In the present case, the Court found that Jose failed that he was constructively dismissed by Twinstar. According to the Court, Jose never presented any evidence, aside from his self-serving allegations, that he was forced to be on floating status for more than six (6) months without being given new assignment by Twinstar.

On the other hand, the Court found that Twinstar was able to establish that Jose went on absence without leave on or about January 21, 2011 and that it had subsequently sent several notices directing Jose to report for work. The Court also found that Twinstar’s duty officer vainly tried to contact Jose by calling him and sending text messages. Also Twinstar’s field inspector attempted to deliver a company letter on June 8, 2011 but Jose refused to receive the same. Furthermore, the Court discovered that Jose himself admitted declining the assignment offered to him by Twinstar within six (6) months from the time he was placed on floating status in the hearing dated October 18, 2011 before the Office of the Labor Arbiter. According to the Court, Jose’s flimsy claim that he did not understand the question of the Office of the Labor Arbiter and the Minutes of the said hearing, as both were in the English language, would seem like a desperate attempt to feign ignorance in order to retract such statements. The Court stated that Jose had all the opportunity to request the Office of the Labor Arbiter to translate the question and the Minutes to a language he understood, but he chose not to. The Court pointed out that Jose himself indicated in his bio-data that English is one of the languages he can speak and write.

For the Court, the totality of circumstances led it to conclude that no constructive dismissal happened. Instead, the circumstances revealed Jose’s stubborn unwillingness to return to work despite being required by Twinstar to report to work multiple times within six (6) months from January 21, 2011.

Thus, this Court ruled that Twinstar had just cause to terminate Jose’s employment.

Further reading:

  • Dela Torre v. Twinstar Professional Protective Services, Inc., G.R. No. 222992, June 23, 2021.