Cases: Gross and Habitual Neglect

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What is a Labor Law Case or Labor Jurisprudence? A Labor Law Case or Labor Jurisprudence is a decision/resolution on a labor dispute by the Supreme Court of the Philippines. Per Article 8 of the Civil Code, judicial decisions applying or interpreting the laws or the Constitution shall form part of the legal system of the Philippines. 

Table of Contents

1. Absenteeism and tardiness

The employee’s absenteeism and tardiness has serious adverse effects on the business of the employer. Accordingly, when such amounts to gross and habitual neglect of duty, absenteeism and tardiness may be a ground for dismissal under just cause.

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CASE STUDY

Mansion Printing Center v. Bitara

G.R. No. 168120, 25 January 2012

[The employee – a Company Driver – was dismissed after numerous absences and tardiness.]

… His weekly time record for the first quarter of the year 2000 revealed that he came late nineteen (19) times out of the forty-seven (47) times he reported for work. He also incurred nineteen (19) absences out of the sixty-six (66) working days during the quarter. His absences without prior notice and approval from March 11-16, 2000 were considered to be the most serious infraction of all because of its adverse effect on business operations.

x x x

That the recent absences were unauthorized were satisfactorily established by [the employers]. Two (2) employees of the company belied the claim of [the employee’s] wife Mary Ann Bitara that she called the office on 11 March 2000, and, through a certain Delia, as allegedly later identified by [the employee], informed [the employer] that her husband would take a leave of absence for a week because he went to the province.

Delia Abalos, a “binder/finisher” of the company, stated in her Affidavit that she never received a call from [the employee] nor his wife regarding his absences from March 11-16 and 17-23 during the month of March 2000. On the other hand, Ritchie Distor, a messenger of the company, narrated in his Affidavit that, upon instruction of the Management, he went to [the employee’s] house on 13 March 2000 to require him to report for work. Instead of relaying the message to him, as [the employee] would have it, the wife informed him that [the employee] had already left the house but that she did not know where he was going.

x x x

We [the Supreme Court], therefore, agree with the Labor Arbiter’s findings, to wit:

The imputed absence and tardiness of the complainant are documented. He faltered on his attendance 38 times of the 66 working days. His last absences on 11, 13, 14, 15 and 16 March 2000 were undertaken without even notice/permission from management. These attendance delinquencies may be characterized as habitual and are sufficient justifications to terminate the [employee’s] employment. (Emphasis supplied.)

2. Abandonment or AWOL

Abandonment of work has been construed as “a clear and deliberate intent to discontinue one’s employment without any intention of returning back.” (Demex Rattancraft, Inc. v. Leron, G.R. No. 204288, 08 November 2017)

Abandonment is the deliberate and unjustified refusal of an employee to resume his employment. It constitutes neglect of duty and is a just cause for termination of employment under paragraph (b) of Article 282 of the Labor Code. (Tan Brothers Corporation v. Escudero, G.R. No. 188711, 08 July 2013)

•••

CASE STUDY

Mehitabel, Inc. v. Jufhel L. Alcuizar

G.R. No. 228701-02, 13 December 2017

The employee was the purchasing manager of the employer, a high-end furniture exporter. After a few months from being hired, complaints about the employee’s dismal work performance resulted in delays in teh production and delivery of the company’s goods. The HR Officer counselled him on his performance to no avail. Sometime later, the employee left the office and on his way out informed the HR Officer and the security personnel that he was leaving his job.

The HR Officer issued a return to work order via registered mail with notice to explain. While it was received, the employee did ignored the notice. Unknown to the employer, the employee had already filed a complaint for illegal dismissal.

By way of defense, the employer claimed that the employee abandoned his work and was never dismissed.

RESOLUTION: The employee abandoned his work.

The employer “herein issued a Return to Work order to [the employee], which the latter received through registered mail. This circumstance bears more weight and effectively negates [the employee’s] self-serving asseveration that he was dismissed from employment; it more than implies that the company still considered [the employee] as its employee…”

The employee’s “non-compliance with the directive in the Return to Work…, signifies his intention to sever the employment relation with [the employer], and gives credence to the latter’s claim that it was [the employee] who abandoned his job. Moreover, such omission substantiates the testimonies of [the HR Officer and security personnel] who positively attested to the fact of [the employee’s] desertion.”

The HR Officer testified that the employee dropped by the former’s office and left the company phone and other properties. To which the HR Officer asked how can be reached since he turned over the phone, the employee did not respond.

The security personnel was informed by the employee that he no longer needs to show an exit pass nor he write on the exit logbook since he was quitting his job. The employee confirmed the conversation with the HR Officer. The security personnel wrote the incident on the exit logbook.

“Evident from the foregoing is that there is no dismissal to speak of, let alone one that is illegal. Instead, it was respondent who clearly demonstrated his lack of interest in resuming his employment with petitioner, culminating in abandonment.”

The employee “cannot harp on the fact that he filed a complaint for illegal dismissal in proving that he did not abandon his post, for the filing of the said complaint does not ipso facto foreclose the possibility of abandonment. It is not the sole indicator in determining whether or not there was desertion, and to declare as an absolute that the employee would not have filed a complaint for illegal dismissal if he or she had not really been dismissed is non sequitur.”

Reference: Full text here.

Borja v. Minoza

G.R. No. 218384, 03 July 2017

The employees were cooks working for the employer, a restaurant. The employees failed to report for work on certain days. After they were threatened not to report for work anymore, they hurriedly filed the labor complaint.

By way of defense, the employer claimed among others that the employees had abandoned their work.

RESOLUTION: The employee did not abandon his work. The employer was held liable.

“In this case, records show that [the employees] wasted no time in filing a complaint against [the employer] to protest their purported illegal dismissal from employment. As the filing thereof belies [the employer’s] charge of abandonment, the only logical conclusion, therefore, is that [the employees] had no such intention to abandon their work.

Read: Full text here.

Tegimenta Chemical Phils. v. Oco (2013)

G.R. No. 175369, 27 February 2013)

The employee was a material controller. Due to her pregnancy, she incurred numerous absence and tardiness. The owner advised her to take a vacation. When she returned after her pregnancy, she was tols to no longer report to the office effective that day. She immediatel filed the labor complaint for illegal dismissal.

By way of defense, the employer claimed that the employee abandoned her work.

RESOLUTION: The employee did not abandon his work. The employer was held liable.

The nonappearance of the employee at work “was already accepted by the company as having resulted from complications in her pregnancy. In fact, [the owner] herself offered [the employee] a vacation leave. Therefore, given that the absences of the latter were grounded on justifiable reasons, these absences cannot serve as the antecedent to the conclusion that she had already abandoned her job.”

“The mere absence of an employee is not sufficient to constitute abandonment. As an employer, [the Company] has the burden of proof to show the deliberate and unjustified refusal of the employee to resume the latter’s employment without any intention of returning.”

In this case, [the employer] “failed to discharge its burden of proving that [the employee] desired to leave her job. The courts a quo uniformly found that she had continuously reported for work right after her vacation, and that her office attendance was simply cut off when she was categorically told not to report anymore. These courts even noted that she had also called up the office to follow up her status; and when informed of her definite termination, she lost no time in filing a case for illegal dismissal. Evidently, her actions did not constitute abandonment and instead implied her continued interest to stay employed.”

“Here, the mere fact that [the employee] asked for separation pay, after she was told to no longer report for work, does not reflect her intention to leave her job. She is merely exercising her option under Article 279 of the Labor Code, which entitles her to either reinstatement and back wages or payment of separation pay.”

Reference: Full text here.

For more information, see: Abandonment of Work, AWOL

3. Gross inefficiency or incompetence

Gross inefficiency or incompetence is an analogous cause to gross neglect of duty.

“[G]ross inefficiency falls within the purview of ‘other causes analogous to the foregoing,’ and constitutes, therefore, just cause to terminate an employee under Article 282 of the Labor Code. One is analogous to another if it is susceptible of comparison with the latter either in general or in some specific detail; or has a close relationship with the latter. ‘Gross inefficiency’ is closely related to ‘gross neglect,’ for both involve specific acts of omission on the part of the employee resulting in damage to the employer or to his business…” (International School of Manila v. Santos, G.R. No. 167286, 05 February 2014.)

For more information, see: Analogous Causes.

4. Poor performance

That an employee has poor performance does not necessarily mean that the he/she may be dismissed for gross and habitual neglect of duty. For poor performance to be a ground for just cause termination, it was to amount to a gross and habitual neglect of duties.

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CASE STUDY

Universal Staffing Services, Inc. v. Morales

G.R. No. 177576, 21 July 2008

[The employee-receptionist was dismissed for poor performance.]

… As a general concept, “poor performance” is equivalent to inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of official duties. Under Article [296] of the Labor Code, an unsatisfactory rating can be a just cause for dismissal only if it amounts to gross and habitual neglect of duties. Thus, the fact that an employee’s performance is found to be poor or unsatisfactory does not necessarily mean that the employee is grossly and habitually negligent of his duties. Gross negligence implies a want or absence of or failure to exercise slight care or diligence, or the entire absence of care. It evinces a thoughtless disregard of consequences without exerting any effort to avoid them.

We [the Supreme Court] reviewed the records of the case and we agree with the NLRC and the CA that no substantial evidence was presented to substantiate the cause of Morales’ dismissal. First, USSI failed to cite particular acts or instances that would validate its claim of Morales’ poor performance. Second, no convincing proof was offered to substantiate Morales’ alleged poor performance.

As the NLRC had taken pains to demonstrate:

x  x x

… First, the notice of termination was, apparently never served upon [Morales], since it does not bear her signature. Second, the two pieces of evidence are inconsistent. Based on the notice of termination, which bears an earlier date, [Morales] was dismissed due to poor performance. Third, there is no showing that [Morales] was dismissed on the basis of established facts and not on the basis of a mere suspicion. There is no mention of what criteria were used in evaluating her performance. Fourth, and most important, the pieces of evidence in question are not sworn to, and the persons who supposedly executed them were not presented in the proceedings conducted by the Labor Arbiter. They, therefore, constitute mere hearsay evidence, which means that they have no evidentiary value.

Besides, even assuming that the employee’s performance was unsatisfactory, USSI failed to demonstrate that her alleged poor performance amounted to gross and habitual neglect of duty, which would justify her dismissal. (Emphasis supplied.)

•••

In Eastern Overseas Employment Center, Inc. v. Bea, the employee – a Senior Head Staff Nurse – was dismissed for poor performance which was never duly proved by the employer.

•••

CASE STUDY

Eastern Overseas Employment Center, Inc. v. Bea

G.R. No. 143023, 29 November 2005

We [the Supreme Court] take cognizance of the fact that in any given workplace, not all of the employees perform in accordance with what is expected of them. As such, it is not uncommon that an employee’s work performance is found to be unsatisfactory. As a general concept, “poor performance” is equivalent to inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of official duties. Under Article 282 of the Labor Code, an unsatisfactory rating can be a just cause for dismissal only if it amounts to gross and habitual neglect of duties. The fact that an employee’s performance is found to be poor or unsatisfactory does not necessarily mean that the employee is grossly and habitually negligent of his duties. Gross negligence implies a want or absence of or failure to exercise slight care or diligence, or the entire absence of care. It evinces a thoughtless disregard of consequences without exerting any effort to avoid them.

In the present case, [the employer] failed to present substantial evidence to prove that [the employee’s] alleged poor performance in her duties as Senior Head Staff Nurse amounted to gross and habitual neglect. In the first place, the POEA Adjudication Office found that aside from the Memorandum dated June 8, 1993 issued by the Acting Director of Nursing Services of Sultan Qaboos University Hospital where Bea was deployed, [the employer] failed to present any other evidence to prove that [the employee’s] work performance was indeed poor. Although [the employer] contends that three separate evaluations of Bea’s work performance were conducted; that after the first evaluation, [the employee] was notified about the poor quality of her work; that following the second evaluation, she was given an intensive management assistance through a specialized training program; and, that only after the third evaluation was made that [the employee] was advised that her employment would be terminated, we find no error in the findings of the POEA and the NLRC that these claims of [the employee] remain to be allegations since no substantial evidence was presented to prove them.

•••

To emphasize, poor performance should amount to gross and habitual neglect of duty to be a just cause for employee termination.

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