Celis v. Bank of Makati (A Savings Bank), Inc. (2022)

1. The Case

⦁ This is the case of a bank personnel who was dismissed for her failure to disclose her previous employment.

a. Background

⦁ The Complainant was an Administrative Officer.

⦁ The Respondent-Company was a bank.

⦁ “Towards the end of 2017, [the Company’s] Human Resource Department received a report that [the Complainant] was previously employed in the Rural Bank of Placer (Bank of Placer), Surigao del Norte, and was involved in a case concerning embezzlement of funds. However, [Complainant] did not disclose her past employment with the Bank of Placer in her job application with [the Company].”

⦁ “Acting on the information, [the Company] issued a Notice of Explanation dated December 13, 2017 to [Complainant] and thereafter, placed her under preventive suspension for 30 days beginning December 18, 2017. On December 21, 2017, [Complainant] submitted a Written Explanation wherein she admitted that she indeed failed to disclose her past employment with the Bank of Placer but attributed such omission to her excitement in filling up her job application with [the Company]. She denied being involved in an embezzlement case and explained that the matter was mere hearsay and gossip.

⦁ “On January 8, 2018,15 [the Company] conducted a conference/hearing where [the Complainant] personally explained her side. In the Notice of Decision17 dated January 10, 2018, [the Company] resolved to terminate the employment of [the Complainant] on the following grounds: (1) violation of the Bank’s Code of Conduct and Discipline ([the Company’s] Code of Conduct) for “[k]nowingly giving false or misleading information in applications for employment as a  result of which employment is secured” (subject infraction); and (2) Serious Misconduct, Fraud or Willful Breach of Trust and Loss of Confidence under Article 297 [282] of the Labor Code.

⦁ “[The Company] found out that [the Complainant] purposely concealed her past employment with the Bank of Placer to hide her implication in a certain embezzlement case. In meting out the penalty of dismissal, [the Company] likewise considered the infractions of [the Complainant] in 2016 and the corresponding disciplinary actions imposed on her, viz.: (1) suspension from work for 10 days for her ‘improper conduct and acts of gross discourtesy or disrespect to fellow employees;’ and (2) suspension from work for 15 days for her infraction of “personal borrowing from the Bank’s Clients.” Consequently, [the Complainant] filed a Complaint for illegal dismissal, monetary claims, and damages against [the Company]. She alleged that her dismissal from employment was only precipitated by her discovery of the corrupt practices in which her division head and her department head were involved.

1) Complainant’s position

• [The Complainant] “maintained that her failure to disclose her past employment with the Bank of Placer was done in good faith, and [the Company] failed to prove her involvement in the embezzlement case.”

2) Company’s position

• “In the case, [the Company] dismissed [the Complainant] from employment as she allegedly violated its Code of Conduct for the subject infraction. According to [the Company], [the Complainant] did not state in her job application that she was once employed with the Bank of Placer to conceal her implication in the embezzlement case thereat. [the Company] further explained that it could not have hired [the Complainant] had it known about her involvement in such case.”

b. Resolution

• The employee was illegally dismissed.

1) Due process

• “Dismissal from employment has two aspects: (1) the justness of the cause of dismissal, which constitutes substantive due process; and (2) the validity of the manner of dismissal, which constitutes procedural due process.”

2) Doubts resolved in favor of labor

• “In line with the Constitutional policy of giving protection to labor, the Civil Code and the Labor Code provide that doubts in the interpretation of labor legislation and contracts shall be construed in favor of labor. Likewise, the Court has consistently held that doubts in the appreciation of evidence in labor cases shall work to the advantage of labor.”

• “Being faced with different interpretations of the subject provision, the Court adopts the construction which favors [the Complainant] in view of the Constitutional policy of giving protection to labor and resolving doubtful labor provisions or contracts in favor of workers.”

3) No positive act of fraud, but an omission

• “To be liable under the subject infraction, i.e., ‘knowingly giving false or misleading information in applications for employment as a result of which employment is secured,’ the employee must have performed an overt or positive act, i.e., giving false information in the application for employment. Considering that [the Complainant] did not actually state any false information in her job application but merely omitted to reflect her past employment with the Bank of Placer, she could not have committed the alleged infraction.

• “At any rate, it is of no moment that [the Complainant] had omitted to reflect her past employment with the Bank of Placer or was allegedly implicated in the purported embezzlement case thereat. Significantly, the Bank of Placer neither found [the Complainant] liable nor meted out any disciplinary action against her in the case. In fact, the record is bereft of any information about the incidents of [the Complainant]’s implication in the embezzlement case. What the record actually shows is that the Bank of Placer allowed [the Complainant] to gracefully exit from the company without any derogatory record.

• “From the foregoing, the labor tribunals aptly held that this is merely a  case of an omission to disclose former employment in a job application, a  fault which does not justify [the Complainant]’s suspension and eventual termination from employment. It is well settled that ‘there must be a reasonable proportionality between the offense and the penalty. The penalty must be commensurate to the offense involved and to the degree of the infraction.’ To dismiss [the Complainant] on account of her omission to disclose former employment is just too harsh a penalty.

• “[The Company] now posits that it could not have hired [the Complainant] had it known that she was once implicated in an embezzlement case.”

• “Notably, [the Complainant] had been working with [the Company] for almost five years already when it raised, out of the blue, the issue regarding her undisclosed past employment. To the Court, such matter is already water under the bridge. Likewise, the fact that [the Company] suddenly created an issue about [the Complainant]’s undisclosed past employment lends credence to her allegation that the charge against her was only precipitated by her discovery of the corrupt practices involving her division head and her department head.

• “Thus, the LA aptly held:

[The Company]… is thinking on hindsight, after [the Complainant] has revealed anomalous transactions involving some bank personnel and officials. Had not [the Complainant] made some serious revelations against [the Company] Bank officials, her employment record would not have been brought out. [the Company] Bank had more than five (5) years to bring out the issue against [the Complainant] but failed to do so. It is questionable that it is only now that complainant [sic] has made his serious revelations that her past employment was made an issue against her.

2. Commentary

Author’s Notes:

1) The case was won/lost on a technicality. The violation cited in Company policy stated: “knowingly giving false or misleading information in applications for employment as a result of which employment is secured.” It presupposes a positive act constituting the fraud. Meaning, the employee should have actually given false information or misleading information on the application, such as falsely stating that he/she has worked for a certain company. In such a case, it would fall under the cited violation under the Company policy. However, no such act was done by the complainant. Instead, on her part, there was an omission – or a non-action.

2) Curiously, the question comes to mind: What if the clause included omission or non-disclosure of previous work/employment as a termination ground? Considering that this could be a catch-all provision for ensuring that applicants disclose all their previous work experience or employment history, it would behoove on the part of the applicant to make the disclosure as it is actively being asked of her in the application. Thus, the non-disclosure may constitute a violation on the part of the applicant. However, as to whether such would constitute as a termination ground, it would have to be resolved on a case-to-case basis and up to the labor courts given the unique circumstances of each case.


Celis v. Bank of Makati (A Savings Bank), Inc., G.R. No. 250776, 15 June 2022

/Updated: December 27, 2022

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