Nominal Damages

Summary

▪ Nominal damages are awarded to an employee who was dismissed for valid cause but due process was not observed.

▪ It is to vindicate or recognize the violation of the employee’s rights.

▪ The amount for nominal damages is discretionary on the court.

1. Concept

The law and jurisprudence allow the award of nominal damages in favor of an employee in a case where a valid cause for dismissal exists but the employer fails to observe due process in dismissing the employee. (Libcap Marketing Corp. v. Baquial, G.R. No. 192011, 30 June 2014)

a. Recognition and vindication of a right

Nominal damages “may be awarded to a plaintiff whose right has been violated or invaded by the defendant, for the purpose of vindicating or recognizing that right, and not for indemnifying the plaintiff for any loss suffered by him. Its award is thus not for the purpose of indemnification for a loss but for the recognition and vindication of a right.” (Ibid.)

b. Amount discretionary on the court

The amount of nominal damages to be awarded the employee is addressed to the sound discretion of the court, taking into consideration the relevant circumstances. (Ibid.)

Jurisprudence holds that such indemnity to be imposed should be stiffer to discourage the abhorrent practice of “dismiss now, pay later.” The sanction should be in the nature of indemnification or penalty and should depend on the facts of each case, taking into special consideration the gravity of the due process violation of the employer. (Sy v. Neat, Inc., G.R. No. 213748, 27 November 2017)

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References

Presidential Decree No. 442, a.k.a. Labor Code of the Philippines

DOLE Department Order No. 147, Series of 2015

▪ Jurisprudence or Supreme Court Decisions

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