Conviction In Criminal Case Is Not Necessary To Find Just Case For Termination

Respondent Sanchez was hired by petitioner St. Luke Medical Center, Inc. (SLMC) as a Staff Nurse, and was eventually assigned at SLMC, Q...

Respondent Sanchez was hired by petitioner St. Luke Medical Center, Inc. (SLMC) as a Staff Nurse, and was eventually assigned at SLMC, Quezon City Pediatric Unit until her termination for her purported violation of SLMC Code of Discipline, particularly Section 1, Rule 1 on Acts of Dishonesty, i.e., Robbery, Theft, Pilferage, and Misappropriation of Funds.
Records reveal that at the end of her shift, Sanchez passed through the SLMC Centralization Entrance/Exit where she was subjected to the standard inspection procedure by the security personnel. In the course thereof, the Security Guard on-duty, SG Manzanade, noticed a pouch in her bag and asked her to open the same. When opened, said pouch contained the assortment of medical stocks which were subsequently confiscated. After hearing her side, SLMC, informed Sanchez of its decision to terminate her employment. This prompted her to file a complaint for illegal dismissal before the NLRC.
Sanchez maintained her innocence, claiming that she had no intention of bringing outside the SLMC premises the questioned items since she merely inadvertently left the pouch containing them in her bag as she got caught up in work that day. She further asserted that she could not be found guilty of pilferage since the questioned items found in her possession were neither SLMC nor its employeesproperty. She also stressed the fact that SLMC did not file any criminal charges against her. Anent her supposed admission in her handwritten letter, she claimed that she was unassisted by counsel when she executed the same and, thus, was inadmissible for being unconstitutional.

SLMC contended that Sanchez was validly dismissed for just cause as she had committed theft in violation of Section 1, Rule I of the SLMC Code of Discipline, which punishes acts of dishonesty, i.e., robbery, theft, pilferage, and misappropriation of funds, with termination from service.

Was respondent Sanchez illegally dismissed by petitioner SLMC?

Respondent was NOT illegally dismissed by the petitioner. The right of an employer to regulate all aspects of employment, aptly called “management prerogative,” gives employers the freedom to regulate, according to their discretion and best judgment, all aspects of employment, including work assignment, working methods, processes to be followed, working regulations, transfer of employees, work supervision, lay-off of workers and the discipline, dismissal and recall of workers. In this light, courts often decline to interfere in legitimate business decisions of employers. In fact, labor laws discourage interference in employers’ judgment concerning the conduct of their business.

Among the employer’s management prerogatives is the right to prescribe reasonable rules and regulations necessary or proper for the conduct of its business or concern, to provide certain disciplinary measures to implement said rules and to assure that the same would be complied with. At the same time, the employee has the corollary duty to obey all reasonable rules, orders, and instructions of the employer; and willful or intentional disobedience thereto, as a general rule, justifies termination of the contract of service and the dismissal of the employee. Article 296 (formerly Article 282) of the Labor Code provides:
Article 296. Termination by Employer. - An employer may terminate an employment for any of the following causes:

(a) Serious misconduct or
willful disobedience by the employee of the lawful orders of his employer or his representative in connection with his work;

x x x x

Note that for an employee to be validly dismissed on this ground, the employer’s orders, regulations, or instructions must be: (1)
reasonable and lawful, (2) sufficiently known to the employee, and (3) in connection with the duties which the employee has been engaged to discharge.” These were all present in the instant case.
An employee’s guilt or innocence in a criminal case is not determinative of the existence of a just or authorized cause for his or her dismissal. It is well-settled that conviction in a criminal case is not necessary to find just cause for termination of employment, as in this case. Criminal and labor cases involving an employee arising from the same infraction are separate and distinct proceedings which should not arrest any judgment from one to the other.

G.R. No. 212054, March 11, 2015
The author takes no responsibility for the validity, correctness and result of this work. The information provided is not a legal advice and it should not be used  as a substitute for a competent legal advice from a licensed lawyer. See the disclaimer

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