Monday, November 28, 2011

Wilfredo M. Baron, et al. vs. National Labor Relations Commission, et al., G.R. No. 182299, February 22, 2010.

Dismissal; due process. In the dismissal of employees, it has been consistently held that the twin requirements of notice and hearing are essential elements of due process. The employer must furnish the worker with two written notices before termination of employment can be legally effected: (1) a notice apprising the employee of the particular acts or omissions for which his dismissal is sought, and (2) a subsequent notice informing the employee of the employer’s decision to dismiss him. With regard to the requirement of a hearing, the essence of due process lies simply in an opportunity to be heard, and not that an actual hearing should always and indispensably be held. 

Likewise, there is no requirement that the notices of dismissal themselves be couched in the form and language of judicial or quasi-judicial decisions. What is required is for the employer to conduct a formal investigation process, with notices duly served on the employees informing them of the fact of investigation, and subsequently, if warranted, a separate notice of dismissal. Through the formal investigatory process, the employee must be accorded the right to present his or her side, which must be considered and weighed by the employer. The employee must be sufficiently apprised of the nature of the charge, so as to be able to intelligently defend himself or herself against the charge. 

Dismissal; serious misconduct. Misconduct has been defined as improper or wrong conduct. It is the transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, willful in character, and implies wrongful intent and not mere error of judgment. The misconduct to be serious must be of such grave and aggravated character and not merely trivial and unimportant. Such misconduct, however serious, must nevertheless be in connection with the employee’s work to constitute just cause for his separation. 

In the present case, the Court found substantial evidence to prove that a serious misconduct has been committed to justify termination from employment. The Certified Public Accountant and Corporate Finance Manager of the company submitted a report dated February 19, 2000 stating that in spite of management’s memorandum, the keys to the office and filing cabinets were not surrendered. It was likewise stated in the report that petitioner Wilfredo Baron pulled out some records without allowing a representative from the internal audit team to inspect them. He noticed Wilfredo Baron deleting some files from the computer, which could no longer be retrieved. Moreover, a member of the audit team saw Cynthia Junatas (another petitioner) carrying some documents, including a Daily Collection Report. When asked to present the documents for inspection, Junatas refused and tore the document. 

In addition, the audit team discovered that MSI incurred an inventory shortage of One Million Thirty Thousand Two Hundred Fifty-Eight Pesos and Twenty-One Centavos (P1,030,258.21). It found that Wilfredo Baron, the operations manager, in conspiracy with the other petitioners, orchestrated massive irregularities and grand scale fraud, which could no longer be documented because of theft of company documents and deletion of computer files. Unmistakably, the unauthorized taking of company documents and files, failure to pay unremitted collections, failure to surrender keys to the filing cabinets despite earlier instructions, concealment of shortages, and failure to record inventory transactions pursuant to a fraudulent scheme are acts of grave misconduct, which are sufficient causes for dismissal from employment. Wilfredo M. Baron, et al. vs. National Labor Relations Commission, et al., G.R. No. 182299, February 22, 2010.

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