Saturday, March 10, 2012

De Leon vs. NLRC (100 SCRA 691)

Facts: The petitioner started working with said corporation as a messenger way back in 1949. He held various positions therein, such as bookkeeper, accountant, general office supervisor and Assistant-Manager. He then rose to the position as Assistant Vice President-Manager (Makati Office) in 1913 and held it continuously up to 1977. Prior to his dismissal, he was in the service for more than 28 years.

In October 1976, the petitioner was sent to Korea on an official business for the respondent corporation. Before that, the respondent Alfredo Benedicto, president and general manager of the corporation, verbally intimated to petitioner that the latter would soon be appointed as Assistant Vice President for Finance, preparatory to his assuming the position of Vice President for Finance upon the resignation of the then incumbent. In early November 1976, petitioner was instructed to attend the staff meeting at Bacolod every second and fourth Tuesdays of every month starting January 1977.

The petitioner alleged that he had not at any time or in any manner applied for retirement and that the requirement of due process was not observed, thus making his dismissal illegal and unjustified. Also, he stated that the respondents did not explain to him any cause or reason for his dismissal, that no specific charges were made against him and no formal investigation was conducted to afford him opportunity to acquit himself of any charges. Finally, the money offered by the corporation does not constitute estoppel or waiver on his part, considering that his acceptance was without prejudice to all his rights resulting from his illegal dismissal. 

Issue:
Whether or not the acceptance of separation pay is a bar to contesting the legality of dismissal.

Held: No. The contention of respondents that petitioner is barred from contesting the illegality of his dismissal since he has already received his separation pay cannot be sustained. Since he was forced to retire, he suddenly found himself jobless with a family of eight (8) children to support. He had no alternative but to accept what was offered to him; he needed money to support his family. He had to grab whatever was offered as he accepted less than what was offered to show his non-acquiescence to what amounted to dismissal.

Employees who received their separation pay are not barred from contesting the legality of their dismissal. The acceptance of those benefits would not amount to estoppels. Having been illegally dismissed, the petitioner is entitled to reinstatement with back wages corresponding to a period of three (3) years without qualification minus the amount of P26, 492. 63 he was forced to receive as retirement gratuity pay.

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