Opinaldo vs Ravina

G.R. No. 196573, October 16, 2013

FACTS:

Petitioner Victorino Opinaldo is a security guard who had worked for the Agency owned by Ravina. Opinaldo was assigned to PAIJR Furniture. however, PAIJR requested that petitioner be relieved from his work because he was no longer physically fit to perform his duties.

Respondent also required petitioner to submit a medical certificate to prove that he is physically and mentally fit for work as security guard. In 2006, Opinaldo was reassigned to Gomez Construction. After working for a period of two weeks and upon receipt of his salary, petitioner ceased to report for work.

Petitioner filed a complaint against respondent with the (DOLE) for underpayment of salary and nonpayment of other labor standard benefits. The parties agreed to settle and reached a compromise agreement.

After almost four weeks from the settlement of the case, claims that when he asked respondent to sign SSS- Sickness Notification in order to avail of the discounted fees for a medical check- up, respondent allegedly refused and informed him that he was no longer an employee of the Agency. Respondent allegedly told him that when he signed the quitclaim and release form at the DOLE Regional Office, she already considered him to have quit his employment

The respondent argues that she did not illegally dismiss petitioner and that it was a valid exercise of management prerogative that he was not given any assignment pending the submission of the required medical certificate of his fitness to work. She also alleged that the petitioner abandoned his work.

Petitioner filed a Complaint for Illegal Dismissal with a prayer for the payment of separation pay in lieu of reinstatement against respondent and the Agency.

LA ruled that respondent and the Agency is liable for illegal dismissal and ordering them to pay petitioner separation pay and back wages since “there is no admissible proof that [respondent] even required [petitioner] to submit a medical certificate.

NLRC affirmed the decision of LA due to absence of any just or authorized cause for the termination

The CA reversed and set aside the decision and resolution of the NLRC finding that it was petitioner himself who failed to report for work and therefore severed his employment with the Agency.

ISSUES:

(1) WON it is a valid exercise of respondent’s management prerogative to prevent petitioner’s continued employment with the Agency unless he presents the required medical certificate

(2) WON the petitioner abandoned his work

(3) WON petitioner is not illegally dismissed because, in the first place, she did not dismiss petitioner

HELD:

NO. While it is a management prerogative to require petitioner to submit a medical certificate, respondent cannot withhold petitioner’s employment without observing the principles of due process and fair play.

The respondent failed to produce evidence that she informed the petitioner that his failure to submit the required medical certificate will result in his lack of work assignment – and eventually the termination of his employment – as a security guard. The facts of the case clearly show that respondent even reassigned petitioner to Gomez Construction from his PAIJR post despite the non-submission of a medical certificate.

It is a basic principle of labor protection in this jurisdiction that a worker cannot be deprived of his job without satisfying the requirements of due process. Labor is property and the right to make it available is next in importance to the rights of life and liberty. As enshrined under the Bill of Rights, no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. The due process requirement in the deprivation of one’s employment is transcendental that it limits the exercise of the management prerogative of the employer to control and regulate the affairs of the business.

(2) NO. Abandonment is the deliberate and unjustified refusal of an employee to resume his employment. To constitute abandonment of work, two elements must concur: (1) the employee must have failed to report for work or must have been absent without valid or justifiable reason; and, (2) there must have been a clear intention on the part of the employee to sever the employer-employee relationship manifested by some overt act.

None of these elements is present in the case at bar. If it was really true that complainant abandoned his work, then why have not respondents sent him a notice to report back for work? It is evident then that respondents found an excuse to decline complainant’s continued stay with them on the pretext that he has to submit first a medical certificate before he could be allowed to resume employment.

(3) NO. It is a time- honored legal principle that the employer has the onus probandi to show that the dismissal or termination was for a just and authorized cause under the Labor Code. Respondent failed to show that the termination was justified and authorized, nor was it done as a valid exercise of management prerogative.

Respondent did not properly exercise her management prerogative when she withheld petitioner’s employment without due process. Respondent failed to prove that she has notified petitioner that her continuous refusal to provide him any work assignment was due to his non-submission of the medical certificate. Had respondent exercised the rules of fair play, petitioner would have had the option of complying or not complying with the medical certificate requirement – having full knowledge of the consequences of his actions.

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