Pascua vs. Bank Wise, Inc.

G.R. No. 191460. January 31, 2018.

FACTS:

Pascua was employed by Bankwise as its Executive Vice President for Marketing. In 2004, Philippine Veterans Bank and Bankwise entered into a merger.  Due to this Pascua was re-assigned to another unit but his duties, functions, and responsibilities were not clearly delineated or defined.

As part of the merger, Pascual was informed to tender his resignation. In a letter, he pleaded to stay in office until the end of the year. Campa, a director of Bankwise  assured all his money claims will be paid once he tendered resignation. Pascua tendered his resignation.

Due to the inaction of respondents for early settlement of his money claims. Pascua filed a Complaint for illegal dismissal, nonpayment of salary, overtime pay, holiday pay, premium pay for holiday, service incentive leave, 13th month pay, separation pay, retirement benefits, actual damages, moral damages, exemplary damages, and attorney’s fees against Bankwise and Philippine Veterans Bank.

The Labor Arbiter dismissed the Complaint on the ground that Pascua had voluntarily resigned relying on the resignation letter. The National Labor Relations Commission reversed the Labor Arbiter’s findings and held that Pascua was constructively dismissed.

Philippine Veterans Bank filed a Petition for Certiorari before the Court of Appeals, arguing that Pascua’s resignation was voluntary and even assuming Pascua was constructively dismissed, it should not be made liable with Bankwise since it was separate and distinct from it. The CA rendered its Decision, finding that Pascua was constructively dismissed but held that only Bankwise should be made liable to Pascua for his money claims.

ISSUE:

WON Pascua was constructively dismissed.

HELD:

No. The presumption is that the employer and the employee are on unequal footing so the State has the responsibility to protect the employee. This presumption, however, must be taken on a case-to-case basis.

In situations where special qualifications are required for employment, such as a Master’s degree or experience as a corporate executive, prospective employees are at a better position to bargain or make demands from the employer. Employees with special qualifications would be on equal footing with their employers, and thus, would need a lesser degree of protection from the State than an ordinary rank-and-file worker.

Pascua, as the Head of Marketing with annual salary of P2,250,000.00, would have been in possession of the special qualifications needed for his post. He would have been completely aware of the implications of signing a categorically worded resignation letter. It was incumbent on Pascua to ensure that his severance pay in the event of his resignation be embodied on a written agreement before submitting his resignation letter. He should have, at the very least, indicated his conditions in his resignation letter.

Pascua cannot also rely on the verbal assurances of Buhain and Campa that he would be paid his severance pay if he resigns. Number 8 of his Contract of Employment states that verbal agreements between him and the Bankwise’s officers on the terms of his employment are not binding on either party.

The employer has the burden of proving, in illegal dismissal cases, that the employee was dismissed for a just or authorized cause. Even if the employer claims that the employee resigned, the employer still has the burden of proving that the resignation was voluntary. It is constructive dismissal when resignation “was made under compulsion or under circumstances approximating compulsion, such as when an employee’s act of handing in his [or her] resignation was a reaction to circumstances leaving him [or her] no alternative but to resign.”

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