Punzal v ETSI Technologies Inc.
G.R. Nos. 170384-85 March 9, 2007
Lorna Punzal , an employee of Etsi Technologies Inc. , sent an email to her officemates announcing the holding of a Halloween party that was to be held in the office. However, the petitioner’s immediate superior, Remudaro , advised Punzal to first secure for the approval of the Senior Vice president , respondent Werner Geisert, for the holding of the party in the office.
The VP did not approve the Halloween party which prompted Punzal to send another email informing that the VP did not agree to the idea and expressed her disappointment particularly saying:
“He was so unfair , para bang palagi syang iniisahan sa trabaho.” Bakit most of the parents na magjoined ang anak ay naka VL naman . Anyway, solohin na lang nya bukas ang office.”
The HR required her to explain in writing within 48 hours why she should not be given disciplinary action for improper conduct or acts of discourtesy concerning a company officer. Punzal replied by letter stating that she never expected that such kind of words can be considered as acts of discourtesy or disrespect.
The management considered her reason “unacceptable” and decided to terminate Punzal immediately for violating Article III (8) and Article IV (5) of ETSI’s Code of Conduct and Discipline.
Petitioner then filed before NLRC a complaint for illegal dismissal against ETSI , Geisert and Remudaro. The petitioner alleged that she was deprived to be informed of her right to counsel during the conference with Geisert and Remudaro.
The Labor Arbiter dismissed petitioner’s complaint, finding that she was legally dismissed for serious misconduct and that she was accorded due process. The NLRC also ordered that petitioner be awarded separation pay. Both parties filed their respective motions for reconsideration which the NLRC denied. Both parties thereupon filed their respective petitions for certiorari with the CA. The CA held that petitioner’s dismissal was in order. However, the petitioner believes that the appellate court erred when it ruled that her statement was discourteous and that she was accorded due process, hence this case.
Whether or not ETSI’s contention that the right to be informed of the right to counsel does not apply to investigations before administrative bodies is tenable
NO. It was held that the right to be informed of the right to counsel can also be applied to investigations before administrative bodies. Under Article 277(b) of the Labor code , the employer shall afford the worker whose employment is sought to be terminated , ample opportunity to be heard and defend himself with the assistance of his representatives if he so desires in accordance with company rules and regulations pursuant to guidelines set by DOLE . Since the petitioner’s statutory due process right has been violated , she is entitled to an award of nominal damage.
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