Almirante: Constructive dismissal-A A +A
Saturday, April 21, 2012
PETITIONER Edgar Reyes hired respondents as chief bakers in his three franchise branches of Julie’s Bakeshop in Sibalom and San Jose, Antique. On Jan. 26, 2000, respondents filed separate complaints against petitioners for labor standard benefits and attorney’s fees.
Subsequently, in a memorandum dated Feb. 16, 2000, Reyes reassigned respondents as utility/security personnel tasked to clean the outside vicinity of his bakeshops and to maintain peace and order in the area.
Petitioners insist that the transfer or reassignment of respondents is a valid exercise of management prerogative for it does not involve any diminution in pay and privileges. It was a measure of self-preservation and was prompted by a desire to protect the health of the buying public should respondents sabotage the business pending resolution of their cases. Does the defense find merit?
Petitioners failed to satisfy the burden of proving that the transfer was based on just or valid ground. Petitioners’ bare assertions of imminent threat from the respondents are mere accusations, which are not substantiated by any proof. The Court is proscribed from making conclusions based on mere presumptions or suppositions.
An employee’s fate cannot be justly hinged upon conjectures and surmises. The act attributed against Tolores does not even convince us as he was merely a suspected culprit in the alleged sabotage, for which no investigation took place to establish his guilt or culpability.
Besides, Reyes still retained Tolores as an employee and chief baker when he could have dismissed him for cause if the allegations were indeed found true. In view of these, this Court finds no compelling reason to justify the transfer of respondents from chief bakers to utility/security personnel. What appears to this Court is that respondents’ transfer was an act of retaliation on the part of petitioners due to the former’s filing of complaints against them, and thus, was clearly made in bad faith.
In fact, petitioner Reyes even admitted that he caused the reassignments due to the pending complaints filed against him.
x x x
“Demotion involves a situation in which an employee is relegated to a subordinate or less important position constituting a reduction to a lower grade or rank, with a corresponding decrease in duties and responsibilities, and usually accompanied by a decrease in salary.” When there is a demotion in rank and/or a diminution in pay; when a clear discrimination, insensibility or disdain by an employer becomes unbearable to the employee; or when continued employment is rendered impossible, unreasonable or unlikely, the transfer of an employee may constitute constructive dismissal.
We agree with the Court of Appeals in ruling that the transfer of respondents amounted to a demotion. Although there was no diminution in pay, there was undoubtedly a demotion in titular rank. One cannot deny the disparity between the duties and functions of a chief baker with that of a utility/security personnel tasked to clean and manage the orderliness of the outside premises of the bakeshop. Respondents were even prohibited from entering the bakeshop. The change in the nature of their work undeniably resulted to a demeaning and humiliating work condition. (Julie’s Bakeshop and/or Edgar Reyes vs. Henry Arnaiz, et. al., G.R. No. 173882, Feb. 15, 2012)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 22, 2012.