Almirante: Disobedience

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By Dominador Almirante

Labor case Digest

Friday, March 21, 2014


PETITIONER Nathaniel T. Dongon was a truck helper leadman of respondent Rapid Movers and Forwarders Co., Inc. On April 23, 2011, he and his driver, Vicente Villaruz, were in the vicinity of Tanduay to get some goods for distribution to clients. A security guard called his attention to the fact that Villaruz was not wearing an Identification card. He promised to secure a special permission from the management. Instead, he lent his ID card to Villaruz. Because of such misrepresentation, they got a clearance from Tanduay for the release of the goods.

On May 23, 2001, petitioner was dismissed from the service. In a complaint for illegal dismissal, he maintained that he acted in good faith and with the sole intention of facilitating deliveries for Rapid Movers when he allowed Villaruz to use his company ID. Does this position find merit?

Supreme Court (First Division) ruling: Yes

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Willful disobedience to the lawful orders of an employer is one of the valid grounds to terminate an employee under Article 296 (formerly Article 282) of the Labor Code.

For willful disobedience to be a ground, it is required that: (a) the conduct of the employee must be willful or intentional; and (b) the order the employee violated must have been reasonable, lawful, made known to the employee, and must pertain to the duties that he had been engaged to discharge. Willfulness must be attended by a wrongful and perverse mental attitude rendering the employee’s act inconsistent with proper subordination. In any case, the conduct of the employee that is a valid ground for dismissal under the Labor Code constitutes harmful behavior against the business interest or person of his employer. It is implied that in every act of willful disobedience, the erring employee obtains undue advantage detrimental to the business interest of the employer.

Under the foregoing standards, the disobedience attributed to petitioner could not be justly characterized as willful within the contemplation of Article 296 of the Labor Code. He neither benefited from it, nor thereby prejudiced the business interest of Rapid Movers. His explanation that his deed had been intended to benefit Rapid Movers was credible. There could be no wrong or perversity on his part that warranted the termination of his employment based on willful disobedience.

Considering that petitioner’s motive in lending his company ID to Villaruz was to benefit Rapid Movers as their employer by facilitating the loading of goods at the Tanduay Otis Warehouse for distribution to Rapid Movers’ clients, and considering also that petitioner had rendered seven long, unblemished years of service to Rapid Movers, his dismissal was plainly unwarranted. The NLRC’s reversal of the decision of the labor arbiter by holding that penalty too harsh and disproportionate to the wrong attributed to him was legally and factually justified, not arbitrary or whimsical.

Consequently, for the CA to pronounce that the NLRC had thereby gravely abused its discretion was not only erroneous but was, itself, a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction for not being in conformity with the pertinent laws and jurisprudence. We have held that a conclusion or finding derived from erroneous considerations is not a mere error of judgment but one tainted with grave abuse of discretion. (Nathaniel N. Dongon vs. Rapid Movers and Forwarders Co., Inc., and/or Nicanor E. Jao, Jr., G.R. No. 163431, August 28, 2013)

(Almirante is a former labor arbiter.)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 22, 2014.

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