PETITIONER Telephilippines Inc. (TP) is engaged in the business of providing contact center services to its various offshore corporate clients through its customer service representatives (CSRs).
It hired respondent Ferrando H. Jacolbe as a CSR tasked to resolve customer’s questions and issues promptly and efficiently.
It assigned respondent to its Priceline account. He was required to meet the key performance metric targets of, among others, an average handle time (AHT) of 7.0 minutes or below. The AHT refers to the average time spent by a CSR with the customer on the phone.
Respondent was issued a notice to explain his work performance for the last six months, which was found to be unsatisfactory due to his consistent failure to meet the AHT goal in spite of being enrolled in the performance improvement plan (PIP).
Unsatisfied of respondent’s explanation, petitioner dismissed him from the service.
Aggrieved, respondent filed a complaint for illegal dismissal and monetary claims against petitioner. He argued that if indeed he committed the said infractions, the same did not constitute serious misconduct warranting his dismissal.
Does his argument find merit?
In this relation, jurisprudence instructs that gross inefficiency is analogous to gross and habitual neglect of duty under Article 297 (e) in relation to Article 297 (b) of the Labor Code, as amended, for both involve specific acts of omission on the part of the employee resulting in damage to the employer or to his business, and constituting, therefore, just cause to dismiss an employee. x x x.
In Buiser v. Leogardo, Jr., 216 Phil. 144 ( 1984), the Court explained that such inefficiency is understood to mean failure to attain work goals or work quotas, either by failing to complete the same within the allotted reasonable period, or by producing unsatisfactory results. Further, in San Miguel Corp. v. NLRC, 574 Phil. 556 (2008), the Court held that an employer is entitled to prescribe reasonable work standards, rules, and regulations necessary for the conduct of its business, to provide certain disciplinary measures in order to implement them, and to assure that the same would be complied with.
This management prerogative of requiring standards may be availed of so long as they are exercised in good faith for the advancement of the employer’s interest.
In this case, records reveal that Jacolbe’s AHT scores for 62 consecutive weeks, or from January 2012 up to his dismissal in March 2013, were well above the seven minutes or lower AHT mark.
As he had been having difficulty meeting the same, TP allowed him to continue in its employ and even enrolled him in its Smart Action and Performance Improvement Plans twice—in July to August 2012 and again in January 2013—to help him improve his AHT scores.
This notwithstanding, Jacolbe’s AHT scores remained well above the seven-minute AHT mark. Undoubtedly, Jacolbe’s repeated and consistent failure to meet the prescribed AHT mark over a prolonged period of time falls squarely under the concept of gross inefficiency and is analogous to gross and habitual neglect of duty under Article 297 of the Labor Code, which justified his dismissal. (Telephilippines, Inc. vs. Ferrando H. Jacolbe, G.R. No. 233999, February 18, 2019).