Almirante: Constructive dismissal of OFW

PETITIONER Donna B. Jacob signed a two-year contract with respondent First Step Manpower International Services Inc., as a household service worker to be deployed to Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. On Jan. 11, 2015, she was deployed and escorted to the residence of her foreign employer Abdulaziz Masser Abdulaziz Al Masoud.

On Jan. 31, 2015, she was washing the dishes when she felt a hard object rubbing against her bottom and was surprised to see her male employer attempting to rape her. She reported the matter to her female employer who however did not believe her and since then, ill-treated her. On Feb. 16, 2015, her female employer hit her with a shoe, which was violently thrown at her. She escaped and went to her agency’s counterpart in Riyadh where she met a fellow Filipina who told her that apart from being maltreated female Filipino workers were also being sold to their Arab employers. Thus, they decided to escape the agency through the window of the second-floor comfort room. But she fell and injured her spinal column.

On March 31, 2015, she was repatriated to the Philippines. On July 2, 2015, she filed a case before the Labor Arbiter for constructive illegal dismissal and other money claims.

Does her case for constructive dismissal find merit?

Ruling: Yes.

Constructive dismissal does not always entail a “forthright dismissal or diminution in rank, compensation, benefit and privileges.” Pertinent in the case at hand, there can also be constructive dismissal in cases where “an act of clear discrimination, insensibility, or disdain by an employer becomes so unbearable on the part of the employee that it could foreclose any choice by him or her except to forego his or her continued employment.”

Certainly, the treatment petitioner experienced in the hands of her foreign employers fostered a hostile and unbearable work setting which impelled her not only to leave her employers but also, as in petitioner’s words, to escape (tumakas). The conclusion is all too clear that there exists a well-grounded fear on her part prompting her to run away despite having been employed overseas for barely two months.

The cessation of petitioner’s employment was not of her own doing but was brought about by unfavorable circumstances created by her foreign employers. To simply put, if petitioner failed to continue her job, it was because she refused to be further subjected to the ordeal caused by her employers’ conduct. All of these evidently constitute a case of constructive dismissal.

Therefore, respondents’ argument that petitioner was not dismissed because she impliedly admitted “in her Petition that she decided to be repatriated to the Philippines due to her medical operation” is absurd. In resolving issues of constructive dismissal, courts do not only weigh the evidence presented by the parties, but also delve into the “totality of circumstances.” In petitioner’s case, it is apparent that she could not have gone to the counterpart agency and eventually injure herself in the course of escape were it not for the hostile treatment afforded by her foreign employers which made her run away.

Furthermore, petitioner’s failure to promptly report the matter of maltreatment and harassment to the authorities overseas cannot be taken against her. In her Petition, petitioner expressed being “maltreated, injured and nearly raped.” Hence, “the behavior and reaction of every person cannot be predicted with accuracy.”

Given the traumatic incidents petitioner went through, the alleged delay in reporting could be reasonably expected. People respond differently in varied situations, and there exists “no standard form of behavioral response when one is confronted with a strange or startling experience.”

Guided by the foregoing precepts, this Court finds that petitioner was constructively discharged from employment and hence, illegally dismissed. (Donna B. Jacob vs. First Step Manpower Services Inc., et al., G.R. 229984, July 8 2020).


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