Almirante: Management prerogative

ON Oct. 10, 2005, respondents Rachelle G. Balba and Marinel N. Constante filed a complaint against petitioner Chateau Royale Sports and Country Club, Inc. for illegal suspension and non-payment of allowances and commissions.

On Dec. 12, 2005, they amended their complaint to include constructive dismissal. The amendment was based on their information from the chief financial officers of the petitioner on the latter’s plan to transfer them from Nasugbu, Batangas to the Manila office. The proposed transfer was prompted by the shortage of personnel at the Manila office as a result of the resignation of three account managers and the director of sales and marketing.

Despite attempts to convince them to accept the transfer to Manila, respondents declined because their families were living in Nasugbu, Batangas. A notice of transfer and an incident report were served upon respondents who responded explaining their reasons for declining the order. Consequently, the petitioner sent a notice imposing on respondents the sanction of written reprimand for their failure to abide by the order of transfer.

Does respondents’ complaint prosper?

Ruling: No.

In this case of constructive dismissal, the burden of proof lies in the petitioner as the employer to prove that the transfer of the employee from one area of operation to another was for a valid and legitimate ground, like genuine business necessity. We are satisfied that the petitioner duly discharged its burden, and thus established that, contrary to the claim of the respondents that they had been constructively dismissed, their transfer had been an exercise of the petitioner’s legitimate management prerogative.

To start with, the resignations of the account managers and the director of sales and marketing in the Manila office brought about the immediate need for their replacements with personnel having commensurate experiences and skills.

With the positions held by the resigned sales personnel being undoubtedly crucial to the operations and business of the petitioner, the resignations gave rise to an urgent and genuine business necessity that fully warranted the transfer from the Nasugbu, Batangas office to the main office in Manila of the respondents, undoubtedly the best suited to perform the tasks assigned to the resigned employees because of their being themselves account managers who had recently attended seminars and trainings as such.

The transfer could not be validly assailed as a form of constructive dismissal, for, as held in Benguet Electric Cooperative v. Fianza, G.R. No. 158606, March 9, 2004, 425 SCRA 41, 50, management had the prerogative to determine the place where the employee is best qualified to serve the interests of the business given the qualifications, training and performance of the affected employee.

Secondly, although the respondents’ transfer to Manila might be potentially inconvenient for them because it would entail additional expenses on their part aside from their being forced to be away from their families, it was neither unreasonable nor oppressive.

The petitioner rightly points out that the transfer would be without demotion in rank, or without diminution of benefits and salaries. Instead, the transfer would open the way for their eventual career growth, with the corresponding increases in pay. It is noted that their prompt and repeated opposition to the transfer effectively stalled the possibility of any agreement between the parties regarding benefits or salary adjustments.

Thirdly, the respondents did not show by substantial evidence that the petitioner was acting in bad faith or had ill-motive in ordering their transfer. In contrast, the urgency and genuine business necessity justifying the transfer negated bad faith on the part of the petitioner.

Lastly, the respondents, by having voluntarily affixed their signatures on their respective letters of appointment, acceded to the terms and conditions of employment incorporated therein. One of the terms and conditions thus incorporated was the prerogative of management to transfer and reassign its employees from one job to another “as it may deem necessary or advisable.”

x x x

Having expressly consented to the foregoing, the respondents had no basis for objecting to their transfer. According to Abbot Laboratories (Phils.), Inc. v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. L-76959, October 12, 1987, 154 SCRA 713, 719, the employee who has consented to the company’s policy of hiring sales staff willing to be assigned anywhere in the Philippines as demanded by the employer’s business has no reason to disobey the transfer order of management. Verily, the right of the employee to security of tenure does not give her a vested right to her position as to deprive management of its authority to transfer or re-assign her where she will be most useful (Bersamin, J., SC 3rd Div., Chateau Royale Sports and Country Club, Inc. vs. Rachelle G. Balba and Marinel N. Constante, G.R. No. 197492, January 18, 2017).
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