PETITIONER Spectrum Security Services, Inc. employed respondents David Grave and six others as security guards and posted them at the premises of Ibiden Philippines, Inc. (Ibiden) located at the First Philippine Industrial Park in Sto. Tomas, Batangas.

The petitioner implemented an action plan as part of its operational and manpower supervision enhancement program geared towards the gradual replacement of security guards at Ibiden. Thus, it issued separate “notice(s) to return to unit” to the respondents in July and August 2008, directing them to report to its head office and to update their documents for reassignment.

On Aug. 14, 2008, the respondents filed their complaint against the petitioner for constructive dismissal, claiming that the implementation of the action plan was a retaliatory measure against them for bringing several complaints to recover unpaid holiday pay and 13th moth pay.

When the case reached the Court of Appeals (CA), it promulgated on March 1, 2011 a decision dismissing the petition for certiorari. It concluded that although the complaint for illegal dismissal was prematurely filed because six months had not yet elapsed to warrant considering the dismissal as constructive dismissal, the continued failure to give the respondents new assignments during the proceedings before the Labor Arbiter that exceeded the reasonable six-month period rendered the petitioner liable for constructive dismissal of the respondents.

Did the CA err?

Ruling: Yes.

We cannot uphold the CA.

Security guards, like other employees in the private sector, are entitled to security of tenure. However, their situation should be differentiated from that of other employees or workers.

The employment of security guards generally depends on their employers’ contracts with clients who are third parties to the employment relationship, and the requirements of the latter for security services and what will be beneficial to them dictate the posting of the security guards. It is also relevant to mention that their employers retain the management prerogative to change their assignments and postings, and to decide to temporarily relieve them of their assignments. In other words, their security of tenure, though it shields them from demotions in rank or diminutions of salaries, benefits and other privileges, does not vest them with the right to their positions or assignments that will prevent their transfers or re-assignments (unless the transfers or re-assignments are motivated by discrimination or bad faith, or effected as a form of punishment or demotion without sufficient cause).

Such peculiar conditions of their employment render inevitable that some of them just have to undergo periods of reserved or off-detail status that should not by any means equate to their dismissal. Only when the period of their reserved or off-detail status exceeds the reasonable period of six months without reassignment should the affected security guards be regarded as dismissed.

Indeed, there should be no indefinite layoffs. After the period of six months, the employers should either recall the affected security guards to work or consider them permanently retrenched pursuant to the requirements of the law; otherwise, the employers would be held to have dismissed them, and would be liable for such dismissals.

xxx Nor was the CA justified to simply dismiss the right of the petitioner to implement the action plan and thereby effect the rotation and replacement of the respondents as their security guards posted at Ibiden. We have already recognized the management prerogative of the petitioner as their employer to change their postings and assignments without severing their employment relationship. Although the CA might have regarded the implementation of the action plan as dubious because the petitioner had relieved the respondents from their posts at Ibiden just 16 days after they had brought their complaint for the recovery of certain money claims from the former, thereby imputing bad faith to the petitioner would be bereft of factual or legal basis considering the failure of the respondents to sufficiently establish the fact of their dismissal from their employment. In illegal dismissal cases, the general rule is that the employer has the burden of proving that the dismissal was legal. To discharge this burden, the employee must first prove, by substantial evidence, that he had been dismissed from employment. In this case, We find otherwise. Respondents failed to properly establish that they were dismissed by the petitioner. Aside from the respondents’ plain allegation that they were illegally dismissed by the petitioner, no other evidence was presented by the respondents to support their contentions (Bersamin,J.,SC 3rd Div., Spectrum Security Services, Inc. v. David Grave,,G.R. No. 196650, January 7, 2017).