Order to be Obeyed in Willful Disobedience must be Known to EmployeeAtty Elvin
Order subject of the charge for willful disobedience must not only be reasonable but also made known to the employee. Otherwise, dismissal will not comply with substantive due process.
One cannot follow an order that he does not know of. Hence, the basic task of employer is to make known such order to his employee. The post below is based on the book Guide to Valid Dismissal of Employees Second Edition (pp. 139-141).
In the case of Manila Broadcasting Company vs. NLRC, the Supreme Court ruled that a policy may be lawful and reasonable but if the same is not sufficiently known to the employee, the alleged act committed by an employee allegedly in violation thereof may be considered in good faith.
How about if the policy is written but is relaxed in implementation, will any violation constitute willful disobedience?
Violation of a rule or policy which, in its implementation, has oftentimes been relaxed, may not lawfully give rise to termination of employment of the violator. More so when the act is with the acquiescence of the employee’s superior.
The mere fact that the numerous infractions of the employee have not been immediately subjected to sanctions cannot be interpreted as condonation of the offenses or waiver of the company to enforce company rules. A waiver is a voluntary and intentional relinquishment or abandonment of a known legal right or privilege. It has been ruled that “a waiver to be valid and effective must be couched in clear and unequivocal terms which leave no doubt as to the intention of a party to give up a right or benefit which legally pertains to him. Hence, the management prerogative to discipline employees and impose punishment is a legal right which cannot, as a general rule, be impliedly waived.
Likewise, if the employee was merely following the instructions of his superior, his act should be deemed in good faith. Clearly, his dismissal from the service on the ground of willful disobedience or violation of company rules and regulations is not justified.
There are certain cases though wherein the Supreme Court did not consider as an excuse the laxity in the enforcement of rules and procedures in committing any violation:
1. The laxity in the implementation of accounting procedures does not excuse the commission of dishonest acts by employees.
2. In a case in which an employee incurred absences without permission (AWOP) but was never penalized, he cannot be absolved from further commission of AWOP on the ground that the company was lax in its implementation of the rules.
3. Employees who have committed fraud against the company cannot be absolved by the fact that the bank observed less-than-ideal controls over the security of its operations, such laxity does not serve as the carte blanche signal for the bank employees to take advantage of safeguard control lapses and perpetuate chicanery on their employer.
Can a prolonged practice of acts contrary to company policy ripen into an excusable offense? No.
In the case of Santos vs. San Miguel Corporation, it was held that prolonged practice of encashing personal checks among payroll personnel does not excuse or justify employee’s misdeeds when the same is in gross violation of company’s policy.