Resignation and Illegal Dismissal

Resignation and Illegal Dismissal

While the rules on resignation is settled, especially under Article 300 of the Labor Code, as amended, in actual situations, resignation is a confused subject matter especially if attended with claim of illegal dismissal.

So, what is the legal perspective on this matter? It is good to revisit the 2020 case of Italkarat 18, Inc. vs. Gerasmio, G.R. No. 221411, September 28, 2020.

The Supreme Court (SC) held that the fact of dismissal must first be proven, especially considering the existence of a resignation letter signed by the employee.

Indeed, in illegal dismissal cases, the burden of proof is on the employer in proving the validity of dismissal. However, the fact of dismissal, if disputed, must be duly proven by the complainant.

Citing Machica vs. Roosevelt Services Center, Inc. the SC held that the rule is that one who alleges a fact has the burden of proving it; thus, petitioners were burdened to prove their allegation that respondents dismissed them from their employment. It must be stressed that the evidence to prove this fact must be clear, positive and convincing. The rule that the employer bears the burden of proof in illegal dismissal cases finds no application here because the respondents deny having dismissed the petitioners.

There can be no question as to the legality or illegality of a dismissal if the employee has not discharged his burden to prove the fact of dismissal by substantial evidence.

It is true that in constructive dismissal cases, the employer is charged with the burden of proving that its conduct and action or the transfer of an employee are for valid and legitimate grounds such as genuine business necessity.

However, it is likewise true that in constructive dismissal cases, the employee has the burden to prove first the fact of dismissal by substantial evidence. Only then when the dismissal is established that the burden shifts to the employer to prove that the dismissal was for just and/or authorized cause.

The SC ruled that the logic is simple — if there is no dismissal, there can be no question as to its legality or illegality.

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Applying the abovementioned principles in the Italkarat case, the employee clearly has the burden of proving that he was dismissed by the Company, in light of the Company’s allegation that he resigned voluntarily and was not dismissed. Hence, he must first prove that he was actually dismissed by the Company before the legality of such dismissal can even be raised as an issue.

However, even a cursory perusal of the evidence on record would show that the employee failed to prove the fact of dismissal. He relied primarily on his allegations that he was misled by the Company into resigning and that he was actually retrenched.

These uncorroborated and self-serving allegations, especially considering the existence of a resignation letter and a quitclaim (both bearing his signature), fall short of the evidence required under the law to discharge his burden to prove that he was dismissed by the Company.

To illustrate the aforementioned point, the SC cited Gemina, Jr. vs. Bankwise, Inc., that the employee had indeed failed to state circumstances substantiating his claim of constructive dismissal as the employee therein had not claimed to have suffered a demotion in rank or diminution in pay or other benefits. Instead, the said employee only claimed to have been subjected to several acts of harassment by several officers of the employer-company, including being asked to take a forced leave of absence, demanding back the employee’s service vehicle, and delaying the release of employee’s salaries and allowances in order to compel him to quit employment.

Citing further Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) vs. Pulgar, the SC instructs that it is a well-settled rule, however, that before the employer must bear the burden of proving that the dismissal was legal, the employee must first establish by substantial evidence the fact of his dismissal from service. Bare allegations of constructive dismissal, when uncorroborated by the evidence on record, cannot be given credence.

The records are bereft of substantial evidence that will unmistakably establish a case of constructive dismissal. An act, to be considered as amounting to constructive dismissal, must be a display of utter discrimination or insensibility on the part of the employer so intense that it becomes unbearable for the employee to continue with his employment. The circumstances relayed by the complainant in Bankwise case were not clear-cut indications of bad faith or some malicious design on the part of Bankwise to make his working environment insufferable.

Moreover, Bankwise was able to address the allegation of harassment hurled against its officers and offered a plausible justification for its actions.

Finally, as regards the complainant’s allegation in Bankwise case that he was verbally being compelled to go on leave, enough it is to say that there was no evidence presented to prove the same. There was not a single letter or document that would corroborate his claim that he was being forced to quit employment. He even went on leave in January 2003 and never claimed that it was prompted by the management’s prodding but did so out of his own volition.

Without substantial evidence to support his claim, the claim of constructive dismissal must fail. It is an inflexible rule that a party alleging a critical fact must support his allegation with substantial evidence, for any decision based on unsubstantiated allegation cannot stand without offending due process.

In the Italkarat case, the employee failed to prove that his resignation was involuntary and that he was constructively dismissed.

It is therefore not enough for the complainant in Italkarat to allege that he was threatened and thereafter misled to resign in order for the tribunals and courts to rule that he was constructively dismissed. He must prove with particularity the alleged acts of coercion and intimidation which led him to resign. This, he failed to do.

Furthermore, the SC observed that the evidence on record show that Italkarat complainant had already intended to resign in 2008, even earlier than October. The evidence presented by the Company would show that he in fact requested for multiple leaves on various occassions, usually for processing of his papers for work abroad.

Complainant’s allegation that the Company was already considering retrenching its employees during the last quarter of 2008 or earlier, which he would want to impress upon the SC to be the catalyst that prompted the making the alleged offer of resignation to him, would not have made any difference in view of the fact that he was already in the process of applying for a job overseas or at the very least, intending to go abroad.

The SC summarized the facts and rules that if the fact of dismissal is disputed, it is the complainant who should substantiate his claim for dismissal and the one burdened with the responsibility of proving that he was dismissed from employment, whether actually or constructively. Unless the fact of dismissal is proven, the validity or legality thereof cannot even be an issue.

In the present case, the fact of the matter is that it was he himself who resigned from his work, as shown by the resignation letter he submitted and the quitclaim that he acknowledged, and thus, he was never dismissed by the Company.

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