Serious Misconduct Requisites to be Just Cause of DismissalAtty Elvin
Serious misconduct is one of the grounds for termination of employee. However, there are requisites which must be present before this can be validly used as substantive basis for dismissal.
The following post is based on the book Guide to Valid Dismissal of Employees Second Edition (pp. 116-) by Atty. Elvin B. Villanueva.
The misconduct, to be serious within the meaning of the Labor Code must be of such grave and aggravated character and not merely trivial or unimportant. Such misconduct, however serious, must nevertheless be in connection with the employee’s work to constitute just cause for his separation.
In the case of Eden Llamas vs. Ocean Gateway Maritime and Management, Inc., the Court held that deliberate misdeclaration of the accountant of the gross income of the company for the renewal of municipal license constitutes serious misconduct. In this case, the accountant reasons that:
“I believe that I did something good for our office when our declaration of gross income submitted to City Hall for the renewal of our municipal license was lower than our actual gross income for which the office had paid a lower amount.”
However, the Court was not convinced and held further that for her act of understating the company’s profits or financial position was willful and not a mere error of judgment, committed as it was in order to “save” costs, which to her warped mind, was supposed to benefit her employer. It was not merely a violation of company policy, but of the law itself, and put the company at risk of being made legally liable. Verily, it warrants her dismissal from employment as the company’s Accounting Manager, for as correctly ruled by the appellate court, an employer cannot be compelled to retain in its employ someone whose services is inimical to its interests.
Thus, for misconduct or improper behavior to be a just cause for dismissal, it envisages the concurrence of at least three requisites:
(1) It must be serious;
(2) Must relate to the performance of the employee’s duties; and
(3) Must show that the employee has become unfit to continue working for the employer.
However serious such misconduct, it must, nevertheless, be in connection with the employee’s work to constitute just cause for his separation. The act complained of must be related to the performance of the employee’s duties such as would show him to be unfit to continue working for the employer.
In a case decided by the Supreme Court, the act of an employee of sending a scathing e-mail in support of his superior cannot be considered as serious misconduct since it is in itself not related to his duty.
The Court said:
“It can hardly be characterized as serious misconduct as to merit the penalty of dismissal. There is no showing that the sending of such e-mail message had any bearing or relation on employee’s competence and proficiency in his job. To reiterate, in order to consider it a serious misconduct that would justify dismissal under the law, the act must have been done in relation to the performance of his duties as would show him to be unfit to continue working for his employer.”
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In another case, the employee threw a stapler upon the plant manager and uttered abusive language. She was charged with serious misconduct, among others. The Court did not agree that the act constituted serious misconduct because her act has no relation to her work of being a nurse. Thus:
“The Supreme Court, in a litany of decisions on serious misconduct warranting dismissal of an employee, has ruled that for misconduct or improper behavior to be a just cause for dismissal (a) it must be serious; (b) must relate to the performance of the employee’s duties; and, (c) must show that the employee has become unfit to continue working for the employer. The act of private respondent in throwing a stapler and uttering abusive language upon the person of the plant manager may be considered, from a layman’s perspective, as a serious misconduct. However, in order to consider it a serious misconduct that would justify dismissal under the law, it must have been done in relation to the performance of her duties as would show her to be unfit to continue working for her employer. The acts complained of, under the circumstances they were done, did not in any way pertain to her duties as a nurse. Her employment identification card discloses the nature of her employment as a nurse and no other. Also, the memorandum informing her that she was being preventively suspended pending investigation of her case was addressed to her as a nurse.”
In the case of Molato vs. National Labor Relations Commission, the reliance of the employer upon the affidavits of its witnesses stating in general the alleged misconduct committed by the dismissed employee was held not proper. The Court held that the affiants failed to cite particular acts or circumstances when employees were disrespectful to their employer. Affiants merely alleged that employees would raise their voices and utter unpleasant remarks at their employer during their meetings without however pointing in detail when, where and how the incidents transpired. The same is true with the affidavit of another employee who merely stated that he witnessed the arrogance, misconduct, grossly abusive language, serious disrespect and uncalled-for remarks of employees towards their employer.
For misconduct or improper behavior to be a just cause for dismissal the same must be related to the performance of the employee’s duties and must show that he has become unfit to continue working for the employer. The affidavits of company’s witnesses are insufficient to warrant such findings.