Wrongful Intent is Required for Dismissal Due to Transgression of a Rule or Serious Misconduct
For this purpose, the employer must present substantial evidence to prove the legality of the employee’s dismissal. Substantial evidence is defined as “such amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion.” The Supreme Court, in the case of International Broadcasting Corporation vs. Guerrero (G.R. No. 229013, July 15, 2020) concurred with the Court of Appeals’ finding that the company failed to establish by substantial evidence that the employee was validly dismissed.
Article 297 of the Labor Code enumerates the just causes for termination, viz.:
Art. 297. Termination by employer. — An employee may terminate an employment for any of the following causes:
(b) Gross and habitual neglect by the employee of his duties;
(c) Fraud or willful breach by the employee of the trust reposed in him by his employer or duly authorized representative;
(d) Commission of a crime or offense by the employee against the person of his employer or any immediate member of his family or his duly authorized representative; and
(e) Other causes analogous to the foregoing.
To be a valid ground for dismissal, neglect of duty must be both gross and habitual. Gross negligence implies want of or failure to exercise slight care or diligence in the performance of one’s duties.
It evinces a thoughtless disregard of consequences without exerting any effort to avoid them. Habitual neglect, on the other hand, implies repeated failure to perform one’s duties for a period of time.
As for misconduct, it is defined as “the transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, willful in character, and implies wrongful intent and not mere error of judgment.” To constitute a valid cause for dismissal under Article 297 of the Labor Code, the employee’s misconduct must be serious, i.e., of such grave and aggravated character and not merely trivial or unimportant. Further, it is required that the act or conduct must have been performed with wrongful intent.
Serious misconduct and willful disobedience of an employer’s lawful order may only be appreciated when the employee’s transgression of a rule, duty or directive has been the product of “wrongful intent” or of a “wrongful and perverse attitude,” but not when the same transgression results from simple negligence or “mere error in judgment.'”
The requirement of willfulness or wrongful intent underscores the intent of the law to reserve only to the gravest infractions the ultimate penalty of dismissal.
In CMP Federal Security Agency, Inc. vs. Reyes, Sr. (CMP Federal Security Agency, Inc. v. Reyes, Sr., G.R. No. 223082, June 26, 2019), the Court ruled that a finding of serious misconduct is incompatible with the charge of negligence which, by definition, requires lack of wrongful intent.