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Private respondent Riviera Home Improvements, Inc. is engaged in the business of selling and installing ornamental and construction materials. It employed petitioners Virgilio Agabon and Jenny Agabon as gypsum board and cornice installers on January 2, 19922 until February 23, 1999 when they were dismissed for abandonment of work.
Petitioners assert that they were dismissed because the private respondent refused to give them assignments unless they agreed to work on a "pakyaw" basis when they reported for duty on February 23, 1999. They did not agree on this arrangement because it would mean losing benefits as Social Security System (SSS) members. Petitioners also claim that private respondent did not comply with the twin requirements of notice and hearing.
Private respondent, on the other hand, maintained that petitioners were not dismissed but had abandoned their work. In fact, private respondent sent two letters to the last known addresses of the petitioners advising them to report for work. Private respondent's manager even talked to petitioner Virgilio Agabon by telephone sometime in June 1999 to tell him about the new assignment at Pacific Plaza Towers involving 40,000 square meters of cornice installation work. However, petitioners did not report for work because they had subcontracted to perform installation work for another company. Petitioners also demanded for an increase in their wage to P280.00 per day. When this was not granted, petitioners stopped reporting for work.
Petitioners then filed a complaint for illegal dismissal and payment of money claims.
Whether or not the petitioners were illegally dismissed.
In the case at bar, the dismissal should be upheld because it was established that the petitioners abandoned their jobs to work for another company. Private respondent, however, did not follow the notice requirements and instead argued that sending notices to the last known addresses would have been useless because they did not reside there anymore. Unfortunately for the private respondent, this is not a valid excuse because the law mandates the twin notice requirements to the employee's last known address. Thus, it should be held liable for non-compliance with the procedural requirements of due process.
After carefully analyzing the consequences of the divergent doctrines in the law on employment termination, we believe that in cases involving dismissals for cause but without observance of the twin requirements of notice and hearing, the better rule is to abandon the Serrano doctrine and to follow Wenphil by holding that the dismissal was for just cause but imposing sanctions on the employer. Such sanctions, however, must be stiffer than that imposed in Wenphil. By doing so, this Court would be able to achieve a fair result by dispensing justice not just to employees, but to employers as well.
The violation of the petitioners' right to statutory due process by the private respondent warrants the payment of indemnity in the form of nominal damages. The amount of such damages is addressed to the sound discretion of the court, taking into account the relevant circumstances. Considering the prevailing circumstances in the case at bar, we deem it proper to fix it at P30,000.00. We believe this form of damages would serve to deter employers from future violations of the statutory due process rights of employees. At the very least, it provides a vindication or recognition of this fundamental right granted to the latter under the Labor Code and its Implementing Rules.