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Respondent offered telecom lines which were non-existent in the client’s area, for which he received payment and issued receipts. Due to such acts and failure to remit, he was dismissed for breach of trust and confidence. He filed complaint for illegal dismissal. LA dismissed. NLRC reversed, merely finding him guilty of imprudence and not bad faith and malice. CA affirmed. SC affirmed and awarded separation pay.
1. Is the respondent guilty of breach of trust and confidence reposed in him by the petitioner which made the dismissal valid.
2. Is the respondent entitled to separation pay despite there is a valid dismissal.
Yes. Respondent held a position of trust and confidence and committed an act that justified petitioner's loss of trust and confidence.
The willful breach by the employee of the trust reposed in him by his employer or the latter's duly authorized representative is a just cause for dismissal. However, the validity of a dismissal based on this ground is premised upon the concurrence of these conditions: (1) the employee concerned must be holding a position of trust and confidence; and (2) there must be a willful act that would justify the loss of trust and confidence. The first requisite is certainly present. In a number of cases, this Court has held that rank-and-file employees who are routinely charged with the care and custody of the employer's money or property are classified as occupying positions of trust and confidence. It is not disputed that respondent was tasked to solicit subscribers for petitioner's FEX line and, in the course thereof, collect money for subscriptions and issue official receipts therefor, as was the case in the transaction subject of this controversy. Being involved in the handling of the company's funds, respondent undeniably occupies a position of trust and confidence. The records likewise reveal that the second requisite is present. It must be emphasized that a finding that an employer's trust and confidence has been breached by the employee must be supported by substantial evidence, or such amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion. It must not be based on the employer's whims or caprices or suspicions; otherwise, the employee would eternally remain at the mercy of the employer. The totality of the circumstances in the case at bar supports a conclusion that respondent's dismissal was based on substantial evidence that he had willfully breached the trust reposed upon him by petitioner, and that petitioner was not actuated by mere whim or capriciousness.
2. YES. Even with a finding that respondent was validly dismissed, separation pay may be granted as a measure of social justice. Generally, an employee dismissed for any of the just causes under Article 297 is not entitled to separation pay. By way of exception, the Court has allowed the grant of separation pay based on equity and as a measure of social justice, as long as the dismissal was for causes other than serious conduct or those manifesting moral depravity. Here, while it is clear that respondent's act constitutes a willful breach of trust and confidence that justified his dismissal, it also appears that he was primarily actuated by zealousness in acquiring and retaining subscribers rather than any intent to misappropriate company funds; as he admitted in his response to the notice to explain that offering an alternative FEX line to Lim was part of his strategy to ensure her subscription.
Respondent’s zealousness was manifested through acts that showed an inordinate lapse of judgment warranting his dismissal in accordance with management prerogative, but this Court considers in his favor the above circumstances in granting him separation pay in the amount of one (1) month pay for every year of service.