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The husband of the petitioner was dismissed from the service because of his low performance rating. Petitioner wrote respondent Fr. Bustamante, questioning the performance rating given to her husband. She attached to her letter documents containing the summary of efficiency ratings of all the teachers. She retrieved these documents from the filing cabinet. Petitioner then received a letter from respondent Fr. Bustamante, requiring her to explain in writing why she should not be dismissed from employment for willful breach of trust reposed on her.
Later, Fr. Manuel Remirez, the school treasurer, summoned her to his office, compelling her to tender her resignation within 30 minutes, otherwise, she will not receive her separation pay. Petitioner pleaded for one day deferment but was denied. Considering that her husband was jobless and that her family was in financial predicament, the petitioner submitted her resignation letter on the very same day. Subsequently, she received her separation pay.
Petitioner then filed with the Labor Arbiter a complaint for illegal dismissal. Respondents, in their answer, denied the allegations in the complaint, contending that petitioner voluntarily submitted her resignation letter. The Labor Arbiter promulgated a Decision finding that petitioner was constructively dismissed from employment.
On appeal, the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) reversed the Labor Arbiter's judgment, holding that based on the documentary evidence presented by respondents, the petitioner voluntarily resigned.
Whether the petitioner was constructively dismissed from the service.
Yes. To be a valid ground for dismissal, loss of trust and confidence must be based on a wilful breach of trust and founded on clearly established facts. A breach is wilful if it is done intentionally, knowingly and purposely, without justifiable excuse, as distinguished from an act done carelessly, thoughtlessly, heedlessly or inadvertently. It must rest on substantial grounds and not on the employer's arbitrariness, whims, caprices or suspicion. Otherwise, the employee would eternally remain at the mercy of the employer.
In Nokom v. National Labor Relations Commission, the Court set the guidelines for the application of loss of confidence as a just cause for dismissing an employee from the service, thus:
a. loss of confidence should not be simulated;
b. it should not be used as a subterfuge for causes which are improper, illegal or unjustified;
c. it may not be arbitrarily asserted in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary; and
d. it must be genuine, not a mere afterthought to justify earlier action taken in bad faith.
An examination of the records showed that petitioner was indeed made to resign against her will with threat that she will not be given her separation pay should she fail to do so. Clearly, her consent was vitiated. Indeed, it is very unlikely that the petitioner, who worked in the school for almost fifteen (15) years, would simply resign voluntarily. Her receipt of the benefits could be considered as an act of self-preservation, taking into consideration the financial predicament she and her family were then facing.
Thus, the Court ruled that the petitioner was constructively dismissed from her employment. There is constructive dismissal if an act of clear discrimination, insensibility, or disdain by an employer becomes so unbearable on the part of the employee that it would foreclose any choice by him except to forego her continued employment. It exists where there is cessation of work because "continued employment is rendered impossible, unreasonable or unlikely, as an offer involving a demotion in rank and a diminution in pay."