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Respondent Ranchez a probationary employee for 5 months was hired as cashier. Two weeks after she was hired, she reported a loss of cash placed in company’s locker. She offered to pay the lost but Operation Manager Robinson reported her to police even though they found nothing on her. She was charged for qualified theft and detained for 2 weeks due to failure to pay the bail. Weeks later, Respondent filed complaint for illegal dismissal and damages. Year later, Robinsons sent to respondent by mail a notice of termination and/or expiration of probationary employment.
Labor Arbiter dismissed the complaint for illegal dismissal since when respondent filed the complain she’s not yet terminated. NLRC reversed the ruling, and state that respondent was illegally dismissed and should be reinstated. It held that Ranchez was deprived of due process when she was strip-searched and sent to jail for two weeks because such amounted to constructive dismissal, making it impossible for the respondent to continue under the employment. Lapse of probationary contract did not amount to a valid dismissal even if she was merely probationary employee since there was already an unwarranted constructive dismissal beforehand.
NLRC denied Robinson’s motion for reconsideration. CA affirmed NLRC’s decision.
Whether or not respondent was illegally terminated from employment by petitioners.
The petition is unmeritorious. There is probationary employment when the employee upon his engagement is made to undergo a trial period during which the employer determines his fitness to qualify for regular employment based on reasonable standards made known to him at the time of engagement.
A probationary employee, like a regular employee, enjoys security of tenure. However, in cases of probationary employment, aside from just or authorized causes of termination, an additional ground is provided under Article 281 of the Labor Code,i.e., the probationary employee may also be terminated for failure to qualify as a regular employee in accordance with reasonable standards made known by the employer to the employee at the time of the engagement. Thus, the services of an employee who has been engaged on probationary basis may be terminated for any of the following:
(1) a just or (2) an authorized cause; and (3) when he fails to qualify as a regular employee in accordance with reasonable standards prescribed by the employer.
Article 277(b) of the Labor Code mandates that the employer shall furnish the worker, whose employment is sought to be terminated, a written notice containing a statement of the causes of termination, and shall afford the latter ample opportunity to be heard and to defend himself with the assistance of a representative if he so desires, in accordance with company rules and regulations pursuant to the guidelines set by the Department of Labor and Employment.
In the instant case, based on the facts on record, petitioners failed to accord respondent substantive and procedural due process. The haphazard manner in the investigation of the missing cash, which was left to the determination of the police authorities and the Prosecutor's Office, left respondent with no choice but to cry foul.
Administrative investigation was not conducted by petitioner Supermarket. On the same day that the missing money was reported by respondent to her immediate superior, the company already pre-judged her guilt without proper investigation, and instantly reported her to the police as the suspected thief, which resulted in her languishing in jail for two weeks.
The due process requirements under the Labor Code are mandatory and may not be replaced with police investigation or court proceedings. An illegally or constructively dismissed employee, respondent is entitled to: (1) either reinstatement, if viable, or separation pay, if reinstatement is no longer viable; and (2) backwages. These two reliefs are separate and distinct from each other and are awarded conjunctively.