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Irene Sanchez was a probationary employee of Robinsons for a period of 5 months. 2 weeks after she was hired, she reported to her supervisor the loss of cash amounting to P20, 299.00. Jess Manuel, Operations Manager, ordered that Sanchez be strip-searched by the guards but yielded nothing. Manuel reported her to the police. An information for Qualified Theft was filed and Sanchez was constrained to spend 2 weeks in jail. On Nov. 25, 1997, Sanchez filed a complaint for illegal dismissal. On Mar. 12, 1998, Robinsons sent to Sanchez by mail a Notice of Termination and Notice of Expiration of Probationary Employment dated Mar. 8, 1998. The LA dismissed the claim of illegal dismissal and ordered Robinsons to accept Sanchez to her former or equivalent work. On appeal, the NLRC reversed the decision and ordered Robinsons to immediately reinstate Sanchez to her former or equivalent position and to pay her full backwages computed from the time she was constructively dismissed on Oct. 30, 1997 up to reinstatement. NLRC ruled that Sanchez was denied due process. Strip-searching and sending her to jail for 2 weeks amounted to constructive dismissal because continued employment had been rendered impossible, unreasonable, and unlikely. The CA affirmed the NLRC’s decision with modification that if reinstatement should be impossible in view of the strained relation between the parties, the Robinsons are ordered to pay Sanchez separation pay equivalent to 1 month pay in addition to back wages from the date of dismissal.
Was there a constructive dismissal.
Yes. A probationary employee, like a regular employee, enjoys security of tenure. Art. 277(b) of the LC mandates that the employer shall furnish the worker a written notice containing a statement of causes of termination, and shall afford the latter ample opportunity to be heard and defend himself. In the instant case, Robinsons failed to accord Sanchez substantive and procedural due process. On the same day the money was reported missing, the company already prejudged her guilt without proper investigation, and instantly reported her to the police as the suspected thief, which resulted in her languishing in jail for 2 weeks. As correctly pointed out by the NLRC, the due process requirements under the LC are mandatory and may not be supplanted by police investigation or court proceedings. Thus, employers are mandated to conduct their own separate investigation, and to accord the employee every opportunity to defend himself. Sanchez was constructively dismissed by Robinsons effective Oct. 30, 1997. However, the backwages that should be awarded to Sanchez shall be reckoned from the date of her constructive dismissal until the date of termination of her employment, i.e., from Oct. 30, 1997 to Mar. 14,1998. This is because Sanchez was a probationary employee, and the lapse of her probationary employment without her appointment as a regular employee of Robinsons effectively severed the employeremployee relationship between the parties.
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