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Respondents, who were employed as security guards by the petitioner filed a complaint of constructive dismissal against the petitioner. The respondents were replaced from their assignment as security guards at Ibiden Philippines as part of the petitioner’s action plan to rotate its security guards. Pursuant to the plan, petitioner issued separate “Notices to Return to Unit” directing them to report to its head office and to update their documents for reassignment.
The Labor Arbiter dismissed the complaint for constructive dismissal for lack of evidence. He declared that the return-to-work notices issued by the petitioner belied the respondents' charge of illegal dismissal, opining that a security guard could be considered as having been constructively dismissed only when he had been placed on floating status for a period of more than six months.
On appeal, the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) reversed the Labor Arbiter's dismissal, and ordered the petitioner to reinstate the respondents with back wages. It noted that had the petitioner really intended to re-assign the respondents to new posts, the petitioner should have indicated in the notices the new postings or re-assignments.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the NLRC finding the petitioner liable for illegal dismissal of the respondent security guards. The CA concluded that although the complaint for illegal dismissal was prematurely filed because six months had not yet elapsed to warrant considering the dismissal as constructive dismissal, the continued failure to give the respondents new assignments during the proceedings before the Labor Arbiter that exceeded the reasonable six-month period rendered the petitioner liable for constructive dismissal of the respondents; that the petitioner's insistence that the respondents had abandoned their employment was bereft of basis; and that abandonment as a just ground for dismissal required clear, willful, deliberate and unjustified refusal on the part of the employees to resume their employment; hence, their mere absence from work or failure to report for work even after the notice to return was not tantamount to abandonment.
Whether or not the respondent security guards were constructively dismissed.
No. The Court concurred with the Labor Arbiter’s finding that there was no evidence showing that the respondents had been constructively dismissed from their posts at Ibiden. The notices sent to them contained nothing from which to justly infer there having been terminated from their employment. Moreover, their complaint for illegal dismissal was even prematurely filed on August 14, 2008 because the notices were sent to each of them only in the period from July 3, 2008 to August 2, 2008.
The Court also recognized the management prerogative of the petitioner as employer to change their postings and assignments without severing their employment relationship. It was not sufficiently establishing the fact of their dismissal from their employment.
Their employers retain the management prerogative to change their assignments and postings, and to decide to temporarily relieve them of their assignments since employment of security guards depends on their employers' contracts with clients who are third parties. In other words, their security of tenure, does not vest them with the right to their positions or assignments that will prevent their transfers or re-assignments.
Only when the period of their reserved or off-detail status exceeds the reasonable period of six months without re-assignment should the affected security guards be regarded as dismissed.
The respondents had actually abandoned their employment and had severed their employment relationship with the petitioner themselves by either refusing to receive and acknowledge the employer Notices to Return to Unit or not reporting to the new assignment.
Likewise, some respondents had already found employment elsewhere during their reserved status and prior to the lapse of the six-month period, actions which constituted abandonment of employment and intention to sever their employer-employee relationship with the petitioner.
WHEREFORE, the Court GRANTS the petition and REINSTATES the decision of the Labor Arbiter dismissing the complaint for illegal dismissal.