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Petitioner University of the Immaculate Conception is a private educational institution located in Davao City. Private respondent Teodora C. Axalan is a regular faculty member in the university holding the position of Associate Professor II. Aside from being a regular faculty member, Axalan is the elected president of the employees’ union.
From 18 November to 22 November 2002, Axalan attended a seminar in Quezon City on website development. Axalan then received a memorandum from Dean Maria Rosa Celestial asking her to explain in writing why she should not be dismissed for having been absent without official leave.
In her letter, Axalan claimed that she held online classes while attending the seminar. She explained that she was under the impression that faculty members would not be marked absent even if they were not physically present in the classroom as long as they conducted online classes.
In reply, Dean Celestial relayed to Axalan the message of the university president that no administrative charge would be filed if Axalan would admit having been absent without official leave and write a letter of apology seeking forgiveness.
Convinced that she could not be deemed absent since she held online classes, Axalan opted not to write the letter of admission and contrition the university president requested. The Dean wrote to Axalan that the university president had created an ad hoc grievance committee to investigate the AWOL charge.
From 28 January to 3 February 2003, Axalan attended a seminar in Baguio City on advanced paralegal training. Dean Celestial wrote to Axalan informing her that her participation in the paralegal seminar in Baguio City was the subject of a second AWOL charge. The dean asked Axalan to explain in writing why no disciplinary action should be taken against her.
In her letter, Axalan explained that before going to Baguio City for the seminar, she sought the approval of Vice-President for Academics Alicia Sayson. In a letter, VP Sayson denied having approved Axalan’s application for official leave. The VP stated in her letter that it was the university president, Maria Assumpta David, who must approve the application.
After conducting hearings and receiving evidence, the ad hoc grievance committee found Axalan to have incurred AWOL on both instances and recommended that Axalan be suspended without pay for six months on each AWOL charge. The university president approved the committee’s recommendation.
The university president then wrote Axalan informing her that she incurred absences without official leave when she attended the seminars on website development in Quezon City and on advanced paralegal training in Baguio City on 18-22 November 2002 and on 28 January-3 February 2003, respectively. In the same letter, the university president informed Axalan that the total penalty of one-year suspension without pay for both AWOL charges would be effective immediately.
On 1 December 2003, Axalan filed a complaint against the university for illegal suspension, constructive dismissal, reinstatement with backwages, and unfair labor practice with prayer for damages and attorney’s fees.
Is the University of Immaculate Conception guilty of constructive dismissal.
Constructive dismissal occurs when there is cessation of work because continued employment is rendered impossible, unreasonable, or unlikely as when there is a demotion in rank or diminution in pay or when a clear discrimination, insensibility, or disdain by an employer becomes unbearable to the employee leaving the latter with no other option but to quit.
In this case however, there was no cessation of employment relations between the parties. It is unrefuted that Axalan promptly resumed teaching at the university right after the expiration of the suspension period. In other words, Axalan never quit. Hence, Axalan cannot claim that she was left with no choice but to quit, a crucial element in a finding of constructive dismissal. Thus, Axalan cannot be deemed to have been constructively dismissed.