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Rivera was employed as Unilever’s Area Activation Executive for Area 9 South in the cities of Cotabato and Davao - She was primarily tasked with managing the sales, distribution and promotional activities in her area and supervising Ventureslink International, Inc. (Ventureslink) - Unilever enforces a strict policy that every trade activity must be accompanied by a Trade Development Program (TDP) and that the allocated budget for a specific activity must be used for such activity only. - in 2007, Unilever’s internal auditor conducted a random audit and found out that there were fictitious billings and fabricated receipts supposedly from Ventureslink amounting to P11,200,000.00. It was also discovered that some funds were diverted from the original intended projects. Upon further verification, Ventureslink reported that the fund deviations were upon the instruction of Rivera. - Unilever issued a show-cause notice to Rivera asking her to explain the following charges, to wit: a)Conversion and Misappropriation of Resources; b) Breach of Fiduciary Trust; c) Policy Breaches; and d) Integrity Issues - Responding through an email, Rivera admitted the fund diversions and insisted that the diverted funds were all utilized in the company’s promotional ventures in her area of coverage. - Unilever found Rivera guilty of serious breach of the company’s Code of Business Principles compelling it to sever their professional relations. - Rivera asked for reconsideration and requested Unilever to allow her to receive retirement benefits having served the company for fourteen (14) years already. Unilever denied her request, reasoning that the forfeiture of retirement benefits was a legal consequence of her dismissal from work - Rivera filed a complaint, Labor Arbiter dismissed her complaint and denied her claim for retirement benefits but ordered Unilever to pay a proportionate 13th month pay and the corresponding cash equivalent of her unused leave credits - NLRC partially granted Rivera’s prayer. Unilever was ordered to pay her retirement benefits and separation pay - CA affirmed with modification the NLRC resolution. the CA awarded separation pay in her favor as a measure of social justice.
Whether or not Rivera, as a validly dismissed employee, is entitled to an award of separation pay.
NO, RIVERA IS NOT ENTITLED - As a general rule, an employee who has been dismissed for any of the just causes enumerated under Article 28215 of the Labor Code is not entitled to a separation pay.16 Section 7, Rule I, Book VI of the Omnibus Rules Implementing the Labor Code provides: Sec. 7. Termination of employment by employer.—The just causes for terminating the services of an employee shall be those provided in Article 282 of the Code.
The separation from work of an employee for a just cause does not entitle him to the termination pay provided in the Code, without prejudice, however, to whatever rights, benefits and privileges he may have under the applicable individual or collective agreement with the employer or voluntary employer policy or practice. - In exceptional cases the Supreme Court has granted separation pay to a legally dismissed employee as an act of “social justice” or on “equitable grounds.” In both instances, it is required that the dismissal (1) was not for serious misconduct; and (2) did not reflect on the moral character of the employee. - Separation pay is only warranted when the cause for termination is not attributable to the employee’s fault, such as those provided in Articles 283 and 284 of the Labor Code, as well as in cases of illegal dismissal in which reinstatement is no longer feasible.