Hostile and unreasonable

Published by reposted only Date posted on April 20, 2010

This is another case of resignation amounting to constructive dismissal. The test applied here is whether a reasonable person in the employee’s position would have felt compelled to give up his position under the circumstances. This is the case of Magno.

Magno was the manager of a commercial bank (PVB) in Dumaguete City where he and his family were staying. Because of a report published in a daily newspaper (not the Philippine STAR) regarding anomalies hounding high ranking officials of said bank, major depositors started making huge withdrawals from the bank branch. Concerned about this development, Magno approached the bank’s Visayas-Mindanao Area head (Fred) to discuss how to resolve the problem. But Fred just brushed off the issue. So Magno requested the mayor of a nearby town who was a known big depositor of the bank, to talk to Fred.

Fred however misinterpreted Magno’s action as a form of threat. So the next day he angrily confronted Magno and accused him of seeking support from the mayor as he told Magno that he cannot be threatened even if all these depositors pull out all their deposits immediately but that he will see to it that Magno will be replaced. If not, Fred said, he will manage the branch himself or he’ll have the branch under the Luzon area so that he will have to do anymore with said branch.

And true enough, on October 14, 2002, Fred went to the branch with Magno’s replacement then instructed Magno to go to the head office and report to the vice president and head of the Branch Banking Division (Larry). So Magno flew to Manila as ordered where Larry told him that he would undergo training. But no such training took place. Instead he was made to do clerical jobs. And since he was just staying in a rented house far from the head office, at least half of his travel and living expenses were consumed by daily hour-hour commuting. So on January 8, 2003, Magno tendered his resignation and on February 3, 2003 he filed a complaint for illegal constructive dismissal.

PVB however insisted that Magno voluntarily resigned and was not constructively dismissed. His transfer was not done unceremoniously and was not motivated by bad faith but pursuant to a valid order to undergo Branch Head Training for gross inefficiency. Furthermore, his transfer did not entail any change in rank and compensation and was in accordance with his employment contract which provides that he can be given a different assignment anytime. In fact after his branch training he was assigned to a task force in charge of reconciling all book entries of all the branches, PVB contended. Was PVB correct?

No. In constructive dismissal cases, the employer has the burden of proving that the transfer of an employee is for valid and legitimate grounds such as genuine business necessity. The employer must be able to show that such transfer is not unreasonable, inconvenient or prejudicial to its employee. Failure to discharge this burden makes the employee’s transfer a constructive dismissal.

In this case, PVB failed to discharge this burden. The combination of harsh actions by the bank rendered Magno’s employment condition hostile and unbearable.

First, PVB failed to show any urgency or genuine necessity to transfer Magno who showed the actual motive and the bad faith behind his transfer. The bank’s stated reason for his transfer for branch training because of his gross inefficiency cannot defeat Magno’s evidence since it was not able to prove that he had a record of gross inefficiency.

Second, Magno’s transfer is clearly unreasonable, inconvenient and oppressive since Magno and his family are residents of Dumaguete City. He was placed in the very difficult predicament of having to choose of living away from his family or bringing them to Manila which entails additional expenses.

Third, PVB failed to present any valid reason why it had to require Magno to go to the Head Office for branch training when it could just have required him to undertake the same training in the Vis-Min area.

And finally, there was nothing in the order of transfer as to what position Magno would occupy after his training thereby effectively placing him on a “floating status”. PVB’s allegation that he was assigned to a sensitive position is suspect considering that he was made to undergo branch training which is totally different from a position that entails reconciling of book entries of all branches which is essentially an accounting task.

Based on these factual considerations, Magno was indeed constructively and illegally dismissed because of the hostile and unreasonable working conditions in the bank (Philippine Veterans bank vs. NLRC and Martinez , G.R. 188882, March 30, 2010). –Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star)

Note: Books containing compilation of my articles on Labor Law and Criminal Law (Vols. I and II) are now available. Call tel. 7249445.

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