Voluntary act

Published by reposted only Date posted on February 1, 2012

If there is voluntary resignation and waiver or quitclaim, there can be no illegal dismissal. This is illustrated in this case of Tessie.

Tessie was a flight attendant of a Mideast airline company (Saudia) having been hired on May 13, 1986. During the course of her employment she was assigned to work at the Manila Office although the nature of her work entailed regular flights from Manila to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and back.

By virtue of a Memorandum from Saudia’s head office in Jeddah, Tessie was transferred from Manila to Jeddah together with ten other flight attendants, effective Sept. 1, 2004. On Sept. 7, 2004 however, after only one week in Jeddah, Tessie submitted a handwritten resignation letter in a Saudia form expressing her gratitude for the support which Saudia had given her for her 18 years of service. Then on Oct. 28, 2004, Tessie executed and signed an Undertaking similar to that of a Receipt, Release and Quitclaim wherein she acknowledged that she received a sum of money as “full and complete end of service award with final settlement and that she had no further claims whatsoever against Saudi Arabian Airlines”.

After almost one year however, or on July 20, 2005, Tessie filed with the NLRC a complaint for reinstatement and payment of full back-wages; moral, exemplary and actual damages; and attorney’s fees. Tessie claimed that her resignation was not voluntary. She narrated that she wrote her resignation letter based on a form prepared by Saudia which even reminded her that the same was a better option than termination that would only tarnish her record of service. She also claimed that their transfer to Jeddah was a prelude to their termination since they were all between 39 and 40 years of age already.

On Aug. 31, 2006, the Labor Arbiter (LA) rendered a decision in favor of Tessie and two other co-flight attendants who also subsequently filed similar complaints. The LA declared that Tessie, together with her co-complainants, were illegally dismissed and ordered Saudia to pay them full back-wages from their illegal dismissal until finality of decision, separation pay of one month for every year of service plus 10 percent attorney’s fees.

On appeal by Saudia, the NLRC reversed and set aside the LA decision and issued a new one finding it not guilty of illegal dismissal. The NLRC ruled that Tessie and her companions voluntarily resigned from employment as shown by their resignation letters and undertaking which comprise substantial proof of their voluntary resignation. This was sustained by the Court of Appeals (CA) on appeal by Tessie who was the only one who appealed. Were the NLRC and the CA correct?

Yes. Resignation is the voluntary act of an employee who believes that personal reasons cannot be sacrificed in favor of the exigency of the service leaving him (her) no other choice but to be disassociated from service. It is a formal pronouncement of the intention to relinquish the office accompanied by overt acts of relinquishment before and after the resignation.

In this case, Tessie tendered her resignation letter a week after her transfer to Jeddah. In said letter she expressed her appreciation and gratitude to Saudia. These expressions negate the notion that she was forced to resign. Besides, her resignation letter was in handwriting and was in English, a language she is conversant in. Additionally instead of immediately filing a complaint for illegal dismissal, she executed an undertaking wherein she declared receipt of her full and complete end of service award with final settlement. What is more, she waited for ten months from her separation before filing a complaint.

Under the circumstances, it cannot be said that she was forced or coerced and intimidated into signing the said letter and undertaking. Tessie is no ordinary employee who may not be able to completely comprehend and realize the consequences of her acts. She is an educated person. It is highly improbable that in her long years in the profession and her educational attainment, she could be tricked into doing something she does not intend to do.

Besides, she did not adduce any competent evidence to show that intimidation vitiated her consent, particularly the following: (1) that there were threats to cause her to consent; (2) that the threatened act is unjust or unlawful; (3) that the threat is real and serious; and (4) that it produces a well grounded fear that the person threatening has the necessary means and ability to inflict it (Bilbao vs. Saudi Arabian Airlines, G.R. 183915, December 14, 2011). –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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