Case Study: Ernesto Brown vs. Marswan Marketing, Inc. et al.

G.R. No. 206891

15 Mar 2017

Del Castillo, J.

Facts:

On June 7, 2010, Brown filed a complaint for illegal dismissal, non-payment of salary and 13th month pay as well as claim for moral and exemplary damages and attorney's fees against Marswin Marketing, Inc. Marswin) and Sany Tan (Tan), its owner and President. He prayed for reinstatement with full backwages and payment of his other monetary claims.

He alleged that on October 5, 2009, Marswin employed petitioner as building maintenance/ electrician and was tasked to maintain its sanitation and make necessary electrical repairs thereon. Furthermore, that on May 28, 20l0, he reported at the Main Office of Marswin, and was told that it was already his last day of work. Allegedly, he was made to sign a document that he did not understand; and, thereafter he was no longer admitted back to work. Thus, he insisted that he was terminated without due process of law.


For their part, Marswin/Tan admitted that they employed Brown as electrician; that during his eight-month stay, Marswin received negative reports on Brown's work ethics, competence, and efficiency. On May 28, 20l0, they summoned him at its Main Office to purportedly discuss the complaints of the Warehouse Manager and the Warehouse Supervisor however he left the meeting and no longer returned to work. Consequently, he was considered to have abandoned his post. As evidence, they attached in their position paper a sinumpaang salaysay executed by Bernadette Azucena, the company’s Accounting Supervisor and Human resource head, attesting to the alleged complaints she received and the events that transpired during the said meeting.


The labor arbiter declared Brown’s dismissal illegal. The LA noted that no actual complaints or reports against him in support of the alleged complaints was submitted. The LA was also unconvinced that Brown left Marswin's premises and abandoned his work considering that he filed this illegal dismissal case; and his employer failed to notify him to report back to work.


NLRC affirmed the decision of the LA. On appeal, the Court of Appeals, it annulled and set aside the NLRC Resolutions and declared that Brown was not dismissed there being no evidence proving that Brown was actually dismissed.


Issue:

Whether the CA erred in declaring that the company did not illegally dismiss the petitioner.


Ruling:

Yes, Brown was illegally dismissed by the company.


In dismissal cases, the employer bears the burden of proving that the employee was not terminated, or if dismissed, that the dismissal was legal. Resultantly, the failure of the employer to discharge such burden would mean that the dismissal is unjustified and thus, illegal. The employer cannot simply discharge such burden by its plain assertion that it did not dismiss the employee; and it is highly absurd if the employer will escape liability by its mere claim that the employee abandoned his or her work.


In this case, apart from the allegation of abandonment, Marswin/Tan presented no evidence proving that Brown failed to return without justifiable reasons and had clear intentions to discontinue his work. Therefore, Brown was illegally dismissed.


In fact, in her affidavit, Azucena did not specify any overt act on the part of Brown showing that he intended to cease working for Marswin. At the same time, Azucena did not establish that Marswin, on its end, exerted effort to convince Brown to return from work, if only to show that Marswin did not dismiss him and it was Brown who actually refused to return to work. And neither did Marswin send any notice to Brown to warn him that his supposed failure to report would be deemed as abandonment of work.


In addition, on June 7, 2010, or just ten days after Brown's last day at work (May 28, 2010), he already filed an illegal dismissal suit against his employer. Indeed, the immediate filing of an illegal dismissal case especially so when it includes a prayer for reinstatement is totally contrary to the charge of abandonment.


Furthermore, Marswin/Tan presented the affidavit of Azucena, their Accounting Supervisor and HR Head, as proof that Brown committed abandonment. However, aside from being insufficient, self-serving, and unworthy of credence, such affidavit did not allege any actual complaint against Brown when Marswin summoned him on May 28, 2010. In said affidavit, Azucena did not at all specify the name of any officer or employee against whom Brown allegedly committed an infraction, and neither did any of these persons submit their own affidavits to prove that Brown should be disciplined by his employer.


Clearly from the foregoing, Marswin failed to discharge the burden of proving that Brown abandoned his work.



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