Too Chill It Hurts
Christian Andrew Labitoria Gallardo
Being stern is so old-school. People nowadays tend to be "chill" when it comes to enforcing internal rules and regulations, especially when work ethic is not compromised and productivity is not hampered in any way. After all, being late for 10 minutes or so during the morning or after the lunch break wouldnt hurt so long as the deliverables are met on time, right?
Well, to a certain extent, that may be true. However, when laxity in enforcing rules become part of the company culture that even the superiors think that it is the standard operating procedure, it may hurt the organization in the long run. Take the 2004 case of Coca Cola Bottlers Philippines v Vital.
The employer involved in this case is Coca Cola Bottlers Philippines Inc (Coke, for brevity). The employee involved on the other hand is Mr Dominic Vital (let us call him Kuya V hereon), a driver, helper and salesman of Coke assigned to its Antipolo Plant. Coke implemented a campaign called "Operation Rurok" where it allowed its wholesalere to retrieve empty bottles of its competitors, such as Pepsi, in exchange for Coca Cola containers and products. Kuya V participated in this campaign, through which he was able to earn more than 240 cases of 12 oz coke. I sure hope he didnt suffer diabetes out of drinking all those.
What was thought to be a rewarding campaign however turned out differently for him. He was investigated for forgery and falsification for his unauthorized retrieval of empties. Accordingly, he deviated from the instructions given to him by his superior as he delivered the Coca Cola Products to other outlets, in violation of the Company's Code of Disciplinary Rules and Regulations. During the clarificatory hearing, he admitted his mistakes and promised not to do the same again, but explained that he was compelled to so as it was the instructiona given to him by his superior.
He was however terminated for loss of trust and confidence. Thus, he filed a labor case against Coke. The Labor Arbiter ruled against him while the NLRC reversed the decision and ruled in favor of Kuya V. The Court of Appeals likewise ruled in favor of Kuya V. So what now?
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Kuya V, holding that it was indeed the instructions given to him by his superior. It held that where a violation of company policy or breach of company rules and regulations was found to have been tolerated by management, as in the instant case, then the same could not serve as a basis for termination. In fact, one of the principles of the so-called Operation Rurok is the delivery of Coca Cola products to clients in exchange of empty bottles of its competitors, in order for it to be disposed by a third party and replaced by Coca Cola products. Kinda a dirty trick to be honest, but it is an open secret among sales personnel.
So what's our take here? Well, despite having a written policy regarding a matter, if the acts of the management runs afoul the said policy, an employee may not be singled out and dismissed based on a technically ineffective policy. Say, despite the written rule that employees are bound to be in the office by 9 AM, if by practice no disciplinary sanction was imposed upon employees arriving before 10 AM for the past 5 years, and that even the superiors acknowledge that arriving before 10 AM is "okay", it would be unfair to suddenly select one of the late employees to have as a "sample" among his colleagues. Sometimes, being chill may hurt
Christian Andrew Labitoria Gallardo is a recent graduate of the Ateneo School of Law with a Juris Doctor degree, and is currently an associate of the Sangalang and Gaerlan, Business Lawyers, a law firm specializing in labor, corporate and business law. You may reach him through a phone call or message (09157042132) or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).  Coca Cola Bottlers Philippines v Vital, G.R. No. 15434 (2004).