NLRC Ruled Constructive Dismissal Against Robinsons Supermarket Corporation

The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) ordered the Robinsons Supermarket Corporation to reinstate the respondent Cashier to her former or equivalent position without loss of seniority rights and privileges and to pay her full backwages, after she was constructively dismissed from employment.

The Supreme Court in a 2011 decision affirms the NLRC decision that respondent Cashier was denied due process by petitioner Supermarket.

Although respondent Cashier was only a probationary employee, the subsequent lapse of her probationary contract of employment did not have the effect of validly terminating her employment because constructive dismissal has already been effected when respondent Cashier send to jail for two weeks.

Respondent Cashier was a probationary employee of petitioner Supermarket for a period of five (5) months, or from October 15, 1997 until March 14, 1998. She underwent six (6) weeks of training as a cashier before she was hired as such on October 15, 1997.

            Two weeks after she was hired, or on October 30, 1997, respondent Cashier reported to her supervisor the loss of cash amounting to P20,299.00 which she had placed inside the company locker. The Operations Manager of petitioner Supermarket ordered that respondent Cashier be strip-searched by the company guards. However, the search on her and her personal belongings yielded nothing.

            Respondent Cashier, however, acknowledged her responsibility and requested that she be allowed to settle and pay the lost amount. However, the Operations Manager did not heed her request and instead reported the matter to the police, and thereafter an Information for Qualified Theft was filed before the Prosecutor’s Office. Respondent Cashier was then constrained to spend two weeks in jail for failure to immediately post bail.

            Respondent Cashier then filed a complaint for illegal dismissal and damages. Petitioner Supermarket then sent to respondent Cashier by mail a notice of termination and/or notice of expiration of probationary employment.

            The NLRC and the Supreme Court ruled that petitioner Supermarket failed to accord respondent Cashier substantive and procedural due process. The haphazard manner in the investigation of the missing cash, which was left to the determination of the police authorities and the Prosecutor’s Office, left respondent Cashier with no choice but to cry foul. Administrative investigation was not conducted by petitioner Supermarket. On the same day that the missing money was reported by respondent Cashier to her immediate superior, the company already pre-judged her guilt without proper investigation, and instantly reported her to the police as the suspected thief, which resulted in her languishing in jail for two weeks. 

            The due process requirements under the Labor Code are mandatory and may not be supplanted by police investigation or court proceedings. The criminal aspect of the case is considered independent of the administrative aspect. Thus, employers should not rely solely on the findings of the Prosecutor’s Office. They are mandated to conduct their own separate investigation, and to accord the employee every opportunity to defend himself. Furthermore, respondent Cashier was not represented by counsel when she was strip-searched inside the company premises or during the police investigation, and in the preliminary investigation before the Prosecutor’s Office.

            Respondent Cashier was constructively dismissed by petitioner Supermarket. It was unreasonable for petitioner Supermarket to charge her with abandonment for not reporting for work upon her release in jail. It would be the height of callousness to expect her to return to work after suffering in jail for two weeks. Work had been rendered unreasonable, unlikely, and definitely impossible, considering the treatment that was accorded respondent Cashier by petitioner Supermarket. (Robinsons Galleria/Robinsons Supermarket Corporation vs. Irene R. Ranchez, G.R. No. 177937, January 19, 2011)