Constructive Dismissal

When does transfer of an employee amount to constructive dismissal? Here’s the Supreme Court’s latest answer: Westmont Pharmaceuticals, Inc., et al. Vs. Ricardo C. Samaniego..G.R. Nos. 146653-54/G.R. Nos. 147407-08. February 20, 2006

Some excerpts:

“In constructive dismissal, the employer has the burden of proving that the transfer of an employee is for just and valid grounds, such as genuine business necessity. The employer must be able to show that the transfer is not unreasonable, inconvenient, or prejudicial to the employee. It must not involve a demotion in rank or a diminution of salary and other benefits. If the employer cannot overcome this burden of proof, the employee’s transfer shall be tantamount to unlawful constructive dismissal.

“Westmont and Unilab failed to discharge this burden. Samaniego was unceremoniously transferred from Isabela to Metro Manila. We hold that such transfer is economically and emotionally burdensome on his part. He was constrained to maintain two residences – one for himself in Metro Manila, and the other for his family in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan. Worse, immediately after his transfer to Metro Manila, he was placed “on floating status” and was demoted in rank, performing functions no longer supervisory in nature.

“There may also be constructive dismissal if an act of clear insensibility or disdain by an employer becomes so unbearable on the part of the employee that it could foreclose any choice by him except to forego his continued employment. This was what happened to Samaniego. Thus, he is entitled to reinstatement without loss of seniority rights, full backwages, inclusive of allowances, and other benefits or their monetary equivalent, computed from the time his compensation was withheld from him up to the time of his actual reinstatement.

“However, the circumstances obtaining in this case do not warrant the reinstatement of Samaniego. Antagonism caused a severe strain in the relationship between him and his employer. A more equitable disposition would be an award of separation pay equivalent to at least one month pay, or one month pay for every year of service, whichever is higher (with a fraction of at least six [6] months being considered as one [1] whole year), in addition to his full backwages, allowances and other benefits.”

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