A. Discipline

Frequency: ★ ★ ★☆☆

1. CONCEPT

In general, management has the prerogative to discipline its employees and to impose appropriate penalties on erring workers pursuant to company rules and regulations. (Deles v. NLRC, First Phil. Industrial Corp., G.R. No. 121348, 09 March 2000)

The right of an employer to regulate all aspects of employment, aptly called “management prerogative,” gives employers the freedom to regulate, according to their discretion and best judgment, all aspects of employment, including the discipline of workers. (St. Luke’s Medical Center, Inc. v. Sanchez, G.R. No. 212054, 11 March 2015)

St. Luke’s Medical Center, Inc. v. Sanchez (March 2015)
Tested against the foregoing, the Court finds that Sanchez was validly dismissed by SLMC for her willful disregard and disobedience of Section 1, Rule I of the SLMC Code of Discipline, which reasonably punishes acts of dishonesty, i.e., “theft, pilferage of hospital or co-employee property, x x x or its attempt in any form or manner from the hospital, co-employees, doctors, visitors, [and] customers (external and internal)” with termination from employment. Such act is obviously connected with Sanchez’s work, who, as a staff nurse, is tasked with the proper stewardship of medical supplies. Significantly, records show that Sanchez made a categorical admission61 in her handwritten letter62 – i.e., “[k]ahit alam kong bawal ay nagawa kong [makapag-uwi] ng gamit” – that despite her knowledge of its express prohibition under the SLMC Code of Discipline, she still knowingly brought out the subject medical items with her. It is apt to clarify that SLMC cannot be faulted in construing the taking of the questioned items as an act of dishonesty (particularly, as theft, pilferage, or its attempt in any form or manner) considering that the intent to gain may be reasonably presumed from the furtive taking of useful property appertaining to another. Note that Section 1, Rule 1 of the SLMC Code of Discipline is further supplemented by the company policy requiring the turn-over of excess medical supplies/items for proper handling and providing a restriction on taking and bringing such items out of the SLMC premises without the proper authorization or “pass” from the official concerned, which Sanchez was equally aware thereof. Nevertheless, Sanchez failed to turn-over the questioned items and, instead, “hoarded” them, as purportedly practiced by the other staff members in the Pediatric Unit. As it is clear that the company policies subject of this case are reasonable and lawful, sufficiently known to the employee, and evidently connected with the latter’s work, the Court concludes that SLMC dismissed Sanchez for a just cause.

a. Rationale

While the law imposes many obligations upon the employer, nonetheless, it also protects the employer’s right to expect from its employees not only good performance, adequate work, and diligence, but also good conduct and loyalty. In fact, the Labor Code does not excuse employees from complying with valid company policies and reasonable regulations for their governance and guidance. (Rural Bank of Cantilan, Inc. v. Hotchkiss III, G.R. No. 169750, 27 February 2007)

2. LIMITATIONS

a. Commensurateness of penalty

The penalty must be commensurate to the offense. (Dongon v. Rapid Movers and Forwarders Co., Inc., G.R. No. 163431, 28 August 2013)

Penalties must be commensurate to the offense involved and to the degree of the infraction. (Cavite Apparel, Incorporated v. Marquez, G.R. No. 172044, 06 February 2013)

Even if a just cause exists, the employer still has the discretion whether to dismiss the employee, impose a lighter penalty, or condone the offense committed. (Maula v. Ximex Delivery Express, Inc., G.R. No. 207838, 25 January 2017)

Not every case of insubordination or willful disobedience by an employee reasonably deserves the penalty of dismissal because the penalty to be imposed on an erring employee must be commensurate with the gravity of his or her offense. (Ibid.)

b. Exercised humanely and considerately

The right to discipline should be exercised humanely and considerately. (Dongon v. Rapid Movers and Forwarders Co., Inc., supra.)

The prerogative should be exercised in good faith and for the advancement for the employer’s interest. (Maula v. Ximex Delivery Express, Inc., G.R. No. 207838, 25 January 2017)

Dongon v. Rapid Movers and Forwarders Co., Inc. (August 2013)
[An employee was dismissed for having lent his ID to a co-employee so they can both do their work at the premises of their Company’s client.]
Although we recognize the inherent right of the employer to discipline its employees, we should still ensure that the employer exercises the prerogative to discipline humanely and considerately, and that the sanction imposed is commensurate to the offense involved and to the degree of the infraction. The discipline exacted by the employer should further consider the employee’s length of service and the number of infractions during his employment The employer should never forget that always at stake in disciplining its employee are not only his position but also his livelihood, and that he may also have a family entirely dependent on his earnings.

Disclaimer: All information herein is for educational and general information only intended for those preparing for the bar exam. These should not be taken as professional legal advice or opinion. Please consult a competent lawyer to address your specific concerns. Any statements or opinions of the author are solely his own and do not reflect that of any organization he may be connected.

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