SC reinstates worker dismissed while recovering from stroke - TrueID

SC reinstates worker dismissed while recovering from stroke

Philippine News AgencySeptember 1, 2021

MANILA – The Supreme Court (SC) has dismissed a petition filed by utility subcontractor Meralco Industrial Engineering and Services Corporation (Miescor) questioning the Court of Appeals’ (CA) decision on a labor case involving a worker who was dismissed while recovering from a stroke.

In a resolution recently made available online, the SC’s Second Division affirmed the CA and the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) in ruling that Miescor could no longer question the status of Rizaldy L. Pangilinan as a regular employee since Miescor failed to appeal the labor arbiter’s decision.

“It is well-settled that a decision becomes final as against a party who does not appeal the same. Thus, petitioner’s failure to appeal the labor arbiter’s decision renders the issue on respondent’s status as a regular employee final and executory,” the court said.

The court had awarded PHP341,395 representing full back wages and attorney’s fees as well as ordered that Pangilinan be reinstated to his former position.

“The employer had the burden of proving that the employee’s dismissal was for a just or authorized cause. Undoubtedly, this burden lies with the employer, and failure to discharge said burden leads to the inevitable conclusion that the dismissal was illegal,” the SC said.

Pangilinan was first hired by Miescor in 1996 as a worker in clearing right-of-way projects.

In 2001, he was transferred to Meralco maintenance and later assigned to different projects, the last of which was with PLDT.

On Sept. 6, 2015, he suffered a stroke and was hospitalized. On January 5, 2016, Miescor terminated his employment citing the expiration of Miescor’s contract with PLDT.

Pangilinan then filed a labor case claiming he was denied due process before being dismissed and was fired without valid grounds.

Miescor, for its part, said the latter was a project employee, who signed project employment contracts with the company, and his employment was only extended when projects were not yet completed.

The labor arbiter ruled Pangilinan was a regular employee of Miescor but he had not been illegally dismissed from employment since he failed to report for work for a long time which “can be construed as a clear intent to abandon his job or sever his employer-employee relationship”.

The worker appealed the arbiter’s ruling which was later modified by the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) to the effect that the employee was indeed illegally dismissed.

The NLRC also ordered his reinstatement and payment of full back wages to the employee.

In its ruling, the NLRC found that since Miescor did not appeal the decision of the labor arbiter, it became final and executory.

“It is presumed that a party who did not interpose an appeal is satisfied with the judgment rendered by the lower court,” the NLRC said. “Even granting that respondent was dismissed due to AWOL or neglect of duties, petitioner is mandated to afford respondent due process.”

The CA noted that when the worker was dismissed from employment, he had not yet fully recovered from the stroke as shown in a certification by an attending physician. (PNA)

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