Chronic Tardiness; Reasonable Standards for Regularization; No Notice and Hearing Required for Termination
Mylene was employed as a trainee-teller by a bank under a six-month probationary employment contract. She was almost always late, so the bank sent her a memorandum directing her to explain why she should not be subjected to disciplinary action for “chronic tardines” (8 times in one month). Another memorandum was sent to her directing her to explain why she should not be suspended for “chronic tardiness” on 13 occasions in one month. In her written explanations to both memoranda, she practically admitted the charges against her. She was suspended for 3 days without pay, but before the 3 days were over the suspension was lifted and her employment was instead terminated. This happened before the six-month probationary period was over. She filed a case for illegal dismissal against the bank.
The case eventually reached the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court identified the “point of contention” as follows: Whether her employment status ripened into a regular one.
The Supreme Court decided the issue in the negative. “At the time of her engagement and as mandated by law, petitioner was informed in writing of the standards necessary to qualify her as a regular employee. Her appointment letter reads:
Possible extension of this contract will depend on the job requirements of the Bank and your overall performance. Performance review will be conducted before possible renewal can take effect. The Bank reserves the right to immediately terminate this contract in the event of a below satisfactory performance, serious disregard of company rules and policies and other reasons critical to its interests.”
The Supreme Court then proceeded to enumerate the grounds on the basis of which a probationary employee may be terminated:
“A probationary employee, like a regular employee, enjoys security of tenure. However, in cases of probationary employment, aside from just or authorized causes of termination, an additional ground is provided under Article 281 of the Labor Code, i.e., the probationary employee may also be terminated for failure to qualify as a regular employee in accordance with reasonable standards made known by the employer to the employee at the time of the engagement. Thus, the services of an employee who has been engaged on probationary basis may be terminated for any of the following: (1) a just or (2) an authorized cause and (3) when he fails to qualify as a regular employee in accordance with reasonable standards prescribed by the employer.”
But the appointment letter did not specify “punctuality” as one of reasonable standards prescribed by the employer. Nevertheless, said the Supreme Court in effect, “it is but common sense that she must abide by the work hours imposed by the bank.”
“Punctuality is a reasonable standard imposed on every employee, whether in government or private sector. As a matter of fact, habitual tardiness is a serious offense that may very well constitute gross or habitual neglect of duty, a just cause to dismiss a regular employee. Assuming that petitioner was not apprised of the standards concomitant to her job, it is but common sense that she must abide by the work hours imposed by the bank. As we have aptly stated in Aberdeen Court, Inc. vs. Agustin, Jr., the rule on reasonable standards made known to the employee prior to engagement should not be used to exculpate a probationary employee who acts in a manner contrary to basic knowledge and common sense, in regard to which there is no need to spell out a policy or standard to be met.”
Earlier, the Labor Arbiter ruled that Mylene was dismissed without due process because “she was not afforded notice in writing informing her of what respondent (the Bank) would like to bring out to her for the latter to answer in writing.” The Supreme Court held otherwise and cited its ruling in Philippine Daily Inquirer, Inc. v. Magtibay, Jr.:
“Unlike under the first ground for the valid termination of probationary employment which is for just cause, the second ground failure to qualify in accordance with the standards prescribed by employer does not require notice and hearing. Due process of law for this second group consists of making the reasonable standards expected of the employee during his probationary period known to him at the time of his probationary employment. By the very nature of a probationary employment, the employee knows from the very start that he will be under close observation and his performance of his assigned duties and functions would be under continuous scrutiny by his superiors. It is in apprising him of the standards against which his performance shall be continuously assessed where due process regarding the second ground lies, and not in notice and hearing as in the case of the first ground.”
The Supreme Court ended its Decision by stating, “If the termination is for cause, it may be done anytime during the probation; the employer does not have to wait until the probation period is over.”
(Reference: Mylene Carvajal, vs. Luzon Development Bank and/or Oscar Z. Ramirez, G.R. No. 186169, August 1, 2012)