Case Brief: Ha Yuan Restaurant v NLRC

G.R. No. 147719  January 27, 2006
HA YUAN RESTAURANT, petitioner
vs.
NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION and JUVY SORIA, respondents.

Facts:

Respondent Juvy Soria worked as a cashier for the petitioner. On January 11, 1998, respondent assaulted her co-worker resulting in a scuffle between the two. They were brought to the SM Food Court Administration Office where the SM Food Court Manager banned the two from working within the SM Food Court premises.

Respondent filed with the Labor Arbiter a complaint for illegal dismissal, salary differentials, service incentive leave, separation pay, and damages. When appealed to National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), the decision of Labor Arbiter in dismissing the case for lack of merit was affirmed plus a modification that the respondent was awarded separation pay equivalent to one (1) month salary per year of service, based on her last salary of P196/day and counted from December 10, 1984 until the finality of the decision.

Petitioner, in response, contended that the award of separation pay is only proper to an employee who is found to have been validly dismissed on the ground of serious misconduct, and it that it cannot be applied in the case at bar.

Issue:

Whether the respondent is entitled to an award of separation pay.

Held:

No.

In PLDT v NLRC, it was stated that separation pay shall only be allowed as a measure of social justice only in instances where an employee is validly dismissed for causes other than serious misconduct or those reflecting his moral character. The Court held that respondent’s cause of dismissal in this case amounts as a serious misconduct and as such, separation pay should not have been awarded to her. Thus, the petition should be granted.

Misconduct is improper or wrongful conduct. It is the transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, willful in character, and implies wrongful intent and not mere error of judgment. To be a valid cause for termination, the misconduct must be serious.

While it is true that the Labor Arbiter did not tag her cause of dismissal as serious misconduct, nevertheless, it is its nature, not its label that characterizes the cause as serious misconduct.

The policy of social justice is not intended to countenance wrongdoing simply because it is committed by the underprivileged. At best it may mitigate the penalty but it certainly will not condone the offense. Compassion for the poor is an imperative of every humane society but only when the recipient is not a rascal claiming an undeserved privilege. Social justice cannot be permitted to be refuge of scoundrels any more than can equity be an impediment to the punishment of the guilty. Those who invoke social justice may do so only if their hands are clean and their motives blameless and not simply because they happen to be poor. This great policy of our Constitution is not meant for the protection of those who have proved they are not worthy of it, like the workers who have tainted the cause of labor with the blemishes of their own character.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Court of Appeals Decision dated March 30, 2001 in CA-G.R. SP No. 58219 is MODIFIED to the effect that the NLRC Decision dated September 30, 1999 is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION in that the award of separation pay in favor of respondent Juvy Soria is DELETED.

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