In constructive dismissal, the employee must prove that his resignation was involuntary

An unconditional and categorical letter of resignation cannot be considered indicative of constructive dismissal if the employee is fully aware of its effects and implications.

Case Title: Arvin A. Pascual v. Sitel Philippines Corporation, et al.

Date of Promulgation: G.R. No. 240484. March 9, 2020

FACTS: In October 2006, Sitel hired petitioner as agent. In 2014, Sitel promoted him to the Comcast Customer Service Group (Comcast CSG) account as coach/supervisor. Subsequently, Sitel served a notice to explain upon him for failure to take the necessary action on the case of an agent of Comcast CSG who has been inactive since May 2014. Sitel then served a second notice to explain upon him charging him with gross and habitual neglect of duties, among others. Petitioner requested that the charges against him be “particularized”. Subsequently, Sitel revised the charges against petitioner from gross and habitual neglect to serious misconduct or willful disobedience of employer's orders. An administrative hearing was set in November 2014, but petitioner failed to attend due to the alleged lack of details concerning the charges.

Sitel served a Notice to Decision upon petitioner suspending him for five (5) days. Then, another Notice to Explain was served upon him requiring him to explain within 24 hours his absences without permission for several days in November. In his response, petitioner expressed his physical, emotional, and psychological predicament. He requested clarification, but to no avail; thus, prompting him to send an e-mail to the company manifesting his intention to resign, recover his unpaid salary, and the issuance of a certificate of employment. Petitioner personally met respondent Reyes and brought a copy of his letter of resignation which he previously sent to respondent Lee. Later on, he pursued his claim for constructive dismissal.

ISSUE: Was petitioner constructively dismissed?

RULING: No. Petitioner’s resignation was voluntary and Sitel is not guilty of constructive dismissal.

Constructive dismissal is defined as quitting or cessation of work because continued employment is rendered impossible, unreasonable or unlikely; when there is demotion in rank or diminution of pay and other benefits. The test of constructive dismissal is whether a reasonable person in the employee’s position would have felt compelled to give up his employment/position under the circumstances.

Resignation, on the other hand, is the voluntary act of an employee who is in a situation where one believes that personal reasons cannot be sacrificed in favor of the exigency of the service, and one has no other choice but to disassociate oneself from employment. As the intent to relinquish must concur with the over act of resignation must be considered in determining whether he or she, in fact, intended to sever his or her employment. In illegal dismissal cases, it is a fundamental rule that when an employer interposes the defense of resignation, on him necessarily rests the burden to prove that the employee indeed voluntarily resigned.

Here, petitioner submitted his resignation letter on several occasions; thus, it is incumbent upon him to prove with clear, positive, and convincing evidence that his resignation was not voluntary, but was actually a case of constructive dismissal or that it is a product of coercion or intimidation. Petitioner failed to show any substantial evidence that he was treated unfairly and, thus, he was forced to resign.

Petitioner could not have been coerced well. Coercion exists when there is a reasonable or well-grounded fear of an imminent evil upon a person or his property or upon the person or property of his spouse, descendants or ascendants. Neither petitioner's narration of facts prove that he was intimidated. The requisites for intimidation to vitiate one's consent include:1) that the intimidation caused the consent to be given; (2) that the threatened act be unjust or unlawful; (3) that the threat be real or serious, there being evident disproportion between the eveil and the resistance which all men can offer, leading to the choice of doing the act which is forced on the person to do as the lesser evil; and (4) that it produces a well-grounded fear from the fact that the person from whom it comes has the necessary means or ability to inflict the threatened injury to his person or property.

The facts show that the resignation letter is grounded in petitioner's desire to leave the company as opposed to any deceitful machination or coercion on the part of Sitel. Interestingly, even when given the opportunity to explain his side regarding the Remion's case, petitioner conspicuously failed to do so. He consistently evaded the issue and did not attend the hearing on the matter. Petitioner's claim of dismissal was also negated by the fact that he was simply suspended for five days, albeit the charges against him merit his dismissal. Verily, Sitel was attentive and considerate with petitioner's situation. It was petitioner who misinterpreted Site's decision.

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