Case Title: Papertech, Inc. v. Josephine P. Katando
Date of Promulgation: January 8, 2020 | G.R. No. 236020
FACTS: Papertech hired Katando as a machine operator in its office in Pasig City. In 2007, Katando and other employees filed a Petition for Certification Election. They conducted a picket in the company. This prompted Papertech to file a Complaint for Illegal Strike against Katando and the other participants in the picket in May 2008. Papertech prayed that the participants be declared to have lost their employment.
The Labor Arbiter (LA) ruled in favor of Papertech, but this ruling was reversed by the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) on appeal. The ruling of the NLRC was upheld by the Court of Appeals (CA) and this Court [referring to the Supreme Court] and became final and executory in September 2011. The employees were ordered reinstated at Papertech's premises in Pasig City.
In May 2013, Papertech sent a notice to the employees involved ordering them to report to various posts in Cagayan De Oro, Davao City, Cebu City, Iloilo City, and Pangasinan, under pain of removal in case of non-compliance. In December 2013, Katando received a memorandum from Papertech that she will be transferred to its Makati Office. Papertech issued several notices to Katando directing her to explain why she should not be administratively charged for refusing to transfer to its Makati office. Despite submitting her explanation, Papertech issued a notice in February 2014 dismissing Katando for her insubordination. Katando filed a complaint for illegal dismissal. When the case reached the CA, it granted Katando's petition and ordered Papertech to immediately reinstate her to her previous position. The CA ruled that the doctrine of strained relations cannot apply to Katando as she is part of the rank and file workforce and does not occupy managerial or key position in the company. She even asked for her reinstatement.
ISSUE: Whether the CA erred in ordering the reinstatement of Katando instead of granting her separation pay.
RULING: Yes. In the case of Globe-Mackay Cable and Radio Corp. v. National Labor Relations Commission, the Court [referring to the Supreme Court] discussed the following considerations in applying the doctrine of strained relations: (1) the employee must occupy a position where he or she enjoys the trust and confidence of his or her employer; (2) it is likely that if reinstated, an atmosphere of antipathy and antagonism may be generated as to adversely affect the efficiency and productivity of the employee concerned; (3) it cannot be applied indiscriminately because some hostility is invariably engendered between the parties as a result of litigation; and (4) it cannot arise from a valid and legal act of asserting one's right.
Although Katando does not occupy a position of trust and confidence as a machine operator, the circumstances of this case nonetheless calls for the application of the doctrine of strained relations. It is true that litigation between the parties per se should not bar the reinstatement of an employee. However, this is not the only case involving Papertech and Katando. They have been in conflict since 2008, or for 11 years now. The protracted litigation between the parties here sufficiently demonstrate that their relationship is strained.