When an employee's failure to work qualifies as abandonment that is a ground for dismissal?

Case Title: Demex Rattancraft, Inc. and Narciso T. Dela Merced v. Rosalio A. Leron

Date of Promulgation: November 8, 2017 | G.R. No. 204288

FACTS: Leron was hired as a weaver by Demex Rattancraft, Inc. (Demex). Sometime in June 2006, Leron was dismissed for instigating a campaign to remove Marcelo Viray as the company's foreman. Before Leron was dismissed from service, he was given a memorandum stating that the dining chair he had previously weaved for export to Japan was rejected. For this reason, Demex expressed that it would no longer avail of his services.

On June 28, 2006, Leron did not report for work. The next day, he filed a complaint against Demex for illegal dismissal before the Labor Arbiter.

Meanwhile, Demex construed Leron 's failure to report to work as an absence without leave. On July 3, 2006, Demex sent Leron a notice requiring him to return to work on July 5, 2006. On July 7, 2006, Demex sent another notice to Leron requiring him to report to work. Despite having received these two (2) notices, Leron did not resume his post. On July 12, 2006, Leron received a third notice from Demex informing him of its decision to terminate his services on the ground of abandonment.

ISSUE: Whether respondent Leron was validly dismissed from employment.

RULING: No. Abandonment of work has been construed as "a clear and deliberate intent to discontinue one's employment without any intention of returning back." To justify the dismissal of an employee on this ground, two (2) elements must concur, namely: "(a) the failure to report for work or absence without valid or justifiable reason; and, (b) a clear intention to sever the employer-employee relationship." Mere failure to report to work is insufficient to support a charge of abandonment. The employer must adduce clear evidence of the employee's "deliberate, unjustified refusal . . . to resume his [or her] employment,'' which is manifested through the employee's overt acts.

Petitioners failed to prove the second element of abandonment, which is regarded by this Court [referring to the Supreme Court] as the more decisive factor. Petitioners point to respondent's absences, non-compliance with the return-to-work notices, and his alleged act of crumpling the first return-to-work notice as indicators of abandonment. These acts still fail to convincingly show respondent's clear and unequivocal intention to sever his employment. Respondent even pursued the illegal dismissal case after it was dismissed without prejudice on the ground of improper venue.

Petitioners also failed to comply with procedural due process, particularly the twin-notice rule. Abandonment of work does not per se sever the employer-employee relationship. It is merely a form of neglect of duty, which is in turn a just cause for termination of employment. The operative act that will ultimately put an end to this relationship is the dismissal of the employee after complying with the procedure prescribed by law.

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