1. whether a validly dismissed employee like respondent is entitled to an award of separation pay

We hold that henceforth separation pay shall be allowed as a measure of social justice only in those instances where the employee is validly dismissed for causes other than serious misconduct or those reflecting on his moral character. Where the reason for the valid dismissal is, for example, habitual intoxication or an offense involving moral turpitude, like theft or illicit sexual relations with a fellow worker, the employer may not be required to give the dismissed employee separation pay, or financial assistance, or whatever other name it is called, on the ground of social justice. (Emphasis supplied)

Separation pay therefore, depends on the cause of dismissal, and may be accordingly awarded provided that the dismissal does not fall under either of two circumstances: (1) there was serious misconduct, or (2) the dismissal reflected on the employee’s moral character.

The question that now arises in this case is whether the cause of respondent’s dismissal falls under the two circumstances, i.e., serious misconduct or the dismissal reflected on the employee’s moral character.

The Court holds 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, as respondent contends, 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. There is no question as regards the incident that caused respondent’s dismissal. While respondent’s co-worker Sumalague was eating at the back of the store, respondent rushed toward Sumalague and hit the latter on the face causing injuries. A scuffle ensued and despite their supervisor Recide’s pleas, the two continued to fight, prompting Recide to call the mall security. When the two were brought to the administration office, they continued bickering and did not heed the request of the manager to stop, and thus they were brought to the Customer Relations Office. Because of the incident, the two were banned from working within the premises. The fact that Sumalague sustained injuries is a matter that cannot be taken lightly. Moreover, the incident disturbed the peace in the work place, not to mention that respondent and Sumalague committed a breach of its discipline. Clearly, respondent committed serious misconduct within the meaning of Art. 282 of the Labor Code, providing for the dismissal of employees.

Her cause of dismissal amounting to a serious misconduct, respondent is not entitled to an award of separation pay. As further stated in Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. vs. NLRC:

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.

SO ORDERED.

SOURCE: [ G.R. NO. 147719, January 27, 2006 ]HA YUAN RESTAURANT, PETITIONER, VS. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION AND JUVY SORIA, RESPONDENTS. Tags: Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries

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