Supreme Court affirms illegal dismissal finding in publishing company case

THE Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed a ruling by the Court of Appeals (CA), which had found that publisher Vibal Co. dismissed an employee illegally.

The CA in turn had affirmed a decision by the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), which found that April Grace C. Morquin was illegally dismissed from the publishing firm since her position should not have been considered redundant.

In an 11-page resolution on April 19 and made public in late July, the SC that the Vibal failed to provide substantial grounds for the dismissal of its former staff writer.

The high court ordered the company to pay Ms. Morquin’s attorney’s fees, equivalent to 10% of the total monetary award.

The case was remanded to the labor arbiter for appropriate computation of amounts due to the dismissed employee.

“In sum, there is substantial evidence to support the findings of the NLRC that respondent was illegally dismissed,” the court said.

“Petitioners (Vibal Company) failed to convincingly show that fair and reasonable criteria were indeed employed in ascertaining what positions are to be abolished.”

Vibal argued that the firm had suffered a severe decline in magazine sales with the termination of its textbook project with the Department of Education. It decided to reduce its staff writers from 19 to eight.

The SC noted that the publishing company did not serve written notice to the former staff writer at least one month before the intended date of her termination.

Under the labor code, employers must issue written notice to both the employee and the Department of Labor and Employment at least one month prior to the intended date of termination.

The High Court added that Ms. Morquin’s position should not have been considered redundant since she was not even part of the textbook project.

“Petitioners, as employers, bear the burden of proving the factual and legal basis for the dismissal of its employees on the grounds of redundancy,” it said.

“Its failure to do so would necessarily lead to a judgment of illegal dismissal, as in this case.” — John Victor D. Ordoñez