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1. ACUÑA v.

CA (Vi)
dismissal.
May 5, 2006|Quisumbing, J. | Dispute Settlement
DOCTRINE:. SC previously held that constructive dismissal covers the
PETITIONER: MERCEDITA ACUÑA, MYRNA RAMONES, and involuntary resignation resorted to when continued employment
JULIET MENDEZ becomes impossible, unreasonable or unlikely; when there is a
RESPONDENTS: HON. COURT OF APPEALS and JOIN demotion in rank or a diminution in pay; or when a clear discrimination,
INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION and/or ELIZABETH ALAÑON insensibility or disdain by an employer becomes unbearable to an
employee. But, if there was no malice, fraud, or bad faith, like in this case,
SUMMARY: Acuna, Ramones and Mendez are Filipino overseas and they voluntarily resigned, there was no constructive dismissal.
workers deployed by Join International Corp. (JOIN), a licensed FACTS:
recruitment agency, to its principal, 3D Pre-Color Plastic, Inc., (3D) in 1. Acuna, Ramones and Mendez are Filipino overseas workers
Taiwan. Upon arriving at the job site, a factory owned by 3D, they were deployed by Join International Corp. (JOIN), a licensed
made to sign another contract which stated that their salary was only recruitment agency, to its principal, 3D Pre-Color Plastic, Inc.,
NT$11,840.00. They were informed that the dormitory which would serve (3D) in Taiwan, under a uniformly-worded employment contract
as their living quarters was still under construction. They were requested for a period of 2 years. Elizabeth Alañon is the president of Join
to temporarily bear with the inconvenience but were assured that their International Corporation.
dormitory would be completed in a short time. They were brought to a
“small room with a cement floor so dirty and smelling with foul odor”. 40
2. Sometime in September 1999, Acuna et al. filed with JOIN
women were in the room and each was given a pillow. Since the ladies'
applications for employment abroad. They submitted their
comfort room was out of order, they had to ask permission to use the
passports, NBI clearances, medical clearances and other
men's comfort room. They were made to work twelve hours a day, from
requirements and each paid a placement fee of P14,850, evidenced
8pm – 8am. Due to unbearable working conditions, they left. They booked
by official receipts.
a flight home, at their own expense. Upon arrival in the Philippines,
Acuna et al. went to JOIN’s office and demanded the return of their
placement fees and plane fare. JOIN offered a settlement and they 3. After their papers were processed, Acuna et al. claimed they signed
accepted it and signed a quitclaim waiver. Afterwards, they filed a a uniformly-worded employment contract with JOIN which
complaint for illegal dismissal and non-payment/underpayment of salaries stipulated that they would work as machine operators with a
or wages, overtime pay, refund of transportation fare, payment of monthly salary of NT$15,840.00, exclusive of overtime, for 2
salaries/wages for 3 months, moral and exemplary damages, and refund of years.
placement fee before the NLRC. Issue: Whether they were illegally
dismissed – NO. They admitted to resigning voluntarily without force or 4. On December 9, 1999, with 18 other contract workers they left for
coercion. It was found that: (1) Acuna, et. al. did not deny that the Taiwan. Upon arriving at the job site, a factory owned by 3D, they
accommodations were not as homely as expected but they were already were made to sign another contract which stated that their salary
told upon arrival, that the dormitory was still under construction and were was only NT$11,840.00. They were informed that the dormitory
requested to bear with the temporary inconvenience and the dormitory which would serve as their living quarters was still under
would soon be finished; (2) aside from them, no other worker assigned to construction. They were requested to temporarily bear with the
3D resigned or filed a case for illegal dismissal. Because of these, there inconvenience but were assured that their dormitory would be
was no malice by JOIN nor was there intent to subject Acuna, et. al. to the completed in a short time.
unhealthy working conditions. Therefore, there was no constructive
5. They were brought to a “small room with a cement floor so dirty ISSUE:
and smelling with foul odor”. 40 women were in the room and 1. Whether Acuna, et. al. were illegally dismissed – YES
each was given a pillow. Since the ladies' comfort room was out of RATIO:
order, they had to ask permission to use the men's comfort room. 1. Acuna et. al. admitted that they resigned voluntarily and without
They were made to work twelve hours a day, from 8pm – 8am. force, coercion, intimidation, or pressure.
2. LA: They were not coerced into giving up their jobs, but the
6. Due to unbearable working conditions, they left. They booked a deplorable, oppressive and sub-human working conditions drove
flight home, at their own expense. Before they left, they were made petitioners to resign. In effect, they did not voluntarily resign.
to sign a written waiver. They were also not paid any salary for 3. NLRC: Ruled that there was constructive dismissal since working
work rendered on December 11-15, 1999. under said conditions was unbearable.
4. SC previously held that constructive dismissal covers the
7. Upon arrival in the Philippines, Acuna et al. went to JOIN’s office involuntary resignation resorted to when continued
and demanded the return of their placement fees and plane fare. employment becomes impossible, unreasonable or unlikely;
JOIN refused. when there is a demotion in rank or a diminution in pay; or when a
clear discrimination, insensibility or disdain by an employer
becomes unbearable to an employee.
8. JOIN offered a settlement. Mendez received P15,080. Acuña and 5. In this case, the CA found that: (1) Acuna, et. al. did not deny that
Ramones received P13,640 and P16,200, respectively. They claim the accommodations were not as homely as expected but they were
they signed a waiver, otherwise they would not be refunded. already told upon arrival, that the dormitory was still under
construction and were requested to bear with the temporary
9. Acuña and Mendez filed a complaint for illegal dismissal and non- inconvenience and the dormitory would soon be finished; (2) aside
payment/underpayment of salaries or wages, overtime pay, refund from them, no other worker assigned to 3D resigned or filed a case
of transportation fare, payment of salaries/wages for 3 months, for illegal dismissal. Because of these, there was no malice by
moral and exemplary damages, and refund of placement fee before JOIN nor was there intent to subject Acuna, et. al. to the unhealthy
the NLRC. Petitioner Ramones filed her complaint 6 days after. working conditions. Therefore, there was no constructive
dismissal.
10. Labor Arbiter: Ruled in favor of Acuna et al. declaring that they Overtime Pay
did not resign voluntarily. JOIN was ordered to pay them. JOIN 6. JOIN claimed that they were not entitled to overtime pay because
appealed to the NLRC they did not give proof that they actually rendered OT work. On
the other hand, Acuna et. al. said that they can’t show documentary
11. NLRC: Ruled that the inclusion of Alañon as respondent in this proof because their employment records were all with 3D.
case had no basis since JOIN has a separate legal personality. It Therefore, it should be enough that they alleged it with
partially granted the appeal and ordered that the amounts of particularity.
P15,080, P13,640 and P16,200 received under the quitclaim by 7. SC held that Acuna, et al. are entitled to overtime pay. The claim
Mendez, Acuña and Ramones be deducted from the award. They of overseas workers against foreign employers could not be
were awarded attorney's fees, no moral and exemplary damages subjected to same rules of evidence and procedure of those with
and placement fees. JOIN’s motion for partial reconsideration was local employers. Normally, the SC requires presentation of
denied. payrolls, daily time records and similar documents before allowing
claims for overtime pay, but in this case, that would be requiring
12. CA ruled for JOIN and set aside the resolutions.
the near-impossible. It is JOIN who could have obtained records to
rebut the claim for OT pay.
8. It is a rule that when there is doubt in a controversy between a
worker and an employer, it should be resolved in favor of the
worker. It is also the State’s policy to give maximum aid and
protection to labor. Hence, JOIN is solidarily liable with 3D
(Taiwan company) for the OT pay claims of Acuna, et. al.
9. Moral and exemplary damages – SC said not entitled. Moral and
exemplary damages are recoverable only where the dismissal of an
employee was attended by bad faith or fraud, or constituted an act
oppressive to labor, or was done in a manner contrary to morals,
good customs or public policy. The person claiming moral
damages must prove the existence of bad faith by clear and
convincing evidence, for the law always presumes good faith. In
this case, they failed to prove bad faith, fraud or ill motive, so they
cannot be awarded moral damages. Since there cannot be moral
damages, there cannot be exemplary damages or attorney’s fees
either. The records show that they were not deceived into signing
the quitclaim waiver.