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Abbott Laboratories vs Alcaraz

G.R. 192571

July 23, 2013

Topic: Constitutional Provisions applied to Labor cases, Right to Due Process


Facts: Alcaraz (Employee) was hired by Abbott (Employer) as a Regulatory Affairs Manager, with a
probationary period of 6 months. After such period, her superior officers, Terrible and Walsh, decided that
she did failed to meet the regularization standard for said position. She was forced to resigned. In those
period, Alcaraz was not informed of the reasonable standards for her regularization. An illegal dismissal
case was filed.
Issue: Was Alcaraz illegally dismissed?
Ruling: No. It was found by the court that Alaraz failed to meet the regularization standard, however it
was found that she was not informed on what the standard was, despite her requests for it. As such,
Employer violated the company policy and procedure. In this case, it is apparent that Abbott failed to
follow the above-stated procedure in evaluating Alcaraz. For one, there lies a hiatus of evidence that a
signed copy of Alcarazs PPSE form was submitted to the HRD. It was not even shown that a PPSE form
was completed to formally assess her performance. Neither was the performance evaluation discussed
with her during the third and fifth months of her employment. Nor did Abbott come up with the necessary
Performance Improvement Plan to properly gauge Alcarazs performance with the set company
standards.
While it is Abbotts management prerogative to promulgate its own company rules and even subsequently
amend them, this right equally demands that when it does create its own policies and thereafter notify its
employee of the same, it accords upon itself the obligation to faithfully implement them. Indeed, a contrary
interpretation would entail a disharmonious relationship in the work place for the laborer should never be
mired by the uncertainty of flimsy rules in which the latters labor rights and duties would, to some extent,
depend.
In this light, while there lies due cause to terminate Alcarazs probationary employment for her failure to
meet the standards required for her regularization, and while it must be further pointed out that Abbott had
satisfied its statutory duty to serve a written notice of termination, the fact that it violated its own company
procedure renders the termination of Alcarazs employment procedurally infirm, warranting the payment of
nominal damages. A further exposition is apropos.
Case law has settled that an employer who terminates an employee for a valid cause but does so through
invalid procedure is liable to pay the latter nominal damages.
In Agabon v. NLRC (Agabon), 71 the Court pronounced that where the dismissal is for a just cause, the
lack of statutory due process should not nullify the dismissal, or render it illegal, or ineffectual. However,
the employer should indemnify the employee for the violation of his statutory rights. 72 Thus, in Agabon, the
employer was ordered to pay the employee nominal damages in the amount of P30,000.00.73