Neglect of Duty; Dismissal as a harsh penalty G.R. No.

176287 January 31, 2011

HOSPITAL MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC. - MEDICAL CENTER MANILA vs. HOSPITAL MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC. – MEDICAL CENTER MANILA EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION-AFW and EDNA R. DE CASTRO Facts: Respondent De Castro started working as a staff nurse at petitioner hospital since September 28, 1990, until she was dismissed on July 20, 1999. While respondent De Castro and ward-clerk orientee were at the nurse station on night duty, one Rufina Causaren, an 81-year-old patient fell from the right side of the bed as she was trying to reach for the bedpan. Because of what happened, the niece of patient sought assistance from the nurse station. Instead of personally seeing the patient, respondent De Castro directed ward-clerk orientee to check the patient. The vital signs of the patient were normal. Chief Nurse Josefina M. Villanueva requested for a formal investigation.The legal counsel of petitioner hospital directed respondent De Castro and three other nurses on duty to appear before the Investigation Committee . During the committee investigation, respondent De Castro explained that at that time she was attending to a newly-admitted patient and, because of this, she instructed Nursing Assistant Tatad to check the vital signs with ward-clerk orientee. The committee recommended that despite her more than seven years of service, respondent De Castro should be terminated from employment for her lapse in responding to the incident and for trying to manipulate and influence her staff to coverup the incident HRD Officer of petitioner hospital, issued a notice of termination upon respondent De Castro, effective at the close of office hours of July 20, 1999, for alleged violation of company rules and regulations, particularly paragraph 16 (a), Item 3, Chapter XI of the Employee's Handbook and Policy Manual of 1996 (Employee's Handbook). Respondent De Castro, with the assistance of respondent Hospital Management Services Inc.-Medical Center Manila Employees Association-AFW, filed a Complaint for illegal dismissal against petitioners. Labor Arbiter: reinstate respondent De Castro to her former position or by payroll reinstatement, at the option of the former, without loss of seniority rights, but without backwages. The Labor Arbiter concluded that although respondent De Castro committed the act complained of, being her first offense, the penalty to be meted should not be dismissal from the service, but merely 7 to 14 days suspension as the same was classified as a less serious offense under the Employee’s Handbook. NLRC: Reversed. It observed that respondent De Castro lacked diligence and prudence in carrying out her duties. CA: reversed and set aside the Decision of the NLRC and reinstated the Decision of the Labor Arbiter, with modification that respondent De Castro should be entitled to payment of full backwages and other benefits, or their monetary equivalent; while respondent De Castro's failure to personally attend to patient Causeran amounted to misconduct, however, being her first offense, such misconduct could not be categorized as serious or grave that would warrant the extreme penalty of termination from the service after having been employed for almost 9 years. Issue: Whether or not respondent was illegally dismissed. Held: YES. Petitioners anchor respondent De Castro’s termination of employment on the ground of serious misconduct for failure to personally attend to patient. Based on her

A single or isolated act of negligence does not constitute a just cause for the dismissal of the employee. however. The Court had ruled that sanctioning an erring employee with suspension would suffice as the extreme penalty of dismissal would be too harsh. Neglect of duty. Considering that this was the first offense of respondent De Castro in her nine (9) years of employment with petitioner hospital as a staff nurse without any previous derogatory record and. inclusive of the suspension for a period of 14 days which she had earlier served. instead of personally attending to patient Causaren. respondent De Castro saw no necessity to record in the chart of patient Causaren the fact that she fell from the bed as the patient did not suffer any injury and her vital signs were normal. It was her judgment call. or bad faith on her part when. Despite our finding of culpability against respondent De Castro. depending upon the circumstances. respondent De Castro cannot be said to be grossly negligent so as to justify her termination of employment. She surmised that the incident was not of a magnitude that would require medical intervention as even the patient and her niece did not press charges against her by reason of the subject incident. as her lapse was not characterized by any wrongful motive or deceitful conduct. . Moreover. was not clearly substantiated. we do not see any wrongful intent. to be a ground for dismissal. that respondent De Castro exerted undue pressure upon her co-nurses to alter the actual time of the incident so as to exculpate her from any liability. the Court deems it appropriate that. to attend to a newly-admitted patient who had more concerns that needed to be addressed accordingly. must be both gross and habitual. albeit an error of judgment. Gross negligence connotes want of care in the performance of one's duties. instead of the harsh penalty of dismissal. petitioners’ allegation. under the given situation. she would be suspended for a period of six (6) months without pay. deliberate refusal. to send Nursing Assistant Tatad and ward-clerk orientee Guillergan to check on the health condition of the patient. further. Being her first offense. as she deemed it best. being the staff nurse with presumably more work experience and better learning curve. Habitual neglect implies repeated failure to perform one's duties for a period of time.evaluation of the situation.

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