• Burden of proof in confidential employee’s firing lies with employer

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    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    I am a bank teller. I was singled out by my manager and he just fired me, stating that he lost his trust and confidence in me. He did not specify the acts I may have committed for him to make the conclusion but I found in our contract of employment that I can be terminated for such reasons. Was I validly dismissed?
    Sincerely yours,
    RJ

    Dear RJ,
    Fairly recent is the case of Julieta B. Sta. Ana vs. Manila Jockey Club Inc. (G.R. No. 208459, February 15, 2017; ponente: Justice Mariano del Castillo) which stated that the burden of proof in dismissing employees because of loss of trust and confidence rests with the employer:

    “In Manila Jockey Club Inc. v. Trajano, where therein respondent was also a teller working for MJCI, like Sta. Ana, the court determined that the position of a selling teller is a position of trust and confidence since it requires the handling and custody of tickets issued and bets made in the teller’s station. Thus, Sta. Ana undoubtedly occupied a position of trust and confidence.

    “However, while Sta. Ana occupied such position of trust and MJCI afforded her procedural due process, her dismissal is still unwarranted because MJCI failed to discharge its burden of proving that she willfully breached its trust, and such loss of trust relates to Sta. Ana’s performance of duties.
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    “It is a cardinal rule that loss of trust and confidence should be genuine, and not simulated; it must arise from dishonest or deceitful conduct, and must not be arbitrarily asserted in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence. While proof beyond reasonable doubt is not required, loss of trust must have some basis or such reasonable ground for one to believe that the employee committed the infraction, and the latter’s participation makes him or her totally unworthy of the trust demanded by the position.

    “Here MJCI failed to prove that Sta. Ana committed willful breach of its trust. Particularly, it failed to establish that Sta. Ana used [her employer]for her personal business during office hours, and used [the employer’s]money; without authority, to lend money to another. Hence, to dismiss her on the ground of loss of trust and confidence is unwarranted.”

    Simply put, you cannot just be dismissed by your employer at will or by mere reliance on the employment contract’s provision that you can be dismissed on that ground without proving your violation as demanded by your position. Procedural due process while afforded and observed must rest on the fact that the employer duly proved that the employee breached [his or her]trust and that the same relates to the latter’s duties.

    Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
    We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

    Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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