Floating status and illegal dismissal

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In 1996, a guard was hired by a security agency and assigned at the National Power Corp. (NPC) in Toledo City. In 2003, he was suspended for one month effective 8 May 2003 for not wearing the proper uniform while on duty. During this period, the NPC informed the security agency that it was no longer interested in maintaining the guard’s services and asked for a replacement. Thus, when the period for suspension lapsed and the guard was informed that he was removed from his post, he filed a case of illegal dismissal, illegal suspension, and non-payment of monetary benefits against the agency with the labor arbiter.

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The labor arbiter ruled that the security guard was indeed illegally dismissed from service. The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), however, found that no illegal dismissal took place –

It is common practice for clients of security agencies to demand replacement of any security guard assigned to them but cannot demand their dismissal from the employ of the security agency. And from the time petitioner was relieved from his NPC posting, he was considered on a floating status which can last for a maximum period of six months.

The Court of Appeals (CA) likewise affirmed the NLRC decision. On appeal to the Supreme Court (SC), the security guard insisted the security agency terminated his employment based on a document which certified that he was “terminated from his employment by this agency on 7 May 2003 as per the client’s request.”

The SC held that the guard was not dismissed from service when the security agency terminated his employment. His removal as the guard of NPC merely put him on floating status wherein he would await his new assignment.

[There was] no other evidence showing that he was dismissed from employment. While it is true that he was not allowed to report for work after the period of his suspension expired, the same was due to NPC’s request for his replacement as NPC was no longer interested in his services. And as correctly argued by respondents, petitioner from that point onward is not considered dismissed but merely on a floating status. Such a ‘floating status’ is lawful and not unusual for security guards employed in security agencies as their assignments primarily depend on the contracts entered into by the agency with third parties.

Thus, the Court ruled that a security agency may put a guard on floating status while it is looking for another area to assign its employee to. It clarified that a floating status of an employee can ripen into constructive dismissal but only after it goes beyond the six month maximum period allowed by law. Before the lapse of the six month period, a case for illegal dismissal is considered premature and without basis.

Moreover, Sec. 12, Rule 130, Rules of Court, provide that in the construction and interpretation of a document, the intention of the parties must be pursued. Section 13 further instructs that the circumstances under which a document was made may be shown in order to ascertain the correct interpretation of a document. In the present case, it was clear that the intention of the security agency was not to dismiss the guard as its employee but merely to relieve him of his assignment in NPC (Cañedo v. Kampilan Security and Detective Agency Inc., G.R. No 179326, 31 July 2013, J. Del Castillo).

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