My former employer fired me capriciously and without any reason despite the fact that I am a regular employee. Luckily, I quickly got another job so I did not bother to file a complaint. Recently, my former employer did the same thing to a colleague who is a good friend. I want to teach my former employer a lesson so I am contemplating on filing a case against him, but someone told me that I cannot file a case anymore because three years have already passed. Is that true? Also, will the fact that I quickly got another job affect my right?
Based on your narration, you may file a complaint for illegal dismissal against your former employer. As a regular employee of the company, you are accorded with security of tenure. As such, you may not be separated from service without just or authorized cause (Art. 279, Labor Code). Hence, the wanton decision of your employer to fire you runs afoul with your rights to security of tenure guaranteed by the provisions of the Labor Code.
Even if three (3) years have passed, you may still file a complaint against your former employer. The three-year prescriptive period provided in the Labor Code, particularly, Article 291, refers to actions involving money claims arising from employer-employee relations such as underpayment of wages, non-payment of overtime or holiday pay, or thirteenth month pay.
Illegal dismissal cases do not belong to this classification. As the Supreme Court stated in one case, when one is arbitrarily and unjustly deprived of his job or means of livelihood, the action instituted to contest the legality of one’s dismissal from employment constitutes, in essence, an action predicated “upon an injury to the rights of the plaintiff,” as contemplated under Art. 1146 of the New Civil Code, which must be brought within four years (PLDT vs. Pingol,630 SCRA 413 citing Callanta v. Carnation, 145 SCRA 268). Hence, you still have one year to file a complaint for illegal dismissal against your employer.
Neither will the fact that you immediately obtained employment elsewhere affect your right to file a complaint for illegal dismissal. In an illegal dismissal case, the main issue is whether the dismissal was lawfully effected, that is, done with just or authorized cause and in compliance with the requirements of due process. If the court finds that there is illegal dismissal, the concerned employee who was unjustly dismissed from work is entitled to reinstatement without loss of seniority rights and other privileges and to his full backwages, inclusive of allowances, and other benefits or their monetary equivalent computed from the time his compensation was withheld from him up to the time of his actual reinstatement (supra). If reinstatement is no longer possible, separation pay may be adjudged in lieu of reinstatement (Velasco vs. NLRC, 492 SCRA 686 citing Starlite Plastic Industrial Corp. vs. NLRC, 171 SCRA 315; Kingsize Manufacturing Corp. v. NLRC, 238 SCRA 349, others). Hence, as long as you can prove that your employer indeed violated your right to security of tenure and dismissed you from service illegally, you may file a complaint for illegal dismissal.
We hope we were able to sufficiently address your concern. Please bear in mind that this opinion is based on the facts you presented and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary if actual facts and circumstances are changed or elaborated.
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