Worker fired for theft can’t ask for money from ex-employer

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Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
Is it possible for me to seek for financial assistance from my former employer? I was terminated based on claims of theft of office materials imputed against me by my supervisor. I have been working with the company for almost 13 years and I am in total distress because my employer does not want to give me even a single centavo. I need the money as I am undergoing medical treatment.
Ram

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Dear Ram,
It is clearly embodied in Presidential Decree 442, as amended, otherwise known as the Labor Code of the Philippines, that only private employees who have been terminated by any of the authorized causes mentioned under Articles 283 and 284 thereof may be granted separation pay.

Nevertheless, our courts have, on certain occasions, granted separation pay in the form of financial assistance to employees even if they have been terminated for lawful causes. But these causes must not be so grave or serious in nature. This is in recognition of the principles of social justice and equity embodied under our very own Constitution. As explained by our Supreme Court in one case, “x x x separation pay shall be allowed as a measure of social justice only in those instances where the employee is validly dismissed for causes other than serious misconduct or those reflecting on his moral character. Where the reason for the valid dismissal is, for example, habitual intoxication or an offense involving moral turpitude, like theft or illicit sexual relations with a fellow worker, the employer may not be required to give the dismissed employee separation pay, or financial assistance, or whatever name it is called, on the ground of social justice. x x x” (Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. L-80609, August 23, 1988, 164 SCRA 671)

Applying the foregoing in the situation that you have presented before us, we believe that there is no merit for you to demand financial assistance from your former employer considering that you were terminated by reason of alleged theft of office materials, provided that there was due process in your dismissal. We understand that you will use the money you seek to demand for your medical treatment, but to grant you the benefit you wish to claim will go against the principle of social justice as it gives the impression of rewarding you for your misbehavior.

Moreover, our courts have, time and again, recognized the right of an employer to terminate the services of an employee if the same is based on serious misconduct such as theft of company materials and property.

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

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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