Assault between employees inside the company premises

Assault between employees inside the company premises
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Dear PAO,

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After work hours, two of my co-employees argued about owing each other money, while they were still in the office. They pushed each other slightly until they were immediately stopped by their supervisor. This is the first time that the incident happened. Can our employer terminate their employment based on their altercation?

Gil

Dear Gil,

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While an employer is given a wide latitude of discretion in managing its own affairs, in the promulgation of policies, rules and regulations on work-related activities of its employees, and in the imposition of disciplinary measures on them, the exercise of disciplining power, including the imposition of appropriate penalties on erring employees, must be practiced in good faith and for the advancement of the employer’s interest; never for the purpose of defeating or circumventing the rights of employees under special laws or under valid agreements.

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Relatedly, under our Labor Code, an employer may terminate an employment due to an employee’s serious misconduct. In the case of G & S Transport Corporation vs. Reynaldo A. Medina (GR 243768, Sept. 5, 2022) the Supreme Court, through Associate Justice Ramon Paul Hernando, discussed the requisites to justify termination on the ground of serious misconduct, viz.:

“Misconduct is generally defined as ‘a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, willful in character, and implies wrongful intent and not mere error in judgment.’ Under Article 297 of the Labor Code, an employer may terminate the services of an employee on the ground of serious misconduct committed in connection with or relative to the performance of his duties:

“Art. 297. [282] Termination by Employer. — An employer may terminate an employment for any of the following causes:

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“(a) Serious misconduct or willful disobedience by the employee of lawful orders of his employer or representative in connection with his work; xxx

“In labor cases, misconduct, as a ground for dismissal, must be serious or of such grave and aggravated character and not merely trivial or unimportant. To justify termination on the ground of serious misconduct, the following requisites must concur: (1) the misconduct must be serious; (2) it must relate to the performance of the employee’s duties, showing that the employee has become unfit to continue working for the employer; and (3) it must have been performed with wrongful intent.

“Here, none of the requisites for serious misconduct is present. To reiterate, the CA found that only a petty quarrel involving shoving or slight pushing transpired between Medina and Pogoy. The same was ‘nipped in the bud by the intervention of the security guards on duty and Viggayan. It did not cause work stoppage nor posed a threat to the safety of the other employees. [G&S] did not show how [Medina’s] misconduct has adversely affected its business, or how [Medina] has become unfit to continue working for the company.’ Thus, there was no just cause for the termination of Medina’s employment with G & S.”

Applying the foregoing discussion, the altercation between your co-employees may be considered not serious because they pushed each other slightly, and they were immediately stopped by their supervisor. What happened between your co-employees could not have adversely affected the business of your employer, nor rendered your co-employees unfit to continue working for the company.

In addition, the incident happened after work hours, which indicated that it did not cause a work stoppage. The altercation is also not related to the performance of their duties, as it is about a loan.

Accordingly, absent any or all of the requisites, your employer has no just cause to terminate the employment of your co-employees involved in the altercation.

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. 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 on.


Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to [email protected]

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