Sunday, January 3, 2016

Loss of trust and confidence under Article 282(c) of the Labor Code

G.R. No. 198620 November 12, 2014

"x x x.

It need not be stressed that the nature or extent of the penalty imposed on an erring employee must be commensurate to the gravity of the offense as weighed against the degree of responsibility and trust expected of the employee’s position. On the other hand,the respondent is not just charged with a misdeed, but with loss of trust and confidence under Article 282(c) of the Labor Code, a cause premised on the fact that the employee holds a position whose functions may only be performed by someone who enjoys the trust and confidence of management. Needless to say, such an employee bears a greater burden of trustworthiness than ordinary workers, and the betrayal of the trust reposed is the essence of the loss of trust and confidence which is a ground for the employee’s dismissal.15

The respondent’s misconduct must be viewed in light of the strictly fiduciary nature of her position.

In addition to its pawnshop operations, the PJLI offers its "Pera Padala" cash remittance service whereby, for a fee or "sending charge," a customer may remit money to a consignee through its network of pawnshop branches all over the country. On October 29, 2007, a customer sent P500.00 through its branch in Capistrano, Cagayan de Oro City, and paid a remittance fee of P40.00. Inexplicably, however, no corresponding entry was made to recognize the cash receipt of P540.00 in the computerized accounting system (operating system) ofthe PJLI. The respondent claimed that she tried very hard but could not trace the source of her unexplained cash surplus of P540.00, but a branch audit conducted sometime in December 2007 showed that it came from a "Pera Padala" customer.

To be sure, no significant financial injury was sustained by the PJLI in the loss of a mereP540.00 in cash, which, according to the respondent she sincerely wanted to account for except that she was pre-empted by fear of what her branch manager might do once she learned of it. But in treating the respondent’s misconduct as a simple negligence or a simple mistake, both the CA and the NLRC grossly failed to consider that she held a position of utmost trust and confidence in the company.

There are two classes of corporate positions of trust: on the one hand are the managerial employees whose primary duty consists of the management of the establishment in which they are employed or of a department or a subdivision thereof, and other officers or members of the managerial staff;on the other hand are the fiduciary rank-and-file employees, such as cashiers, auditors, property custodians, or those who, in the normal exercise of their functions, regularly handle significant amounts of money or property. These employees, though rank-and-file, are routinely charged with the care and custody of the employer’s money or property, and are thus classified as occupying positions of trust and confidence.16

The respondent was first hired by the petitioners as an accounting clerk on June 13, 2003, for which she received a basic monthly salary of P9,353.00. On October 29, 2007, the date of the subject incident, she performed the function of vault custodian and cashier in the petitioners’ Branch 4 pawnshop in Capistrano, Cagayan de Oro City. In addition to her custodial duties, it was the respondent who electronically posted the day’s transactions in the books of accounts of the branch, a function that is essentially separate from that of cashier or custodian. It is plain to see then that when both functions are assigned to one person to perform, a very risky situation of conflicting interests is created whereby the cashier can purloin the money in her custody and effectively cover her tracks, at least temporarily, by simply not recording in the books the cash receipt she misappropriated. This is commonly referred to as lapping of accounts.17 Only a most trusted clerk would be allowed to perform the two functions, and the respondent enjoyed this trust.

The series of willful misconduct committed by the respondent in mishandling the unaccounted cash receipt exposes her as unworthy of the utmost trust inherent in her position as branch cashier and vault custodian and bookkeeper.

x x x."