Habitual Absenteeism Fire Employee

This article talks about being fired from work or termination of employment due to habitual or numerous absences.

Thinking of being absent from work? Think again. Jurisprudence is replete with cases on habitual absence being a just cause for valid dismissal.

The Supreme Court has unbendingly ruled that punctuality in the office is a reasonable standard imposed on every employee, whether in government or private sector. As a matter of fact, case law in the Philippines considers habitual tardiness as a serious offense, such that this may very well constitute gross or habitual neglect of duty, a just cause to dismiss, even a regular employee.

In the earlier case of Manila Electric Company vs. NLRC and Cortez [G.R. No. 114129, 24 October 1996], wherein the attendance is a factor given the nature of the work of the private respondent, the Supreme Court stated the following:

“In the case at bar, the service record of private respondent with petitioner is perpetually characterized by unexplained absences and unauthorized sick leave extensions.  The nature of his job i.e. as a lineman-driver requires his physical presence to minister to incessant complaints often faulted with electricity.  As aptly stated by the Solicitor General:

“Habitual absenteeism of an errant employee is not concordant with the public service that petitioner has to assiduously provide.  To have delayed power failure in a certain district simply because a MERALCO employee assigned to such area was absent and cannot immediately be replaced is a breach of public service of the highest order.  A deep sense of duty would, therefore, command that private respondent should, at the very least, limit his absence for justifiable reasons.

The penchant of private respondent to continually incur unauthorized absences and/or a violation of petitioner’s sick leave policy finally rendered his dismissal as imminently proper.  Private respondent cannot expect compassion from this Court by totally disregarding his numerous previous infractions and take into considerations only the period covering August 2, 1989 to September 19, 1989.  As ruled by this Court in the cases of Mendoza v. National Labor Relation Commissions, and National Service Corporation v. Leogardo, Jr., it is the totality, not the compartmentalization, of such company infractions that private respondents had consistently committed which justified his penalty of dismissal.

As correctly observed by the Labor Arbiter:

“In the case at bar, it was established that complainant violated respondent’s Code on Employee Discipline, not only once, but ten (10) times.  On the first occasion, complainant was simply warned.  On the second time, he was suspended for 5 days.  With the hope of reforming the complainant, respondent generously imposed penalties of suspension for his repeated unauthorized absences and violations of sick leave policy which constitute violations of the Code.  On the ninth time, complainant was already warned that the penalty of dismissal will be imposed for similar or equally serious violation (Annex “10”).

In total disregard of respondent’s warning, complainant, for the tenth time did not report for work without prior authority from respondent; hence, unauthorized.  Worse, in total disregard of his duties as lineman, he did not report for work from August 1, 1989 to September 19, 1989; thus, seriously affected (sic) respondent’s operations as a public utility.  This constitute[s] a violation of respondent’s Code and gross neglect of duty and serious misconduct under Article 283 of the labor Code.”

Habitual absenteeism should not and cannot be tolerated by petitioner herein which is a public utility company engaged in the business of distributing and selling electric energy within its franchise areas and that the maintenance of Meralco’s distribution facilities (electric lines) by responding to customer’s complaints of power failure, interruptions, line trippings and other line troubles is of paramount importance to the consuming public.

Hence, an employee’s habitual absenteeism without leave, which violated company rules and regulation is sufficient to justify termination from the service.” [Emphasis and underscoring supplied.]

In Filflex Industrial & Manufacturing Corporation vs. NLRC et al [G.R. No. 115395, 12 February 1998], the Supreme Court stated that the ground for dismissal due to absenteeism was valid, thus: 

“In addition to the foregoing discussion, there is an equally cogent reason to sustain the petition. Before reinstatement or back wages may be granted, there must be unjust or illegal dismissal from work. The labor arbiter ruled that private respondent’s “absences and tardiness by itself are sufficient ground for the complainant’s dismissal were it not for reason of sickness which we believe is excusable.” On appeal, however, the NLRC categorically declared that private respondent’s dismissal was wholly justified because her performance was characterized by inefficiency, infractions and absenteeism. Indeed, the records substantiate the following findings of the NLRC:

It was sufficiently established that complainant’s absences from November 11, 1990 until December 18, 1990 are unauthorized. She never informed the respondent of her whereabouts which naturally worked to the prejudice to her work. Complainant’s assertion that she called-up the respondent by telephone, informing them of state of illness is a bare allegation, unsupported by convincing evidence. This [sic] unauthorized absences left no alternative to the respondent but to seek her explanation on the matter (Rollo, p. 48). Complainant, however did not bother to explain within a reasonable period of time and she only showed-up in the respondent’s office on December 19, 1990.

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In this particular, complainant’s attitude toward her work is characterized by infractions and inefficiency. It is undisputed that besides her unauthorized absences from November 11, 1990 to December 18, 1990, she previously incurred various offenses.

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Evidence likewise disclosed that complainant was absent for 10 days during the month of August 1989 and incurred absences without leave on October 6 and 7, 1989, (Rollo, p. 46 to 47). The foregoing infractions show the unsatisfactory work performance of complainant. In the case of Mendoza vs. NLRC, 196 SCRA 606, the Supreme Court held that “the totality of the infractions that petitioner had committed justifies the penalty of dismissal.” Furthermore, complainant was duly informed of the company rules on absences to the fact that a 7th absence within a calendar year constitute habitual unexcused absence. (Rollo, p. 44). Instead however of improving her attendance, complainant continuously ignored the warnings given her by the respondent.” [Emphasis and underscoring supplied.]

In the case of Carvajal vs. Luzon Development Bank [.R. No. 186169, 01 August 2012], the Supreme Court stressed on the importance of punctuality as a reasonable standard imposed on employees:

It is evident that the primary cause of respondent’s dismissal from her probationary employment was her “chronic tardiness.” At the very start of her employment, petitioner already exhibited poor working habits. Even during her first month on the job, she already incurred eight (8) tardiness. In a Memorandum dated 11 December 2003, petitioner was warned that her tardiness might affect her opportunity to become a permanent or regular employee. And petitioner did not provide a satisfactory explanation for the cause of her tardiness.

Punctuality is a reasonable standard imposed on every employee, whether in government or private sector. As a matter of fact, habitual tardiness is a serious offense that may very well constitute gross or habitual neglect of duty, a just cause to dismiss a regular employee. Assuming that petitioner was not apprised of the standards concomitant to her job, it is but common sense that she must abide by the work hours imposed by the bank. As we have aptly stated in Aberdeen Court, Inc. v. Agustin, Jr., the rule on reasonable standards made known to the employee prior to engagement should not be used to exculpate a probationary employee who acts in a manner contrary to basic knowledge and common sense, in regard to which there is no need to spell out a policy or standard to be met.” [Emphasis and underscoring supplied.]

Therefore, habitual absence can be a valid ground for the dismissal of any employee, whether probationary or regular.

If you want to be absent from work, make sure that you have enough leaves to support your absence. Follow proper company procedure in applying for them. If your leaves are insufficient, at the very least, your company should have authorized your absence. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a perpetual sabbatical, without a job, and without the means to pay for what you spent to enjoy your vacation. 

About Nicolas and De Vega Law Offices

If you want to learn how to terminate an employee based on other causes or need help in labor matters, we can help you. Nicolas and De Vega Law Offices is a full-service law firm in the Philippines.  You may visit us at the 16th Flr., Suite 1607 AIC Burgundy Empire Tower, ADB Ave., Ortigas Center, 1605 Pasig City, Metro Manila, Philippines.  You may also call us at +632 84706126, +632 84706130, +632 84016392 or e-mail us at info@ndvlaw.com. Visit our website https://ndvlaw.com  .

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