Although the Court finds Culili’s dismissal was for a lawful cause and not an act of unfair labor practice, ETPI, however, was remiss in its duty to observe procedural due process in effecting the termination of Culili.
We have previously held that “there are two aspects which characterize the concept of due process under the Labor Code: one is substantive — whether the termination of employment was based on the provision of the Labor Code or in accordance with the prevailing jurisprudence; the other is procedural — the manner in which the dismissal was effected.”
Section 2(d), Rule I, Book VI of the Rules Implementing the Labor Code provides:
(d) In all cases of termination of employment, the following standards of due process shall be substantially observed:
x x x x
For termination of employment as defined in Article 283 of the Labor Code, the requirement of due process shall be deemed complied with upon service of a written notice to the employee and the appropriate Regional Office of the Department of Labor and Employment at least thirty days before effectivity of the termination, specifying the ground or grounds for termination.
In Mayon Hotel & Restaurant v. Adana, we observed:
The requirement of law mandating the giving of notices was intended not only to enable the employees to look for another employment and therefore ease the impact of the loss of their jobs and the corresponding income, but more importantly, to give the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) the opportunity to ascertain the verity of the alleged authorized cause of termination.
ETPI does not deny its failure to provide DOLE with a written notice regarding Culili’s termination. It, however, insists that it has complied with the requirement to serve a written notice to Culili as evidenced by his admission of having received it and forwarding it to his union president.
In Serrano v. National Labor Relations Commission, we noted that “a job is more than the salary that it carries.” There is a psychological effect or a stigma in immediately finding one’s self laid off from work. This is exactly why our labor laws have provided for mandating procedural due process clauses. Our laws, while recognizing the right of employers to terminate employees it cannot sustain, also recognize the employee’s right to be properly informed of the impending severance of his ties with the company he is working for. In the case at bar, ETPI, in effecting Culili’s termination, simply asked one of its guards to serve the required written notice on Culili. Culili, on one hand, claims in his petition that this was handed to him by ETPI’s vice president, but previously testified before the Labor Arbiter that this was left on his table. Regardless of how this notice was served on Culili, this Court believes that ETPI failed to properly notify Culili about his termination. Aside from the manner the written notice was served, a reading of that notice shows that ETPI failed to properly inform Culili of the grounds for his termination.
The Court of Appeals, in finding that Culili was not afforded procedural due process, held that Culili’s dismissal was ineffectual, and required ETPI to pay Culili full backwages in accordance with our decision in Serrano v. National Labor Relations Commission. Over the years, this Court has had the opportunity to reexamine the sanctions imposed upon employers who fail to comply with the procedural due process requirements in terminating its employees. In Agabon v. National Labor Relations Commission, this Court reverted back to the doctrine in Wenphil Corporation v. National Labor Relations Commission and held that where the dismissal is due to a just or authorized cause, but without observance of the due process requirements, the dismissal may be upheld but the employer must pay an indemnity to the employee. The sanctions to be imposed however, must be stiffer than those imposed in Wenphil to achieve a result fair to both the employers and the employees.
In Jaka Food Processing Corporation v. Pacot, this Court, taking a cue from Agabon, held that since there is a clear-cut distinction between a dismissal due to a just cause and a dismissal due to an authorized cause, the legal implications for employers who fail to comply with the notice requirements must also be treated differently:
Accordingly, it is wise to hold that: (1) if the dismissal is based on a just cause under Article 282 but the employer failed to comply with the notice requirement, the sanction to be imposed upon him should be tempered because the dismissal process was, in effect, initiated by an act imputable to the employee; and (2) if the dismissal is based on an authorized cause under Article 283 but the employer failed to comply with the notice requirement, the sanction should be stiffer because the dismissal process was initiated by the employer’s exercise of his management prerogative.
Hence, since it has been established that Culili’s termination was due to an authorized cause and cannot be considered unfair labor practice on the part of ETPI, his dismissal is valid. However, in view of ETPI’s failure to comply with the notice requirements under the Labor Code, Culili is entitled to nominal damages in addition to his separation pay.