On the third issue, we find that the penalty of dismissal handed out against Teng was indeed too harsh.
We understand petitioners in asserting that a basketball organization is a “team-based” enterprise and that a harmonious working relationship among team players is essential to the success of the organization. We also take into account the petition of the other team members voicing out their desire to continue with the team without Teng. We note likewise the sentiments of the players and coaching staff during the meeting of February 4, 2001 stating how they felt when Teng “abandoned” them during a crucial Game Number 5 in the MBA championship round.
Petitioners rely heavily on the alleged effects of Teng’s actions on the rest of the team. However, such reaction from team members is expected after losing a game, especially a championship game. It is also not unlikely that the team members looked for someone to blame after they lost the championship games and that Teng happened to be the closest target of the team’s frustration and disappointment. But all these sentiments and emotions from Negros Slashers players and staff must not blur the eyes of the Court from objectively assessing Teng’s infraction in order to determine whether the same constitutes just ground for dismissal. The incident in question should be clear: Teng had a below-par performance during Game Number 4 for which he was pulled out from the game, and then he untied his shoelaces and donned his practice jersey. In Game Number 5, he did not play.
As an employee of the Negros Slashers, Teng was expected to report for work regularly. Missing a team game is indeed a punishable offense. Untying of shoelaces when the game is not yet finished is also irresponsible and unprofessional. However, we agree with the Labor Arbiter that such isolated foolishness of an employee does not justify the extreme penalty of dismissal from service. Petitioners could have opted to impose a fine or suspension on Teng for his unacceptable conduct. Other forms of disciplinary action could also have been taken after the incident to impart on the team that such misconduct will not be tolerated.
In Sagales v. Rustan’s Commercial Corporation, this Court ruled:
Truly, while the employer has the inherent right to discipline, including that of dismissing its employees, this prerogative is subject to the regulation by the State in the exercise of its police power.
In this regard, it is a hornbook doctrine that infractions committed by an employee should merit only the corresponding penalty demanded by the circumstance. The penalty must be commensurate with the act, conduct or omission imputed to the employee and must be imposed in connection with the disciplinary authority of the employer. (Emphasis in the original.)
In the case at bar, the penalty handed out by the petitioners was the ultimate penalty of dismissal. There was no warning or admonition for respondent’s violation of team rules, only outright termination of his services for an act which could have been punished appropriately with a severe reprimand or suspension.