Published 18 April 2022, The Daily Tribune
Employees’ unpleasant behavior in the workplace has been a common source of trouble not only for the employers, but also for other employees. There are situations when an employee’s negative attitude affects not only his or her professional relationship with co-workers, but also, his/her productivity or work quality. It is even worse when such behavior disrupts the business operation of his/her employer or causes co-workers to suffer emotionally and mentally and resign from work. Attitude problem may be demonstrated through an employee’s inability to work harmoniously with, and arrogance or disrespect toward his/her co-workers.
Under prevailing jurisprudence, the Supreme Court has held that an employee’s attitude problem is a ground to validly dismiss an employee from service. In my 9 December 2019 Article entitled “You’re Fired,” I discussed the just causes for termination of employment under Article 297 of the Labor Code. These are serious misconduct, willful disobedience, gross and habitual neglect of duties, fraud or willful breach of trust, loss of confidence, commission of a crime or offense, and other causes analogous to the foregoing.
In the case of Heavylift Manila Inc. vs Court of Appeals (GR 154410, 20 October 2005), the Supreme Court held that “an employee’s attitude problem is a valid ground for his termination. It is a situation analogous to loss of trust and confidence that must be duly proved by the employer.”
The High Court explained that “an employee who cannot get along with his co-employees is detrimental to the company for he can upset and strain the working environment. Without the necessary teamwork and synergy, the organization cannot function well. Thus, management has the prerogative to take the necessary action to correct the situation and protect its organization.
When personal differences between employees and management affect the work environment, the peace of the company is affected.”
Since the burden to prove an employee’s attitude problem rests on the employer, allegations of attitude problem must be supported by substantial evidence, which is defined as “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. (JR Hauling Services vs Solamo, et al., GR 214294, 30 September 2020)”
Unsubstantiated suspicions, accusations and conclusions of employers do not provide for legal justification for dismissing an employee. (Century Canning Corporation vs Ramil, GR 171630, 8 August 2010) Thus, verbal negative feedback from workmates concerning their co-workers’ attitude problem is not enough.
In the JR Hauling Services case, it was held that in labor cases, affidavits may be sufficient to establish substantial evidence, and affidavits executed by various co-employees constitute substantial evidence.
In Sy vs Neat Inc., GR 213748, 27 November 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that reports or sworn statements narrating the instances when the subject employee displayed attitude problems at work, as well as previous performance appraisal indicating unsatisfactory evaluation of work, may be presented as evidence to support a finding or conclusion that said employee has attitude problems which may justify his/her dismissal from service.
However, in situations involving a worker’s attitude problem, the penalty of dismissal from service need not be the automatic or immediate punishment to be imposed upon the employee concerned. Depending on the nature, gravity and repercussion of the worker’s negative behavior, and such other relevant considerations, the employer may consider penalties such as verbal warning, written warning, reprimand, and suspension. Note also that if attitude problem is among the offenses under an existing company policy or employees’ handbook, the corresponding stated penalty (which may not necessarily be dismissal from service) should be imposed.
While employers have the management prerogative to address situations concerning their employees’ attitude problems, imposition of punishments may not necessarily be the best approach. Employers should consider ascertaining the real reason behind a worker’s bad behavior at work, which may be caused by some external factors such as personal and/or family problems, and help the employee rectify his/her previous negative behavior, if still possible.
The best employers, after all, are those who make their employees happy.