The 10 commandments of employee discipline and dismissal
Last year alone, hundreds of adverse rulings were slapped upon scores of companies, resulting to millions of liabilities. It is sad to note that many employers today, either abetted by their HR and personnel managers, or against the professional advice of HR and lawyers, do not really adhere to the provisions of the Labor Code, on the rules of dealing with their own workers in the matter of discipline and dismissal. Despite all the seminars, workshops and symposia, that HR personnel attend regularly, management never seems to learn.
The result could be very damaging, if not disastrous.
An adverse decision by the NLRC and the Supreme Court entails not only an order to reinstate workers and pay them full backwages but also moral and exemplary damages. The greatest damage is upon the good name and corporate image and goodwill of the companies, or an irreparable damage on the harmonious relations between employees and management, resulting to declines in productivity, quality and profits. To help address this problem, this writer is now embarking on an advocacy through the PMAP, the official association of people managers in order to address this problem.
Last week, I was in Baguio, then to Iligan. Today, I am in Davao then later this week, to Cagayan de Oro, in July in Tacloban, Bicol and Batangas. By August, I will conduct seminars in Cebu, Mandaue, and Mactan on the critical need to go back to the rule of law in leading and managing people. I have 10 commandments on employee discipline and dismissal. First, management should respect the workers’ rights in the exercise of the employers’ prerogatives to hire and fire people, to transfer, promote and demote. The Labor Code is explicit and unequivocal.
The DOLE, NLRC and the Supreme Courts are strict and uncompromising. The second commandment is that management should adhere to the specific just causes for termination of employment, under Article 282 of the Code, like serious misconduct, insubordination, fraud, breach of trust, gross and habitual negligence and crimes. Third, employers should follow the authorized causes under Article 283, like redundancy and retrenchment, labor-saving devices and closures. Fourth, the strict rules on due process, under Article 277 (b) should never be compromised.
Fifth, management should always bear in mind that, in illegal dismissal cases, it is the employers and not the complainants who have the burden of proof. Sixth, the proof must be enough to qualify, under the law, and controlling doctrine, as falling within the quantum of substantial evidence. In Cebu alone, many firms failed to comply with these basic principles. The seventh commandment is that management should master the art and science of proper and adequate documentation, from hiring to retiring.
Legal forms should be prepared following the intricate procedures and formalities. The advice of expert lawyers should be sought. Some lawyers may be excellent in criminal and civil laws but are absolutely clueless in the practice of labor laws and labor relations. Any mistake could endanger the viability of the business and the career of CEOs and COOs and some HR executives. Commandment number 8 is the crucial choice of lawyers and consultants and the proper handling of labor cases before the Labor Arbiters and the NLRC, the appellate and the Supreme Court.
The ninth commandment is knowing how to respond to summons, adverse decisions, writs of executions and other legal processes. Out of sheer lack of knowledge or worse, lack of respect for law and fundamental workers’ rights, many monumental mistakes had been committed. The tenth is for management to proactively train their executives, managers and HR staff how to avoid and prevent cases to be filed against the company. A small investment in these forward-looking, developmental and empowering seminars can go a long way in saving the business from the adverse effects of unfavorable court rulings.