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G.R. No. 116384 – 324 SCRA 770 – Civil Law – Torts and damages – Moral and Exemplary Damages
Labor Law – Post-Employment – Termination of Employment – Abandonment of Work – Illegal Dismissal
Viola Cruz was hired and employed by Norkis Distributors, Inc. as cashier/bookkeeper in its Cagayan de Oro City branch and was later transferred to its Valencia, Bukidnon branch. On October 14, 1990, while Cruz and her co-employees were busy making an inventory of the things to be moved preparatory for transfer, Cruz suddenly collapsed. She was rushed to the hospital. Norkis later claimed that it was not informed of Cruz’s sickness, hence, it replaced her. Cruz sent a letter to Norkis to verify the status of her employment. Norkis replied by sending her a termination letter. Cruz filed a complaint for illegal dismissal against Norkis and asked for damages.
ISSUE: Whether or not petitioner is entitled to recover moral and exemplary damages and attorney’s fees from Norkis.
HELD: Yes. There was no ground to terminate Cruz’s employment. Cruz’s inability to work due to her medical condition cannot be considered as abandonment. Norkis cannot claim that it was not informed of Cruz’s sickness because of the very fact that she collapsed while at work and in the presence of her co-workers. Even the termination letter indicated that Cruz was being replaced because her illness made her incapable for work. The award of moral and exemplary damages in Cruz’s favor is warranted by her unjustified dismissal. Award of moral and exemplary damages for an illegally dismissed employee is proper where the employee has been harassed and arbitrarily terminated by the employer. Moral damages may be awarded to compensate one for diverse injuries such as mental anguish, besmirched reputation, wounded feelings and social humiliation occasioned by the employee’s unreasonable dismissal of the employee.