Demoted and Dismissed BPO Employees win Legal battle
On September 13, 2012, Ramon F. Villegas received a Notice of Termination. The letter state its reason being a company cost-management initiative undertaken to reduce global General and Administrative (G&A) cost structure. The latter aims to identify the roles that can be reduced or eliminated to help restore favorable cost ratios determining Villegas’ position was as one of those to be eliminated. The effective date of his separation is October 13, 2012.
However, much to Villegas’ dismay, he came to know that contrary to the company’s supposed cost-cutting initiatives, it still continuously hires and employs employees. Worst, records reveal that Villegas was not included in the list of employees whom the company reported with Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Makati/Pasay Field Office as terminated employees due to redundancy.
On the part of Jemyr C. Agosto and Ramon Christopher V. Pascua, who claim that because of sustained good performance and commitment, were promoted to Senior Customer Service Representative (CSR III) with their promotion contract stating effective date May 1, 2012. Then, on July 13, 2012, because of consistent valued performance, Agosto and Pascua were again promoted to Team Lead, Service Delivery with their promotion contract stating effective date July 16, 2012.
However, despite such promise, commitment and undertaking to revise their benefits, Agosto and Pascua noticed that their respective compensations have not been increased or improved. They are still receiving a monthly basic pay of Php14,000 contrary to the company’s promise of Php24,000 as team leaders. The discrepancy was raised to their Operations Manager, Hazel Rivera. However, it was not acted upon. Worst, upon immediately raising the complaint, Agosto and Pascua, received an email that they are demoted from a Team Leader back to a Senior Representative.
Agosto and Pascua questioned their demotion, but they were merely informed and requested to tender their resignations if they cannot abide with the management’s decision. Sadden by the circumstances and forced against the wall, Agosto and Pascua were left without recourse but to tender their respective (involuntary) resignations.
Teletech, for their part, hired Roberto F. Villegas, as a Team Leader on March 14, 2011 and was assigned to the T-Mobile USA-Gencare Line of Business (“Gencare LOB”) in Teletech’s Pioneer Delivery Center. His employment ceased on October 13, 2012 due to redundancy.
Sometime during the third quarter of 2012, Teletech conducted a review of the headcount resources of all delivery centers of Teletech, including the Pioneer Delivery Center with the view to achieving an optimum headcount thus to determine the number of any additional or excess headcounts vis-à-vis the actual requirements of the company. Based on the review, Teletech determined that the ideal “team lead to call center agents ratio” is 1:15 or one team lead for every 15 call center agents.
At the time of his dismissal, Villegas was supervising 12 call center agents. Moreover, there were 9 team leads and 92 call center agents in the Gencare LOB, resulting in an inefficient and unfavorable ratio of 1:10. This meant that there was an excess number of Team Leaders in the Gencare LOB.
Teletech applied the general criteria of performance rating and tenure of which these criteria were further broken down into sub-criteria. Teletech applied the criteria uniformly and objectively to the affected employees and three leaders of the Pioneer Delivery Center, including Villegas, who were identified as redundant. Villegas, as well as another team leader had the lowest three-month cumulative performance rating of 51%. The other team leader of Pioneer Delivery Center belonged to another line of business of T-Mobile USA that was outsourced to Teletech.
On the complaints of Agosto and Pascua, Teletech hired both employees on May 30, 2011. At the time of their resignation, on September 26 and 27, 2012, they were working as Senior CSRs. On July 16, 2012, Teletech’s Service Delivery Manager, Emeflor Ilagan informed Agosto and Pascua that they were identified for possible promotion to Team Leader positions. Ilagan advised them to undergo TL101, a training program requisite for promotion to a Team Leader and after which is a 4-week program with targets set by their managers. Nevertheless, they will not become a full-fledged Team Leaders until: (a) they complete and pass the training program for Team Leaders; and (b) there are available Team Leader positions for them.
However, even before Agosto and Pascua could finish the training program, it became apparent from a review of the headcount resources that there was an excess in the number of Team Leaders vis-à-vis the actual requirements of Teletech T-mobile account. In fact redundancy program had to be implemented. Hence, on August 31, 2012, Ilagan informed Agosto and Pascua that they will remain as CSRs because of the non-availability of the Team Leader positions.
The issues posed for adjudication in this case, are whether the complainants, Villegas, Agosto and Pascua were illegally dismissed from their employment and whether they are entitled to their monetary claims, damages and attorney’s fees.
Basic is the rule that in the labor cases, the employer has the burden of proving that the employee was not dismissed or if dismissed, that the dismissal was not illegal, and failure to discharge the same would mean that the dismissal is not justified and therefore illegal.
However, after careful evaluation of the evidences submitted by the parties, the Office is persuaded that Teletech failed to overcome the burden to prove the factual and legal basis for the dismissal of its employees on the ground of redundancy.
In accordance to the requisites of a valid redundancy program: First, Teletech did not submit any establishment report with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) at least one month prior to effective date of separation. As culled from the records of the case, that “no record on file July 2012 to September 2012”. Second, Teletech failed to establish good faith in abolishing the redundant position. The termination letter did not specify that it utilized fair and reasonable criteria in selecting Villegas as subject of the redundancy program. The evidence submitted by Teletech that Villegas was within its non-performing employees (Three-month cumulative performance rating) are clearly self-serving and remained uncontroverted as it was not properly authenticated and verified by the person who prepared the same.
For complainants Agosto and Pascua, Teletech posit that they voluntarily resigned from Teletech as defense to the complaints for constructive illegal dismissal.
Basic is the rule that the burden of proof is on the part of the party who makes the allegation. Further, it is settled doctrine that the filing of a complaint for illegal dismissal is inconsistent with resignation.
In this case, evidences show that Agosto and Pascua’s resignations were involuntary. First, while complainants were given promotion contracts, from Senior CSR to Team Leader, they were not receiving the corresponding salary increase from Php14,000 to Php24,000. Second, the complaints were filed a week before the Office on September 17, 2012 or a week before submitting their respective resignations on September 26 and 27, 2012. As such, the foregoing constrained the complainants to submit their resignations instead of face discrimination, hostility and ill-treatment from the company.
WHEREFORE, the judgement was hereby rendered favorable to all  complainants Roberto F. Villegas, Jemyr C. Agosto and Ramon Christopher V. Pascua, and thus ordering, Teletech Customer Care Management Philippines to pay each: full back wages inclusive of allowances and other mandatory benefits; separation pay equivalent to 1 month pay per year of service; moral and exemplary damages in the sum of Php130,000.00 plus attorney’s fees.