Petitioner

Pedro V. Solis

Respondents

National Labor Relations Commission and Philex Mining Corporation

Ponente

Francisco, J.

Docket Number and Date of Decision

G.R. No. 116175, October 28, 1996

Significance of the Case

In this case, the Supreme Court held that voluntary acceptance of separation pay does not amount to waiver of right to ask for reinstatement.

Facts

Petitioner Solis was employed as an underground miner by Philex. Due to constant exposure to the elements in the mining area, Solis became ill and was medically diagnosed to be afflicted with Koch’s infection. The examining physicians recommended that Solis be assigned to surface work to facilitate his speedy recovery from the illness. This recommendation, however, was not heeded by Philex.

The illness of Solis aggravated. He was later diagnosed to be suffering from tuberculosis (along with other diseases) and was declared unfit to continue working for underground mine. Solis was accordingly dismissed by Philex and was paid his separation pay, which Solis accepted.

Less than six months after his dismissal, Solis submitted himself for medical examination in another hospital, which issued a medical certificate declaring him physically fit. Armed with this new medical certificate, he went back to Philex demanding reinstatement, but to no avail.

Solis then sued Philex for illegal dismissal. Philex claimed that the dismissal is valid since Solis was suffering from contagious diseases.

The Labor Arbiter found that Solis’ dismissal was illegal and ordered Philex to reinstate him and pay him backwages. Philex appealed to the NLRC which also ruled that Solis was illegally dismissed, albeit it disallowed reinstatement in view of the alleged voluntary acceptance by Solis of his “separation pay”.

Issues

  1. Whether or not the medical certificate stating that Solis was “unfit to work underground” sufficient to justify his dismissal from service under Article 284 of the Labor Code; and
  2. Whether or not voluntary acceptance of separation pay amounts to estoppel or waiver of right to asked for reinstatement.

Ruling

  1. Two important requirements (among others) for the dismissal of an employee due to disease are (a) the employee is afflicted with a disease that cannot be cured within 6 months, and (b) a certification to that effect must be issued by a competent public health authority.

    The statement that Solis was “unfit to work underground” does not mean that his ailment cannot be cured within six months. In fact, a subsequent medical examination from another hospital less than six months from the first medical check-up showed that Solis was still physically fit. This negates Philex’s assertion that the dismissal is valid.

  2. The argument that Solis was estopped from claming reinstatement when he accepted his separation pay is bereft of merit. Acceptance of separation pay does not necessarily amount to estoppel nor would it connote waiver of the right to press for reinstatement considering that the acceptance by Solis of the alleged separation pay was made due to a dire financial necessity of having to pay for his hospitalization and medical expenses.  His receipt of said pay does not relieve the company of its legal obligations. Indeed, a dismissed employee who has accepted his separation pay is not necessarily estopped from assailing the illegality of his dismissal.

Last Edited: Sunday, March 20, 2011

Caveat: Subsequent court and administrative rulings, or changes to, or repeal of, laws, rules and regulations may have rendered the whole or part of this article inaccurate or obsolete.
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