[G.R. No. 113713.  June 11, 1997]




ANTONIO F. FLORES was hired as crane operator with a monthly salary of US$500.00 (SR1,400) for one (1) year, subject to a 3-month probationary period, by Orient Express Placement Philippines (ORIENT EXPRESS) in behalf of  its foreign  principal Nadrico Saudi Limited  (NADRICO).     However, after  only  one (1) month and five (5) days  in Saudi Arabia, Flores was repatriated to the Philippines.  Consequently, he filed a complaint with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA)  for having been terminated  from work for no valid  reason.[1] ORIENT  EXPRESS   and  NADRICO countered that Flores was terminated for poor job performance as  shown  in his  Performance  Evaluation Sheet dated  4 May 1991[2] and for his uncooperative work attitude.[3]

On 14 July 1992 the POEA rendered a decision in favor of complainant holding that when the  ground invoked for the dismissal  of  an employee was incompetency or poor job performance it must be shown that the reasonable standards of work prescribed by the employer were made known to the employee and that  the latter  failed  to conform to such standards.   In  the case of respondent Flores, it was observed  that  neither  ORIENT EXPRESS nor NADRICO pointed out  the reasonable standards of work required of Flores by which his incompetency was adjudged;  much less did they specify  how  the  latter failed to live up to  such reasonable standards.  Hence, his dismissal was unwarranted.  As a consequence, ORIENT EXPRESS  and NADRICO were ordered jointly and severally to pay respondent Antonio F. Flores the sum of  US$5,416.66 or its peso equivalent representing salaries for the unexpired portion of the contract.[4]

The  National  Labor Relations  Commission  (NLRC) affirmed  the POEA decision on appeal.  In addition, it ruled that the designation of Flores as floorman instead of crane operator for which he was hired  violated his employment contract.  The  NLRC concluded that since Flores never worked as crane operator, his foreign employer  could  not have observed and assessed his performance as such and then come up with a performance evaluation sheet, especially considering his  consistent claim that he was made to work as floorman instead.[5] A motion for reconsideration filed by ORIENT EXPRESS  and NADRICO was subsequently denied.[6]

ORIENT EXPRESS alone instituted this petition.  It imputes grave abuse of discretion against the NLRC in concluding that respondent Flores was never assigned as  crane operator and  for ruling that poor job performance and uncooperative work attitude did not justify his dismissal.

With  respect to the factual issue, we agree  with petitioner  that the POEA and the NLRC  overlooked  the fact that private respondent admitted that he was  able to  work as crane operator  as clearly and  indubitably shown in his Affidavit of 1 August 1991.[7] Erroneous conclusions of the NLRC cannot be upheld by this Court.[8] However, we disagree with petitioner's conclusion that private respondent was validly dismissed for poor job performance and uncooperative work  attitude.  Hence, we deny the petition.

Under Art. 281 of the Labor Code, the services  of an  employee  hired  on a  probationary  basis  may  be terminated  when  he  fails to  qualify as a regular employee  in accordance with  reasonable  standards made known  by  the  employer  to  the  employee  at  the   time   of  his engagement.  However, the Court cannot sustain  his dismissal on this ground because  petitioner  failed to specify the reasonable standards by which private respondent's alleged poor performance was  evaluated, much less to prove that such standards were made known to him at the time of his recruitment in Manila.  Neither private  respondent's   Agency-Worker Agreement[9] with ORIENT EXPRESS nor his Employment Contract[10]take and pass a Crane Operators' License Examination in Saudi Arabia before he would be allowed to even  touch a crane.   Neither did he know that he would be assigned as floorman pending release of the results of the examination or in the event that he failed; more  importantly,  that he would be subjected to a performance  evaluation by his superior one (1) month after his hiring to determine whether the company was amenable to continuing with his employment.  Hence, respondent Flores could not be faulted for precisely harboring the impression that he was hired  as crane operator for a definite period  of  one (1) year to commence upon his arrival at the  work-site and  to  terminate at the end of one  (1)  year.   No other condition  was  laid out except that he was  to  be  on probation  for  three  (3)  months. with NADRICO ever mentioned that he must first

As aforesaid, no standard whatsoever by which such probationary  period could  be hurdled was specified and made known to  him.  Due  process dictates that an employee be apprised beforehand of the condition of his employment and of the terms of advancement therein.  Precisely, implicit in Art. 281 of  the Code  is  the   requirement that reasonable  standards be previously made known  by the employer to   the   probationary   employee   at   the   time  of  his  engagement,  as correctly suggested by  the  POEA.   Obviously,   such  an essential requirement was not met by petitioner, even assuming that Flores'   alleged unsatisfactory performance was true.  Besides, unsatisfactory  performance  is  not  one  of  the just causes for dismissal under the Labor Code.[11]

Petitioner also cites private respondent's alleged uncooperative work attitude as another compelling ground for his termination.  It contends that private respondent was only  willing to do his specific job  and refused to help out as floorman when asked  to do so.

When it is purely a matter of "helping  out" co-employees in urgent need of help, uncooperative work attitude may be worth discussing as  possible ground for  some  kind  of  disciplinary  action  against  the employee.   However,  such a discussion would be essentially academic in the case at bench where private  respondent was  not asked merely to “help out”.  As borne out by private respondent’s allegations, which were not disputed by petitioner, from the moment of  his arrival at the  work-site  in Saudi  Arabia he was immediately assigned as  floorman and not as  crane operator, which was his job specification, on the flimsy excuse that a floorman, not a crane operator,  was more needed at  the work-site.  It  was  only   because  private respondent was bold enough to resist and insist on his proper designation that his foreign supervisors grudgingly relented. However in obvious retaliation to such perceived “uncooperative work attitude,”  private respondent was assigned to work at unholy hours or the  so-called  “graveyard shift,”  i.e.,  from  twelve  o’clock midnight  to twelve o’clock noon.  He was not   familiarized with nor given helpful instructions in the operation of relatively modern cranes.  Instead, after subjecting him to a supposed performance evaluation wherein his performance and work attitude were allegedly found wanting, private respondent was again designated as  floorman, albeit with the  salary  of  a crane  operator.   A few days later he was dismissed and repatriated to the Philippines.  Obviously,  this Court cannot accept as a justifiable ground for his termination his alleged uncooperative work attitude.  On the contrary, we are constrained to sustain the POEA and the NLRC in their unanimous conclusion that private respondent was indeed dismissed illegally.

WHEREFORE, the assailed Decision and Resolution of the National Labor Relations Commission of 29 December 1992 and 26 April 1993,  respectively,  declaring that  private respondent Antonio F. Flores was  illegally  dismissed and awarding  to him Five Thousand Four Hundred Sixteen Dollars and Sixty-Six Cents (US$5,416.66) or its peso equivalent representing salaries for the unexpired portion of his overseas employment contract,  are  AFFIRMED.  Costs against petitioner Orient Express Placement Philippines.


Vitug, Kapunan, and Hermosisima, Jr., JJ., concur.

Padilla, (Chairman), J., on leave.

[1] POEA Case No. (L) - 91-05-571;  Records, pp. 17-18.

[2] Annex "1," Answer to Complaint;  Records, p. 37.

[3] Id., pp. 32-33.

[4] Id., pp. 61-66.

[5] Rollo, pp.  25-31.

[6] Id., p. 23.

[7] See Note 1, pp.  28-29.

[8] Chong Guan Trading v. National Labor Relations Commission, G. R. No. 81471, 26 April 1989, 172 SCRA 831.

[9] Records, p. 48.

[10] Id., pp. 9-10.

[11] A. M. Oreta & Co., Inc. v. National Labor Relations Commission, G. R. No. 74004, 10 August 1989, 176 SCRA 218, 227.