November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law

Here are selected November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on labor law:

Collective bargaining agreement; exclusive bargaining status. While the parties may agree to extend the CBA’s original five-year term together with all other CBA provisions, any such amendment or term in excess of five years will not carry with it a change in the union’s exclusive collective bargaining status. By express provision of the above-quoted Article 253-A, the exclusive bargaining status cannot go beyond five years and the representation status is a legal matter not for the workplace parties to agree upon. In other words, despite an agreement for a CBA with a life of more than five years, either as an original provision or by amendment, the bargaining union’s exclusive bargaining status is effective only for five years and can be challenged within sixty (60) days prior to the expiration of the CBA’s first five years.

In the present case, the CBA was originally signed for a period of five years, i.e., from February 1, 1998 to January 30, 2003, with a provision for the renegotiation of the CBA’s other provisions at the end of the 3rd year of the five-year CBA term. Thus, prior to January 30, 2001 the workplace parties sat down for renegotiation but instead of confining themselves to the economic and non-economic CBA provisions, also extended the life of the CBA for another four months, i.e., from the original expiry date on January 30, 2003 to May 30, 2003.

As discussed above, this negotiated extension of the CBA term has no legal effect on the FVCLU-PTGWO’s exclusive bargaining representation status which remained effective only for five years ending on the original expiry date of January 30, 2003. Thus, sixty days prior to this date, or starting December 2, 2002, SANAMA-SIGLO could properly file a petition for certification election. Its petition, filed on January 21, 2003 or nine (9) days before the expiration of the CBA and of FVCLU-PTGWO’s exclusive bargaining status, was seasonably filed.

We thus find no error in the appellate court’s ruling reinstating the DOLE order for the conduct of a certification election. FVC Labor Union-Philippine Transport and General Workers Organization (FVCLU-PTGWO) Vs. Sama-samang Nagkakaisang Manggagawa sa FVC-Solidarity of Independet and General Labor Organization (SANAMA-FVC-SIGLO), G.R. No. 176249, November 27, 2009.

Dismissal; attorney’s fees. In San Miguel Corporation v. Aballa, thr Court held that in actions for recovery of wages or where an employee was forced to litigate and thus incur expenses to protect his rights and interests, a maximum of 10% of the total monetary award by way of attorney’s fees is justifiable under Article 111 of the Labor Code; Section 8, Rule VIII of Book III of the Omnibus Rules Implementing the Labor Code; and paragraph 7, Article 2208 of the Civil Code. The award of attorney’s fees is proper and there need not be any showing that the employer acted maliciously or in bad faith when it withheld the wages. There need only be a showing that the lawful wages were not paid accordingly.   Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company vs. Inocencio B. Berbano, Jr., G.R. No. 165199, November 27, 2009.

Dismissal; misconduct. Misconduct has been defined as improper or wrong conduct. It is the transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, willful in character, and implies wrongful intent and not mere error of judgment. Ordinary misconduct would not justify the termination of services of the employee as the Labor Code is explicit that the misconduct must be serious. To be serious, the misconduct must be of such grave and aggravated character and not merely trivial and unimportant. Such misconduct, however serious, must nevertheless be in connection with the employee’s work to constitute just cause for his separation. As amplified by jurisprudence, misconduct, to be a just cause for dismissal, must (a) be serious; (b) relate to the performance of the employee’s duties; and (c) show that the employee has become unfit to continue working for the employer. Moreover, in National Labor Relations Commission v. Salgarino, this Court stressed that “[i]n order to constitute serious misconduct which will warrant the dismissal of an employee under paragraph (a) of Article 282 of the Labor Code, it is not sufficient that the act or conduct complained of has violated some established rules or policies. It is equally important and required that the act or conduct must have been performed with wrongful intent.”

We believe that the misconduct of respondent is not of serious nature as to warrant respondent’s dismissal from service. The records of this case are bereft of any showing that the alleged misconduct was performed by respondent with wrongful intent. On the contrary, respondent readily admitted having installed the service features in his brother-in-law’s telephone line for purposes of study and research which could have benefited petitioner.  Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company vs. Inocencio B. Berbano, Jr., G.R. No. 165199, November 27, 2009.

Dismissal; misconduct. Article 282(a) of the Labor Code states that the employer may terminate an employment for serious misconduct. Drug use in the premises of the employer constitutes serious misconduct.  Noel B. Bagtas vs. Hon. Ruth C. Santos, etc. et al.,  G.R. No. 166682, November 27, 2009.

Dismissal; notice. Dismissal from service of an employee is valid if the following requirements are complied with: (a) substantive due process which requires that the ground for dismissal is one of the just or authorized causes enumerated in the Labor Code, and (b) procedural due process which requires that the employee be given an opportunity to be heard and defend himself. The employee must be furnished two written notices — the first notice apprises the employee of the particular act or omission for which his dismissal is sought, and the second notice informs the employee of the employer’s decision to dismiss him.  Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company vs. Inocencio B. Berbano, Jr., G.R. No. 165199, November 27, 2009.

Dismissal; relief. An illegally dismissed employee is entitled to the twin reliefs of (a) either reinstatement or separation pay, if reinstatement is no longer viable, and (b) backwages. These reliefs are given to alleviate the economic damage suffered by the illegally dismissed employee.  Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company vs. Inocencio B. Berbano, Jr., G.R. No. 165199, November 27, 2009.

Reinstatement; strained relations. Under the law and prevailing jurisprudence, an illegally dismissed employee is entitled to reinstatement as a matter of right. However, if reinstatement would only exacerbate the tension and strained relations between the parties, or where the relationship between the employer and the employee has been unduly strained by reason of their irreconcilable differences, particularly where the illegally dismissed employee held a managerial or key position in the company, it would be more prudent to order payment of separation pay instead of reinstatement.

In order for the doctrine of strained relations to apply, it should be proved that the employee concerned occupies a position where he enjoys the trust and confidence of his employer and that it is likely that if reinstated, an atmosphere of antipathy and antagonism may be generated as to adversely affect the efficiency and productivity of the employee concerned.

This Court is of the opinion that both the LA and the CA based their conclusions on impression alone. It bears to stress that reinstatement is the rule and, for the exception of strained relations to apply, it should be proved that it is likely that if reinstated, an atmosphere of antipathy and antagonism would be generated as to adversely affect the efficiency and productivity of the employee concerned. However, both the LA and the CA failed to state the basis for their finding that a strained relationship exists.

Based on the foregoing, this Court upholds the ruling of the NLRC finding the doctrine of strained relations inapplicable to the factual circumstances of the case at bar. Reynaldo G. Cabigting vs. San Miguel Foods, Inc., G.R. No. 167706, November 5, 2009.

Note on this posting:  As of the date of this post, not all Supreme Court decisions promulgated on November 2009 were available online.  This post will be updated when the November 2009 decisions become available.

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