January 2013 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

Here are select January 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on labor law and procedure:

Appeal to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC); Requisites for perfection of appeal; Joint declaration under oath accompanying the surety bond; Substantial compliance with procedural rules.  There was substantial compliance with the NLRC Rules of Procedure when the respondents PAL Maritime Corporation and Western Shipping Agencies, Pte., Ltd. filed, albeit belatedly, the Joint Declaration Under Oath, which is required when an employer appeals from the Labor Arbiter’s decision granting a monetary award and posts a surety bond.  Under the NLRC rules, the following requisites are required to perfect the employer’s appeal: (1) it must be filed within the reglementary period; (2) it must be under oath, with proof of payment of the required appeal fee and the posting of a cash or surety bond; and (3) it must be accompanied by typewritten or printed copies of the memorandum of appeal, stating the grounds relied upon, the supporting arguments, the reliefs prayed for, and a statement of the date of receipt of the appealed decision, with proof of service on the other party of said appeal.  If the employer posts a surety bond, the NLRC rules further require the submission by the employer, his or her counsel, and the bonding company of a joint declaration under oath attesting that the surety bond posted is genuine and that it shall be in effect until the final disposition of the case.

In the case at bar, the respondents posted a surety bond equivalent to the monetary award and filed the notice of appeal and the appeal memorandum within the reglementary period.  When the NLRC subsequently directed the filing of a Joint Declaration Under Oath, the respondents immediately complied with the said order.  There was only a late submission of the Joint Declaration.  Considering that there was substantial compliance with the rules, the same may be liberally construed.  The application of technical rules may be relaxed in labor cases to serve the demands of substantial justice. Rolando L. Cervantes vs. PAL Maritime Corporation and/or Western Shipping Agencies, Pte., Ltd.  G.R. No. 175209. January 16, 2013.

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January 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

Here are selected January 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on labor law and procedure:

Apprenticeship agreement; validity. The apprenticeship agreements did not indicate the trade or occupation in which the apprentice would be trained; neither was the apprenticeship program approved by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). These were defective as they were executed in violation of the law and the rules. Moreover, with the expiration of the first agreement and the retention of the employees, the employer, to all intents and purposes, recognized the completion of their training and their acquisition of a regular employee status. To foist upon them the second apprenticeship agreement for a second skill which was not even mentioned in the agreement itself, is a violation of the Labor Code’s implementing rules and is an act manifestly unfair to the employees. Atlanta Industries, Inc. and/or Robert Chan vs.  Aprilito R. Sebolino, et al., G.R. No. 187320, January 26, 2011.

Complaint; reinstatement. Petitioners question the order to reinstate respondents to their former positions, considering that the issue of reinstatement was never brought up before the Court of Appeals and respondents never questioned the award of separation pay to them. Section 2 (c), Rule 7 of the Rules of Court provides that a pleading shall specify the relief sought, but may add a general prayer for such further or other reliefs as may be deemed just and equitable. Under this rule, a court can grant the relief warranted by the allegation and the evidence even if it is not specifically sought by the injured party; the inclusion of a general prayer may justify the grant of a remedy different from or in addition to the specific remedy sought, if the facts alleged in the complaint and the evidence introduced so warrant. The prayer in the complaint for other reliefs equitable and just in the premises justifies the grant of a relief not otherwise specifically prayed for. Therefore, the court may grant relief warranted by the allegations and the proof even if no such relief is prayed for. In the instant case, aside from their specific prayer for reinstatement, respondents, in their separate complaints, prayed for such reliefs which are deemed just and equitable. Prince Transport, Inc. and Mr. Renato Claros vs. Diosdado Garcia, et al., G.R. No. 167291, January 12, 2011.

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October 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

Here are selected October 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippine on labor law and procedure:

Compensable illness. Respondent is entitled to sickness wages because the shooting pain in his right foot is an injury which he suffered during the course of his employment. This is in consonance with the Standard Terms and Conditions Governing the Employment of Filipino Seafarers On Board Ocean-Going Vessels of the Department of Labor and Employment. Applying the said provisions of this standard contract, respondent is entitled to receive sickness wages covering the maximum period of 120 days. Moreover, petitioners violated the contract when it failed to provide continuous treatment for respondent in accordance with the recommendation of their company physician.  Because of this failure, respondent was forced to seek immediate medical attention at his own expense.  Thus, he is also entitled to reimbursement of his medical expenses. Varorient Shipping Co., Inc., et al. vs. Gil Flores, G.R. No. 161934, October 6, 2010

Compensable illness. For an injury or illness to be duly compensated under the terms of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration-Standard Employment Contract (POEA-SEC), there must be a showing that the injury or illness and the ensuing disability occurred during the effectivity of the employment contract. Moreover, all of these conditions must be satisfied — 1.) The seafarer’s work must involve the risks described in the POEA-SEC; 2.) The disease was contracted as a result of the seafarer’s exposure to the described risks; 3.) The disease was contracted within a period of exposure and under such other factors necessary to contract it;  and 4.) There was no notorious negligence on the part of the seafarer.  Specifically, with respect to mental diseases, the POEA-SEC requires that it must be due to traumatic injury to the head which did not occur in this case.  In fact, respondent claimed that he became depressed due to the frequent verbal abuse he received from his German superiors. However, he failed to show concrete proof that, if indeed he was subjected to abuse, it directly resulted in his depression.  Philippine Transmarine Carriers, Inc., Global Navigation, Ltd. vs.. Silvino A. Nazam, G.R. No. 190804. October 11, 2010.

Constructive dismissal; transfer. It is management prerogative to transfer or assign employees from one office or area of operation to another. However, the employer must show that the transfer is not unreasonable, inconvenient or prejudicial to the employee, or that it does not involve a demotion in rank or a diminution of his salaries, privileges and other benefits.  Should the employer fail to overcome this burden, the employee’s transfer shall be tantamount to constructive dismissal. In the instant case, Del Villar’s demotion is readily apparent in his new designation as a mere Staff Assistant to the Corporate Purchasing and Materials Control Manager from being Transportation Services Manager. The two posts are not of the same weight in terms of duties and responsibilities. Moreover, while Del Villar’s transfer did not result in the reduction of his salary, there was a diminution in his benefits because as a mere Staff Assistant, he could no longer enjoy the use of a company car, gasoline allowance, and annual foreign travel, which he previously enjoyed as Transportation Services Manager. Thus, Del Villar was clearly constructively dismissed. Coca Cola Bottlers Philippines, Inc. vs. Angel U. Del Villar, G.R. No. 163091, October 6, 2010.

Dismissal; closure of business. Petitioner terminated the employment of respondents on the ground of closure or cessation of operation of the establishment which is an authorized cause for termination under Article 283 of the Labor Code. While it is true that a change of ownership in a business concern is not proscribed by law, the sale or disposition must be motivated by good faith as a condition for exemption from liability. In the instant case, however, there was, in fact, no change of ownership. Petitioner did not present any documentary evidence to support its claim that it sold the same to ALPS Transportation.  On the contrary, it continuously operates under the same name, franchises and routes and under the same circumstances as before the alleged sale. Thus, no actual sale transpired and, as such, there is no closure or cessation of business that can serve as an authorized cause for the dismissal of respondents. Peñafrancia Tours and Travel Transport, Inc. vs. Joselito P. Sarmiento and Ricardo S. Catimbang, G.R. No. 178397, October 20, 2010.

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September 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

Here are selected September 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on labor law and procedure:

Labor Law

Compensable illness. The CBA provision states: “If a seafarer/officer, due to no fault of his own, suffers permanent disability as a result of an accident while serving on board or while traveling to or from the vessel on Company’s business or due to marine peril, and as a result, his ability to work is permanently reduced, totally or partially, the Company shall pay him a disability compensation.” “Accident” has been defined as: A fortuitous circumstance, event, or happening, an event happening without any human agency, or if happening wholly or partly through human agency, an event which under the circumstances is unusual and unexpected by the person to whom it happens. The Court holds that the snap on the back of respondent was not an accident, but an injury sustained by respondent from carrying the heavy basketful of fire hydrant caps. The injury cannot be said to be the result of an accident or fortuitous event. It resulted from the performance of a duty.  Although the disability of respondent was not caused by an accident, his disability is still compensable under the CBA provision: “A seafarer/officer who is disabled as a result of any injury, and who is assessed as less than 50% permanently disabled, but permanently unfit for further service at sea in any capacity, shall also be entitled to a 100% compensation.” NFD International Manning Agents, Inc./Barber Ship Management Ltd.  vs. Esmeraldo C. Illescas, G.R. No. 183054, September 29, 2010.

Dismissal; due process. SPO2 Roaquin is entitled to reinstatement since he was dismissed from the service without administrative due process. No one ever filed an administrative action against him in connection with the crime of which he was charged in court. At any rate, assuming that someone filed an administrative charge against Roaquin, still the law required the PNP to give him notice of such charge and the right to answer the same. The PNP gave him no chance to show why he should not be discharged nor does the record show that the PNP investigated him or conducted a summary proceeding to determine his liability in connection with the murder of which he was charged in court.  While the PNP may have validly suspended Roaquin from the service pending the adjudication of the criminal case against him, he is entitled, after his acquittal, to reinstatement and payment of the salaries, allowances, and other benefits withheld from him by reason of his discharge from the service. P/Chief Superintendent Roberto L. Calinisan, etc., et al. vs. SPO2 Reynaldo L. Roaquin, G.R. No. 159588, September 15, 2010.

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August 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

Here are selected August 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on labor law and procedure:

Labor Law

Dismissal; abandonment. Time and again, the Supreme Court has held that abandonment is totally inconsistent with the immediate filing of a complaint for illegal dismissal, more so if the same is accompanied by a prayer for reinstatement. In the present case, however, petitioner filed his complaint more than one year after his alleged termination from employment. Moreover, petitioner did not ask for reinstatement in the complaint form, which he personally filled up and filed with the NLRC. The prayer for reinstatement is made only in the Position Paper that was later prepared by his counsel. This is an indication that petitioner never had the intention or desire to return to his job. Elpidio Calipay vs. National Labor Relations Commission, et al., G.R. No. 166411, August 3, 2010.

Dismissal; burden of proof. In termination cases, the employer has the burden of proving, by substantial evidence that the dismissal is for just cause. If the employer fails to discharge the burden of proof, the dismissal is deemed illegal. In the present case, BCPI failed to discharge its burden when it failed to present any evidence of the alleged fistfight, aside from a single statement, which was refuted by statements made by other witnesses and was found to be incredible by both the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC. Alex Gurango vs. Best Chemicals and Plastic, Inc., et al., G.R. No. 174593, August 25, 2010.

Dismissal; burden of proof. The law mandates that the burden of proving the validity of the termination of employment rests with the employer. Failure to discharge this evidentiary burden would necessarily mean that the dismissal was not justified and, therefore, illegal. Unsubstantiated suspicions, accusations, and conclusions of employers do not provide for legal justification for dismissing employees. In case of doubt, such cases should be resolved in favor of labor, pursuant to the social justice policy of labor laws and the Constitution. Century Canning Corporation, Ricardo T. Po, Jr., et al. vs. Vicente Randy R. Ramil, G.R. No. 171630, August 8, 2010.

Dismissal; due process. In termination proceedings of employees, procedural due process consists of the twin requirements of notice and hearing. The employer must furnish the employee with two written notices before the termination of employment can be effected: (1) the first apprises the employee of the particular acts or omissions for which his dismissal is sought; and (2) the second informs the employee of the employer’s decision to dismiss him. The requirement of a hearing is complied with as long as there was an opportunity to be heard, and not necessarily that an actual hearing was conducted. Pharmacia and Upjohn, Inc., et al. vs. Ricardo P. Albayda, Jr., G.R. No. 172724, August 23, 2010.

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May 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

Here are selected May 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on labor law and procedure:

Labor law

Illegal dismissal; backwages. The basis for the payment of backwages is different from that for the award of separation pay.  Separation pay is granted where reinstatement is no longer advisable because of strained relations between the employee and the employer.  Backwages represent compensation that should have been earned but were not collected because of the unjust dismissal.  The basis for computing backwages is usually the length of the employee’s service while that for separation pay is the actual period when the employee was unlawfully prevented from working.

As to how both awards should be computed, Macasero v. Southern Industrial Gases Philippines [G.R. No. 178524, January 30, 2009] instructs that the award of separation pay is inconsistent with a finding that there was no illegal dismissal, for under Article 279 of the Labor Code and as held in a catena of cases, an employee who is dismissed without just cause and without due process is entitled to backwages and reinstatement or payment of separation pay in lieu thereof. Thus, an illegally dismissed employee is entitled to two reliefs: backwages and reinstatement.  The two reliefs provided are separate and distinct.  Golden Ace Builders and Arnold U. Azur vs. Jose A. Talde, G.R. No. 187200, May 5, 2010.

Illegal dismissal; doctrine of strained relations. Under the doctrine of strained relations, the payment of separation pay is considered an acceptable alternative to reinstatement when the latter option is no longer desirable or viable.  On one hand, such payment liberates the employee from what could be a highly oppressive work environment.  On the other hand, it releases the employer from the grossly unpalatable obligation of maintaining in its employ a worker it could no longer trust.

Strained relations must be demonstrated as a fact, however, to be adequately supported by evidence— substantial evidence to show that the relationship between the employer and the employee is indeed strained as a necessary consequence of the judicial controversy.

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April 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

Here are selected April 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on labor law and procedure:

Labor Law

Dismissal; backwages. Article 279 of the Labor Code provides that “an employee who is unjustly dismissed from work shall be entitled to reinstatement without loss of seniority rights and other privileges and to his full backwages, inclusive of allowances, and to his other benefits or their monetary equivalent computed from the time his compensation was withheld from him up to the time of his actual reinstatement.”

Thus, a number of cases holds that an illegally dismissed employee is entitled to two reliefs: backwages and reinstatement.  The two reliefs are separate and distinct. In instances where reinstatement is no longer feasible because of strained relations between the employee and the employer, separation pay is granted.  In effect, an illegally dismissed employee is entitled to either reinstatement, if viable, or separation pay if reinstatement is no longer viable, and backwages.

The normal consequences of respondents’ illegal dismissal, then, are reinstatement without loss of seniority rights, and payment of backwages computed from the time compensation was withheld up to the date of actual reinstatement.  Where reinstatement is no longer viable as an option, separation pay equivalent to one (1) month salary for every year of service should be awarded as an alternative.  The payment of separation pay is in addition to the payment of backwages.

Since reinstatement is no longer feasible in the present case, the award of separation pay in lieu of reinstatement is in order.  Petitioner’s prayer for the award of backwages is meritorious, it, and the award of separation pay not being mutually exclusive. Ferdinand A. Pangilinan vs. Wellmade Manufacturing Corporation, G.R. No. 187005, April 7, 2010.

Dismissal; backwages. Reprimand being the appropriate imposable penalty for respondent’s actuations from the very beginning, the Court finds that respondent was unfairly denied from reporting for work and earning his keep, thus, entitling him to the payment of backwages.

The Court is not unmindful of our previous pronouncements in similar cases involving suspension or dismissal from service, wherein the penalty imposed was reduced, but the award of backwages was denied.

Given the circumstances of the case, however, where the proper penalty should only be a reprimand, the Court finds the aforementioned cases to be inapplicable herein. On this note, the Court deems it proper to distinguish between the penalties of dismissal or suspension and reprimand and their respective effects on the grant or award of backwages. When an employee is dismissed or suspended it is but logical that since he is barred from reporting to work the same negates his right to be paid backwages. He has no opportunity to work during the period he was dismissed or suspended and, therefore, he has no salary to expect. However, the same does not hold true for an employee who is reprimanded. A reprimand usually carries a warning that a repetition of the same or similar act will be dealt with more severely. Under normal circumstances, an employee who is reprimanded is never prevented from reporting to work. He continues to work despite the warning. Thus, in the case at bar, since respondent’s penalty should only be a reprimand, the Court deems it proper and equitable to affirm the Court of Appeals’ (CA’s) award of backwages.

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