February 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

Here are select February 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court on labor law and procedure:

Appeal; factual finding of NLRC. Findings of fact of administrative agencies and quasi-judicial bodies, which have acquired expertise because their jurisdiction is confined to specific matters, are generally accorded not only respect but finality when affirmed by the Court of Appeals. Factual findings of quasi-judicial bodies like the NLRC, if supported by substantial evidence, are accorded respect and even finality by the Supreme Court, more so when they coincide with those of the Labor Arbiter. Such factual findings are given more weight when the same are affirmed by the Court of Appeals. In the present case, the Supreme Court found no reason to depart from these principles since the Labor Arbiter found that there was substantial evidence to conclude that Oasay had breached the trust and confidence of Palacio Del Gobernador Condominium Corporation, which finding the NLRC had likewise upheld. Sebastian F. Oasay, Jr. vs. Palacio del Gobernador Condominium Corporation and Omar T. Cruz, G.R. No. 194306, February 6, 2012.

Civil Service; Clark Development Corporation. Clark Development Corporation (CDC) owes its existence to Executive Order No. 80 issued by then President Fidel V. Ramos. It was meant to be the implementing and operating arm of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority tasked to manage the Clark Special Economic Zone. Expressly, CDC was formed in accordance with Philippine corporation laws and existing rules and regulations promulgated by the Securities and Exchange Commission pursuant to Section 16 of Republic Act 7227. CDC, a government owned or controlled corporation without an original charter, was incorporated under the Corporation Code. Pursuant to Article IX-B, Sec. 2(1) of the Constitution, the civil service embraces only those government owned or controlled corporations with original charter. As such, CDC and its employees are covered by the Labor Code and not by the Civil Service Law. Antonio B. Salenga, et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 174941, February 1, 2012.

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February 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

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

Abandonment; elements. Respondents filed an illegal dismissal case against the petitioner-corporation. For its defense, petitioner-corporation alleged that the respondents abandoned their work and were not dismissed, and that it sent letters advising respondents to report for work, but they refused. The Court held that for abandonment to exist, it is essential (a) that the employee must have failed to report for work or must have been absent without valid or justifiable reason; and (b) that there must have been a clear intention to sever the employer-employee relationship manifested by some overt acts. The employer has the burden of proof to show the employee’s deliberate and unjustified refusal to resume his employment without any intention of returning. Mere absence is not sufficient. There must be an unequivocal intent on the part of the employee to discontinue his employment. Based on the evidence presented, the reason why respondents failed to report for work was because petitioner-corporation barred them from entering its construction sites. It is a settled rule that failure to report for work after a notice to return to work has been served does not necessarily constitute abandonment. The intent to discontinue the employment must be shown by clear proof that it was deliberate and unjustified. Petitioner-corporation failed to show overt acts committed by respondents from which it may be deduced that they had no more intention to work.  Respondents’ filing of the case for illegal dismissal barely four (4) days from their alleged abandonment is totally inconsistent with the known concept of what constitutes abandonment. E.G. & I. Construction Corporation and Edsel Galeos v. Ananias P. Sato, et al., G.R. No. 182070, February 16, 2011.

Certification election; petition for cancellation of union registration. Respondent union filed a petition for certification election. Petitioner moved to dismiss the petition for certification election alleging the pendency of a petition for cancellation of the union’s registration. The DOLE Secretary ruled in favor of the legitimacy of the respondent as a labor organization and ordered the immediate conduct of a certification election. Pending appeal in the Court of Appeals, the petition for cancellation was granted and became final and executory. Petitioner argued that the cancellation of the union’s certificate of registration should retroact to the time of its issuance. Thus, it claimed that the union’s petition for certification election and its demand to enter into collective bargaining agreement with the petitioner should be dismissed due to respondent’s lack of legal personality. The Court ruled that the pendency of a petition for cancellation of union registration does not preclude collective bargaining, and that an order to hold a certification election is proper despite the pendency of the petition for cancellation of the union’s registration because at the time the respondent union filed its petition, it still had the legal personality to perform such act absent an order cancelling its registration.  Legend International Resorts Limited v. Kilusang Manggagawa ng Legenda, G.R. No. 169754, February 23, 2011.

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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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November 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

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

Appeal; determination of date of filing. Under Section 3, Rule 13 of the Rules of Court, where the filing of pleadings, appearances, motions, notices, orders, judgments, and all other papers with the court/tribunal is made by registered mail, the date of mailing, as shown by the post office stamp on the envelope or the registry receipt, shall be considered as the date of filing. Thus, the date of filing is determinable from two sources:  from the post office stamp on the envelope or from the registry receipt, either of which may suffice to prove the timeliness of the filing of the pleadings. If the date stamped on one is earlier than the other, the former may be accepted as the date of filing. In this case, to prove that it mailed the notice of appeal and appeal memorandum on October 27, 1997, instead of October 28, 1997, as shown by the stamped date on the envelope, petitioner presented Registry Receipt No. 34581 bearing the earlier date. Government Service Insurance System vs. National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), Dionisio Banlasan, et al., G.R. No. 180045, November 17, 2010.

Appeal; filed out of time; exceptional cases. An appeal must be perfected within the statutory or reglementary period.  This is not only mandatory, but also jurisdictional.  Failure to perfect the appeal on time renders the assailed decision final and executory and deprives the appellate court or body of the legal authority to alter the final judgment, much less entertain the appeal. However, in exceptional cases, a belated appeal may be given due course if greater injustice will be visited upon the party should the appeal be denied. This is to serve the greater principles of substantial justice and equity. Technical rules are not binding in labor cases and are not to be applied strictly if the result would be detrimental to the working man. In the instant case, even if the appeal was filed one day late, the same should have been entertained by the NLRC. Government Service Insurance System vs. National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), Dionisio Banlasan, et al., G.R. No. 180045, November 17, 2010.

Compensable illness; work-relatedness.  Granting arguendo that petitioner’s illness was not pre-existing, he still had to show that his illness not only occurred during the term of his contract but also that it resulted from a work-related injury or illness, or at the very least aggravated by the conditions of the work for which he was contracted for.  Petitioner failed to discharge this burden, however. That the exact and definite cause of petitioner’s illness is unknown cannot be used to justify grant of disability benefits, absent proof that there is any reasonable connection between work actually performed by petitioner and his illness.  Jerry M. Francisco, vs. Bahia Shipping Services, Inc. and/or Cynthia C. Mendoza, and Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, Ltd., G.R. No. 190545,  November 22, 2010.

Dismissal; illegal strike; distinction between union officers and mere members. The liabilities of individuals who participate in an illegal strike must be determined under Article 264 (a) of the Labor Code which makes a distinction between union officers and mere members.  The law grants the employer the option of declaring a union officer who knowingly participated in an illegal strike as having lost his employment. However, a worker merely participating in an illegal strike may not be terminated from employment if he does not commit illegal acts during a strike. Hence, with respect to respondents who are union officers, their termination by petitioners is valid.  Being fully aware that the proceedings before the Secretary of Labor were still pending as in fact they filed a motion for reconsideration, they cannot invoke good faith as a defense. For the rest of the individual respondents who are union members, they cannot be terminated for mere participation in the illegal strike.  Solid Bank Corp. Ernesto U. Gamier, et al. and Solid Bank Corp., et al. vs. Solid Bank Union and its Dismissed Officers and Members, et al. G.R. No. 159460 and G.R. No. 159461, November 15, 2010.

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June 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

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

Labor Law

Acceptance of Benefits, render moot claim under other policies.  As in the case of Capili v. National Labor Relations Commission [273 SCRA 576], a claim for benefit under the company’s retirement plan becomes moot when the employee accepts retirement benefits on the basis of Article 287 of the Labor Code.  By Yuson’s acceptance of her retirement benefits through a compromise agreement entered into with her employer, she is deemed to have opted to retire under Article 287. Korean Air Co., Ltd and Suk Kyoo Kim v. Adelina A.S. Yuson, G.R. No. 170369, June 16, 2010.

Approval for company’s early retirement program; management prerogative.  Approval of applications for the early retirement program (“ERP”) is within the employer’s management prerogatives.  The exercise of management prerogative is valid as long as it is not done in a malicious, harsh, oppressive, vindictive, or wanton manner. In the present case, the Court sees no bad faith on the part of the employer.  The 21 August 2001 memorandum clearly states that petitioner, on its discretion, was offering ERP to its employees.  The memorandum also states that the reason for the ERP was to prevent further losses.  Petitioner did not abuse its discretion when it excluded respondent in the ERP because the latter is already about to retire.  To allow respondent to avail of the ERP would have been contrary to the purpose of the program. Korean Air Co., Ltd and Suk Kyoo Kim v. Adelina A.S. Yuson, G.R. No. 170369, June 16, 2010.

Constructive dismissal; definition; transfer as management prerogative. Constructive dismissal is defined as a quitting because continued employment is rendered impossible, unreasonable or unlikely, or when there is a demotion in rank or a diminution of pay. It exists when an act of clear discrimination, insensibility or disdain by an employer has become so unbearable to the employee leaving him with no option but to forego with his continued employment.

Here, there was no diminution of petitioner’s salary and other benefits.  There was no evidence that she was harassed or discriminated upon, or that respondents made it difficult for her to continue with her other duties.  Absent any evidence of bad faith, it is within the exercise of respondents’ management prerogative to transfer some of petitioner’s duties, if, in their judgment, this would be more beneficial to the corporation.  Estrella Velasco vs. Transit Automotive Supply, Inc. and Antonio de Dios, G.R. No. 171327, June 18, 2010.

Constructive dismissal; off-detailing; resignation; notice requirement. The company evidently placed petitioner on floating status after being relieved of her position.  But, as the Court has repeatedly ruled, such act of “off-detailing” does not amount to a dismissal so long as the floating status does not continue beyond a reasonable time.  In this case, the employee’s floating status ran up to more than six months as of August 16, 2002. For this reason, the company may be considered to have constructively dismissed the employee from work as of that date. Hence, petitioner’s purported resignation on October 15, 2002 could not have been legally possible.

The company claims that it gave petitioner notices on August 23, 2002 and September 2, 2002, asking her to explain her failure to report for work and informing her that the company would treat such failure as lack of interest in her continued employment.  But these notices cannot possibly take the place of the notices required by law as they came more than six months after the company placed her on floating status, at which time, the employee is already deemed to have been constructively dismissed her from work.  Elsa S. Mali-on v. Equitable General Services Inc., G.R. No. 185269, June 29, 2010.

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March 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

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

Labor law

Cancellation of union registration. Art. 234(c) of the Labor Code requires the mandatory minimum 20% membership of rank-and-file employees in the employees’ union. Twenty percent (20%) of 112 rank-and-file employees in Eagle Ridge would require a union membership of at least 22 employees (112 x 205 = 22.4).  When the EREU filed its application for registration on December 19, 2005, there were clearly 30 union members.  Thus, when the certificate of registration was granted, there is no dispute that the Union complied with the mandatory 20% membership requirement. Accordingly, the retraction of six union members who later severed and withdrew their union membership cannot cause the cancellation of the union’s registration.

Besides, it cannot be argued that the affidavits of retraction retroacted to the time of the application for union registration or even way back to the organizational meeting. Before their withdrawal, the six employees in question were bona fide union members. They never disputed affixing their signatures beside their handwritten names during the organizational meetings.  While they alleged that they did not know what they were signing, their affidavits of retraction were not re-affirmed during the hearings of the instant case rendering them of little, if any, evidentiary value. In any case, even with the withdrawal of six union members, the union would still be compliant with the mandatory membership requirement under Art. 234(c) since the remaining 24 union members constitute more than the 20% membership requirement of 22 employees.  Eagle Ridge Gold & Country Club vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 178989, March 18, 2010.

Cessation of operations; financial assistance.  Based on Article 283, in case of cessation of operations, the employer is only required to pay his employees a separation pay of one month pay or at least one-half month pay for every year of service, whichever is higher. That is all that the law requires.

In the case at bar, petitioner paid respondents the following: (a) separation pay computed at 150% of their gross monthly pay per year of service; and (b) cash equivalent of earned and accrued vacation and sick leaves. Clearly, petitioner had gone over and above the requirements of the law. Despite this, however, the Labor Arbiter ordered petitioner to pay respondents an additional amount, equivalent to one month’s salary, as a form of financial assistance.

The award of financial assistance is bereft of legal basis and serves to penalize petitioner who had complied with the requirements of the law. The Court also point out that petitioner may, as it has done, grant on a voluntary and ex gratia basis, any amount more than what is required by the law, but to insist that more financial assistance be given is certainly something that the Court cannot countenance. Moreover, any award of additional financial assistance to respondents would put them at an advantage and in a better position than the rest of their co-employees who similarly lost their employment because of petitioner’s decision to cease its operations. SolidBank Corporation vs. National Labor Relations Commission, et al., G.R. No. 165951, March 30, 2010.

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December 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

Here are selected December 2009 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on labor law and procedure:

Labor Law

Attorney’s fees;  actions for indemnity under employer liability laws. The claim for attorney’s fees is granted following Article 2208 of the New Civil Code which allows its recovery in actions for recovery of wages of laborers and actions for indemnity under the employer’s liability laws. The same fees are also recoverable when the defendant’s act or omission has compelled the plaintiff to incur expenses to protect his interest as in the present case following the refusal by the employer to settle the employee’s claims. Pursuant to prevailing jurisprudence, petitioner is entitled to attorney’s fees of ten percent (10%) of the monetary award. Leopoldo Abante vs. KJGS Fleet Management Manila and/or Guy Domingo A. Macapayag, Kristian Gerhard Jebsens Skipsrenderi A/S, G.R. No. 182430, December 4, 2009.

Compensability of death; requirements. To be entitled to compensation, a claimant must show that the sickness is either: (1) a result of an occupational disease listed under Annex “A” of the Amended Rules on Employees’ Compensation under the conditions Annex “A” sets forth; or (2) if not so listed, that the risk of contracting the disease is increased by the working conditions.

Based on Francisco’s death certificate, the immediate cause of his death was cardiac arrest; the antecedent cause was acute massive hemorrhage, and the underlying cause was bleeding peptic ulcer disease.

In determining the compensability of an illness, the worker’s employment need not be the sole factor in the growth, development, or acceleration of a claimant’s illness to entitle him to the benefits provided for. It is enough that his employment contributed, even if only in a small degree, to the development of the disease.

P.D. 626 is a social legislation whose primordial purpose is to provide meaningful protection to the working class against the hazards of disability, illness, and other contingencies resulting in loss of income. In employee compensation, persons charged by law to carry out the Constitution’s social justice objectives should adopt a liberal attitude in deciding compensability claims and should not hesitate to grant compensability where a reasonable measure of work-connection can be inferred. Only this kind of interpretation can give meaning and substance to the law’s compassionate spirit as expressed in Article 4 of the Labor Code – that all doubts in the implementation and interpretation of the provisions of the Labor Code, including their implementing rules and regulations, should be resolved in favor of labor. Government Service Insurance System vs. Jean E. Raoet, G.R. No. 157038, December 23, 2009.

Compensable injury; requirement. Section 20(B) of the POEA Standard Employment Contract provides for the liabilities of the employer only when the seafarer suffers from a work-related injury or illness during the term of his employment.

Petitioner claims to have reported his illness to an officer once on board the vessel during the course of his employment. The records are bereft, however, of any documentary proof that he had indeed referred his illness to a nurse or doctor in order to avail of proper treatment. It thus becomes apparent that he was repatriated to the Philippines, not on account of any illness or injury, but in view of the completion of his contract.

But even assuming that petitioner was repatriated for medical reasons, he failed to submit himself to the company-designated doctor in accordance with the post-employment medical examination requirement under the above-quoted paragraph 3 of Section 20(B) of the POEA Standard Employment Contract. Failure to comply with this requirement which is a sine qua non bars the filing of a claim for disability benefits. Dionisio M. Musnit vs. Sea Star Shipping Corporation and Sea Star Shipping Corporation, Ltd., G.R. No. 182623, December 4, 2009.

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