July 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

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

Dismissal; due process.  Due process requirement is met when there is simply an opportunity to be heard and to explain one’s side even if no hearing is conducted. An employee may be afforded ample opportunity to be heard by means of any method, verbal or written, whether in a hearing, conference or some other fair, just and reasonable way. After receiving the first notice apprising him of the charges against him, the employee may submit a written explanation (which may be in the form of a letter, memorandum, affidavit or position paper) and offer evidence in support thereof, like relevant company records and the sworn statements of his witnesses. For this purpose, he may prepare his explanation personally or with the assistance of a representative or counsel. He may also ask the employer to provide him copy of records material to his defense. His written explanation may also include a request that a formal hearing or conference be held. In such a case, the conduct of a formal hearing or conference becomes mandatory, just as it is where there exist substantial evidentiary disputes or where company rules or practice requires an actual hearing as part of employment pre-termination procedure.

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June 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

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

Appeal; issue of employer-employee relationship raised for the first time on appeal. It is a fundamental rule of procedure that higher courts are precluded from entertaining matters neither alleged in the pleadings nor raised during the proceedings below, but ventilated for the first time only in a motion for reconsideration or on appeal. The alleged absence of employer-employee relationship cannot be raised for the first time on appeal. The resolution of this issue requires the admission and calibration of evidence and the LA and the NLRC did not pass upon it in their decisions. Petitioner is bound by its submissions that respondent is its employee and it should not be permitted to change its theory. Such change of theory cannot be tolerated on appeal, not on account of the strict application of procedural rules, but as a matter of fairness. Duty Free Philippines Services, Inc. vs. Manolito Q. Tria. G.R. No. 174809. June 27, 2012.

Dismissal; abandonment. Abandonment cannot be inferred from the actuations of respondent. When he discovered that his time card was off the rack, he immediately inquired from his supervisor.  He later sought the assistance of his counsel, who wrote a letter addressed to Polyfoam requesting that he be re-admitted to work.  When said request was not acted upon, he filed the instant illegal dismissal case.  These circumstances clearly negate the intention to abandon his work. Polyfoam-RGC International, Corporation and Precilla A. Gramaje vs. Edgardo Concepcion. G.R. No. 172349, June 13, 2012.

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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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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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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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July 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

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

Labor Law

Assumption of jurisdiction by Secretary of Labor; authority to decide on legality of dismissals arising from strike. The assumption of jurisdiction powers granted to the Labor Secretary under Article 263(g) is not limited to the grounds cited in the notice of strike or lockout that may have preceded the strike or lockout; nor is it limited to the incidents of the strike or lockout that in the meanwhile may have taken place.  As the term “assume jurisdiction” connotes, the intent of the law is to give the Labor Secretary full authority to resolve all matters within the dispute that gave rise to or which arose out of the strike or lockout, including cases over which the labor arbiter has exclusive jurisdiction.

In the present case, what the Labor Secretary refused to rule upon was the dismissal from employment of employees who violated the return to work order and participated in illegal acts during a strike. This was an issue that arose from the strike and was, in fact, submitted to the Labor Secretary, through the union’s motion for the issuance of an order for immediate reinstatement of the dismissed officers and the company’s opposition to the motion.  The dismissal issue was properly brought before the Labor Secretary and he was mistaken in ruling that the matter is legally within the exclusive jurisdiction of the labor arbiter to decide. Bagong Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa ng Triumph International, et al. vs. Secretary of Department of Labor and Employment, et al./Triumph International (phils.), Inc. vs. Bagong Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa ng Triumph International, et al., G.R. No. 167401, July 5, 2010.

Bargaining deadlock; award; findings of Secretary of Labor. Unless there is a clear showing of grave abuse of discretion, the Court cannot, and will not, interfere with the expertise of the Secretary of Labor. The award granted by the Labor Secretary in resolving the bargaining deadlock, drawn as they were from a close examination of the submissions of the parties, do not indicate any legal error, much less any grave abuse of discretion, and should not be disturbed. Bagong Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa ng Triumph International, et al. vs. Secretary of Department of Labor and Employment, et al./Triumph International (phils.), Inc. vs. Bagong Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa ng Triumph International, et al., G.R. No. 167401, July 5, 2010.

Dismissal of employees; just cause. Theft committed by an employee is a valid reason for his dismissal by the employer.  Although as a rule this Court leans over backwards to help workers and employees continue with their employment or to mitigate the penalties imposed on them, acts of dishonesty in the handling of company property, petitioner’s income in this case, are a different matter. Maribago Bluewater Beach Resort, Inc. vs. Nito Dual, G.R. No. 180660, July 20, 2010.

Dismissal of employees; requirements. The validity of an employee’s dismissal from service hinges on the satisfaction of the two substantive requirements for a lawful termination.  These are, first, whether the employee was accorded due process the basic components of which are the opportunity to be heard and to defend himself.  This is the procedural aspect.  And second, whether the dismissal is for any of the causes provided in the Labor Code of the Philippines.  This constitutes the substantive aspect. Erector Advertising Sign Group, Inc. and Arch Jimy C. Amoroto vs. Expedito Cloma, G.R. No. 167218, July 2, 2010.

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October 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law

Here are selected October 2009 Supreme Court decisions on labor law:

Dismissal; abandonment. To constitute abandonment, there must be a clear and deliberate intent to discontinue one’s employment without any intention of returning. Two elements must concur: (1) failure to report for work or absence without valid or justifiable reason, and (2) a clear intention to sever the employer-employee relationship, with the second element as the more determinative factor and being manifested by some overt acts. It is the employer who has the burden of proof to show a deliberate and unjustified refusal of the employee to resume his employment without any intention of returning.

In the instant case, petitioners failed to prove that it was Bolanos who refused to report for work despite being asked to return to work. Petitioners merely presented the affidavits of the officers of Henlin Panay narrating their version of the facts. These affidavits, however, are not only insufficient but also undeserving of credit as they are self-serving. Petitioners failed to present memoranda or show-cause letters served on Bolanos at her last known address requiring her to report for work or to explain her absence, with a warning that her failure to report would be construed as abandonment of work. Also, if indeed Bolanos abandoned her work, petitioners should have served her a notice of termination as required by law. Petitioners’ failure to comply with said requirement bolsters Bolanos’s claim that she did not abandon her work but was dismissed.

Moreover, if Bolanos had indeed forsaken her job, she would not have bothered to file a complaint for illegal dismissal. It is well settled that the filing by an employee of a complaint for illegal dismissal is proof of her desire to return to work, thus negating the employer’s charge of abandonment.  Henlin Panay Company and/or Edwin Francisco/Angel Lazaro III vs. National Labor Relations Commission and Nory A. Bolanos, G.R. No. 180718, October 23, 2009.

Dismissal; attorney’s fees. It is settled that in actions for recovery of wages or when the employee is illegally dismissed in bad faith or where an employee was forced to litigate and incur expenses to protect his rights and interests by reason of the unjustified acts of his employer, he is entitled to an award of attorney’s fees. This award is justifiable under Article 111 of the Labor Code, Section 8, Rule VIII, Book III of its Implementing Rules; and paragraph 7, Article 2208 of the Civil Code.

Moreover, in cases for recovery of wages, 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.  Baron Republic Theatrical Major Cinema, et al. vs. Normita P. Peralta and Edilberto H. Aguilar, G.R. No. 170525, October 2, 2009.

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