Case Digest: Bernarte v. PBA, et al.

G.R. No.192084 : September 14, 2011




Complainants (Jose Mel Bernarte and Renato Guevarra) aver that they were invited to join the PBA as referees. During the leadership of Commissioner Emilio Bernardino, they were made to sign contracts on a year-to-year basis. During the term of Commissioner Eala, however, changes were made on the terms of their employment.

Complainants were not illegally dismissed because they were not employees of the PBA. Their respective contracts of retainer were simply not renewed. PBA had the prerogative of whether or not to renew their contracts, which they knew were fixed.\

The Labor Arbiter declared petitioner an employee whose dismissal by respondents was illegal.Tthe NLRC affirmed the Labor Arbiter's judgment. The Court of Appeals, which overturned the decisions of the NLRC and Labor Arbiter. The Court of Appeals found petitioner an independent contractor since respondents did not exercise any form of control over the means and methods by which petitioner performed his work as a basketball referee.


Whether petitioner is an employee of respondents, which in turn determines whether petitioner was illegally dismissed.

HELD: The petitioners are not employees of respondents.


The existence of an employer-employee relationship is ultimately a question of fact. As a general rule, factual issues are beyond the province of this Court. However, this rule admits of exceptions, one of which is where there are conflicting findings of fact between the Court of Appeals, on one hand, and the NLRC and Labor Arbiter, on the other, such as in the present case.

To determine the existence of an employer-employee relationship, case law has consistently applied the four-fold test, to wit:
(a) the selection and engagement of the employee;
(b) the payment of wages;
(c) the power of dismissal; and
(d) the employer's power to control the employee on the means and methods by which the work is accomplished.
The so-called"control test"is the most important indicator of the presence or absence of an employer-employee relationship.

The fact that PBA repeatedly hired petitioner does not by itself prove that petitioner is an employee of the former. For a hired party to be considered an employee, the hiring party must have control over the means and methods by which the hired party is to perform his work, which is absent in this case. The continuous rehiring by PBA of petitioner simply signifies the renewal of the contract between PBA and petitioner, and highlights the satisfactory services rendered by petitioner warranting such contract renewal. Conversely, if PBA decides to discontinue petitioner's services at the end of the term fixed in the contract, whether for unsatisfactory services, or violation of the terms and conditions of the contract, or for whatever other reason, the same merely results in the non-renewal of the contract, as in the present case. The non-renewal of the contract between the parties does not constitute illegal dismissal of petitioner by respondents.