Case Digest: D.M. Consunji v. Jamin

G.R. No. 192514: April 18, 2012

D.M. CONSUNJI, INC. and/or DAVID M. CONSUNJI, Petitioners, v. ESTELITO L. JAMIN, Respondent.



Petitioner D.M. Consunji, Inc. (DMCI), a construction company, hired respondent Estelito L. Jamin as a laborer. Sometime in 1975, Jamin became a helper carpenter. Since his initial hiring, Jamins employment contract had been renewed a number of times. On March 20, 1999, his work at DMCI was terminated due to the completion of the SM Manila project. This termination marked the end of his employment with DMCI as he was not rehired again.

Jamin filed a complaintfor illegal dismissal, with several money claims (including attorneys fees), against DMCI and its President/General Manager, David M. Consunji. Jamin alleged that DMCI terminated his employment without a just and authorized cause at a time when he was already 55 years old and had no independent source of livelihood. He claimed that he rendered service to DMCI continuously for almost 31 years.

DMCI denied liability. It argued that it hired Jamin on a project-to-project basis, from the start of his engagement in 1968 until the completion of its SM Manila project on March 20, 1999 where Jamin last worked. With the completion of the project, it terminated Jamins employment.

The LA dismissed the complaint for lack of merit. On appeal, the NLRC affirmed the decision of the LA. On further appeal, the CA reversed the NLRC decision and ruled that Jamin was a regular employee. Hence, DMCI seeks a reversal of the CA rulings on the ground that the appellate court committed a grave error in annulling the decisions of the labor arbiter and the NLRC.

ISSUE: Whether or not Jamin is a regular employee

HELD: Yes. CA Decision Affirmed.

Labor Law

Once a project or work pool employee has been: (1) continuously, as opposed to intermittently, rehired by the same employer for the same tasks or nature of tasks; and (2) these tasks are vital, necessary and indispensable to the usual business or trade of the employer, then the employee must be deemed a regular employee.

While the contracts indeed show that Jamin had been engaged as a project employee, there was an almost unbroken string of Jamins rehiring from December 17, 1968 up to the termination of his employment on March 20, 1999. While the history of Jamins employment (schedule of projects) relied upon by DMCI shows a gap of almost four years in his employment for the period between July 28, 1980 (the supposed completion date of the Midtown Plaza project) and June 13, 1984 (the start of the IRRI Dorm IV project), the gap was caused by the companys omission of the three projects above mentioned.

To reiterate, Jamins employment history with DMCI stands out for his continuous, repeated and successive rehiring in the companys construction projects. In all the 38 projects where DMCI engaged Jamins services, the tasks he performed as a carpenter were indisputably necessary and desirable in DMCIs construction business. He might not have been a member of a work pool as DMCI insisted that it does not maintain a work pool, but his continuous rehiring and the nature of his work unmistakably made him a regular employee.

Further, as we stressed in Liganza, respondent capitalizes on our ruling in D.M. Consunji, Inc. v. NLRC which reiterates the rule that the length of service of a project employee is not the controlling test of employment tenure but whether or not the employment has been fixed for a specific project or undertaking the completion or termination of which has been determined at the time of the engagement of the employee."

"Surely, length of time is not the controlling test for project employment. Nevertheless, it is vital in determining if the employee was hired fora specific undertaking or tasked to perform functions vital, necessary and indispensable to the usual business or trade of the employer. Here, private respondent had been a project employee several times over. His employment ceased to be coterminous with specific projects when he was repeatedly re-hired due to the demands of petitioners business.Without doubt, Jamins case fits squarely into the employment situation just quoted. PETITION DENIED.