Case Digest: Gapayao v. Fulo

G.R. No. 193493 : June 13, 2013

JAIME N. GAPAYAO, Petitioner v. ROSARIO FULO, SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM and SOCIAL SECURITY COMMISSION,Respondents

SERENO, CJ.:

FACTS:


Jaime Fulo died of acute renal failure secondary to 1st degree burn 70% secondary electrocution while doing repairs at the residence and business establishment of petitioner at Sorsogon.

Allegedly moved by his Christian faith, petitioner extended some financial assistance to private respondent. The latter executed an Affidavit of Desistance stating that she was not holding them liable for the death of her late husband, Jaime Fulo, and was thereby waiving her right and desisting from filing any criminal or civil action against petitioner.

Both parties executed a compromise agreement, whereby 40,000 pesos was given to the surviving spouse. Thereafter, private respondent filed a claim for social security benefits with the SSS. However, it was discovered that the deceased was not a registered member of the SSS. Private respondent insisted that her late husband had been employed by petitioner from January 1983 up to his untimely death on November 4, 1997.

Consequently, SSS demanded that petitioner remit the social security contributions of the deceased. Petitioner denied that the deceased was hs employee, SSS required private respondent to present evidence to refute petitioners allegations.

Instead of presenting evidence, respondent filed a petition before the SSC. In her petition, she sough social security coverage and payment of contributions in order to avail herself of the benefits accruing from the death of her husband.

Petitioner claims that the deceased was not a former employee, but was an independent contractor whose tasks were not subject to petitioners control and supervision. Hence, petitioner was under no obligation to report the formers demise to the SSS.

SSS filed a petition- in- intervention before the SSC. SSC rendered a resolution finding Jaime Fulo to be employed by respondent Gapayao and hereby ordering them to pay the unpaid SSS contributions on behalf of deceased Jaime Fulo. SSS was also directed by the SSC to pay Rosario Fulo the death benefit.

Petitioner appealed to the CA who ruled in favor of private respondent and affirmed the previous decision.

ISSUE: Whether or not there exists an employer-employee relationship that would merit an award of benefits

HELD: Court of Appeals decision is affirmed.

LABOR LAW


Farm workers generally fall under the definition of seasonal employees. We have consistently held that seasonal employees may be considered as regular employees. Regular seasonal employees are those called to work from time to time. The nature of their relationship with the employer is such that during the off-season, they are temporarily laid off; but re-employed during the summer season or when their services may be needed. They are in regular employment because of the nature of their job, and not because of the length of time they have worked.

The rule, however, is not absolute. For regular employees to be considered as such, the primary standard used is the reasonable connection between the particular activity they perform and the usual trade or business of the employer.

The test is whether the former is usually necessary or desirable in the usual business or trade of the employer. The connection can be determined by considering the nature of the work performed and its relation t the scheme of the particular business in its entirety. Also if the employee has been performing the job for at least one year, even if the performance is not continuous or merely intermittent, the law deems that repeated and continuing need for its performance as sufficient evidence of the necessity if not indispensability of that activity to the business. Hence, the employment is also considered regular, but only wit respect to such activity and while such activity exists.

A reading of the records reveals that the deceased was indeed a farm worker who was in the regular employ of petitioner. From year to year, starting January 1983 up until his death, the deceased has been working on petitioners land by harvesting abaca and coconut, processing copra, and clearing weeds. His employment was continuous in the sence that it was done for more than one harvesting season. Moreover, no amount of reasoning could detract from the fact that these tasks were necessary in the usual business of petitioner.

As found by the SSC, the deceased was a construction worker in the building and helper in the bakery, grocery, hardware, and piggery- all owned by petitioner. This fact only proves that even during the off season, the deceased was still in the employ of petitioner.

Petitioners further alleged that he was merely a pakyaw worker, but even so, they may still be considered as employees as long as the employers exercise control over them. The power of the employer to control the work of the employee is considered that most significant determinant of the existence of an employer-employee relationship. This is the so-called control test. It is not essential that the employer actually supervise the performance of duties by the employee. It is enough that the former has a right to wield the power.

We agree with the CA that petitioner wielded control over the deceased in the discharge of his functions. Being the owner of the farm, petitioner necessarily had the right to review the quality of work produced by his laborers. It matters not whether the deceased conducted his work inside petitioners farm or not because petitioner retained the right to control him in his work, and in fact exercised it through his farm manager Amado Gacelo. The latte himself testified that petitioner had hired the deceased as one of the pakyaw workers whose salaries were derived from the gross proceeds of the harvest.

Petitioner entered into the agreement with full knowledge that he was described as the employer of the deceased. This knowledge cannot simply be denied by a statement that petitioner was merely forced into such an agreement.

The right of an employee to be covered by the Social Security Act is premised on the existence of an employer-employee relationship.

DENIED

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