Case Digest: SEIRI vs. Coming

G.R. No. 186621 : March 12, 2014




Petitioner South East International Rattan, Inc. (SEIRI) is a domestic corporation engaged in the business of manufacturing and exporting furniture to various countries with principal place of business at Paknaan, Mandaue City, while petitioner EstanislaoAgbay, as per records, is the President and General Manager of SEIRI.

Respondent Jesus J. Coming filed a complaint for illegal dismissal, underpayment of wages, non-payment of holiday pay, 13th month pay and service incentive leave pay, with prayer for reinstatement, back wages, damages and attorney fees against Petitioner.

Respondent alleged that on March 17, 1984, petitioners hired him as Sizing Machine Operator. He worked from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. At first, his compensation was on span class="SpellE">pakiaobasis but sometime in June 1984, it was fixed at P150.00 per day paid to him on a weekly basis. In 1990, without any apparent reason, his employment was interrupted as he was told by petitioners to resume work in two months time. Being an uneducated person, respondent was persuaded by the management as well as his brother not to complain, as otherwise petitioners might decide not to call him back for work. Fearing such consequence, respondent accepted his fate. Nonetheless, after two months he reported back to work upon order of management.

Despite being an employee for many years with his work performance never questioned by petitioners, respondent was dismissed on January 1, 2002 without lawful cause. He was told that he will be terminated because the company is not doing well financially and that he would be called back to work only if they need his services again. Respondent waited for almost a year but petitioners did not call him back to work. He filed the complaint before the regional arbitration branch.

As their defense, petitioners denied having hired respondent asserting that SEIRI was incorporated only in 1986, and that respondent actually worked for SEIRI furniture suppliers because when the company started in 1987 it was engaged purely in buying and exporting furniture and its business operations were suspended from the last quarter of 1989 to August 1992. They stressed that respondent was not included in the list of employees submitted to the Social Security System (SSS). Moreover, respondent brother, Vicente Coming, executed an affidavit8 in support of petitionersposition while Allan Mayol and Faustino Apondarissued notarized certifications9 that respondent worked for them instead.

The Labor Arbiter ruled that respondent is a regular employee of SEIRI and that the termination of his employment was illegal.

Petitioners appealed to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC)-Cebu City. The NLRC set aside the decision of the LA compelling the respondent to file a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 before the Court of Appeals. The CA ruled in favor of the respondent and declared that there existed an employer-employee relationship between petitioners and respondent who was dismissed without just and valid cause. Petitioners moved for reconsideration but the same was denied. Hence, the present petition for review on certiorari.

ISSUE: Whether or not there exists an employer-employee relationship between the petitioners and the respondent?

HELD: The Court sustains that Decision of the Court of Appeals.

LABOR LAW: employer-employee relationship

In order to establish the existence of an employer-employee relationship, the four-fold test is used, to wit: (1) the selection and engagement of the employee; (2) the payment of wages; (3) the power of dismissal; and (4) the power to control the employee conduct, or the so-called ontrol test.

In resolving the issue of whether such relationship exists in a given case, substantial evidence or that amount of relevant evidence, which a reasonable mind might accept, as adequate to justify a conclusion is sufficient.

The petitioners presented the following to support their stance that respondent is not their employee: (1) Employment Reports to the SSS from 1987 to 2002; (2) the Certifications issued by Mayol and Apondar; (3) two affidavits of Vicente Coming; (4) payroll sheets (1999-2000); (5) individual pay envelopes and employee earnings records (1999-2000); (6) and affidavit of Angelina Agbay(Treasurer and Human Resources Officer).

The respondent, on the other hand, submitted the affidavit executed by Eleoterio Brigoli, Pedro Brigoli, Napoleon Coming, EfrenComing and Gil Coming who all attested that respondent was their co-worker at SEIRI.

The Court in Tan v. Lagrama, 436 Phil. 190, held that the fact that a worker was not reported as an employee to the SSS is not conclusive proof of the absence of employer-employee relationship. Otherwise, an employer would be rewarded for his failure or even neglect to perform his obligation. Nor does the fact that respondent name does not appear in the payrolls and pay envelope records submitted by petitioners negate the existence of employer-employee relationship.

As a regular employee, respondent enjoys the right to security of tenure under Article 279 of the Labor Code and may only be dismissed for just or authorized causes. Otherwise, the dismissal becomes illegal.

Since respondent dismissal was without valid cause, he is entitled to reinstatement without loss of seniority rights and other privileges and to his full back wages, inclusive of allowances and other benefits of their monetary equivalent, computed from the time his compensation was withheld from him up to the time of his actual reinstatement.

However, where reinstatement is no long feasible as an option, back wages shall be computed from the time of the illegal termination up to the finality of the decision. As an alternative to this, separation pay equivalent to one month salary for every year of service should likewise be awarded in case reinstatement is not possible.

The present petition for review on certiorari is DENIED.