Genesis Transport v. UMMGT (G.R. No. 182114; April 5, 2010)


FACTS: Respondent Juan Taroy was hired by petitioner Genesis Transport Service, Inc. (Genesis Transport) as driver on commission basis at 9% of the gross revenue per trip. Taroy was, after due notice and hearing, terminated from employment after an accident on April 20, 2002 where he was deemed to have been driving recklessly.Taroy thus filed a complaint for illegal dismissal and payment of service incentive leave pay, claiming that he was singled out for termination because of his union activities, other drivers who had met accidents not having been dismissed from employment.

Respecting the claim for refund of illegal deductions, Taroy alleged that in 1997, petitioner started deducting from his weekly earnings an amount ranging from P160 to P900 representing toll fees, without his consent and written authorization as required under Article 113 of the Labor Code and contrary to company practice; and that deductions were also taken from the bus conductors earnings to thus result to double deduction.

Genesis Transport countered that Taroy committed several violations of company rules for which he was given warnings or disciplined accordingly; that those violations, the last of which was the April 20, 2002 incident, included poor driving skills, tardiness, gambling inside the premises, use of shabu, smoking while driving, insubordination and reckless driving; and that Taroys dismissal was on a valid cause and after affording him due process.

The Labor Arbiter found that Genesis Transport discharged the burden of proof that Taroys dismissal was on a valid cause. With respect to Taroys claim for refund, however, the Labor Arbiter ruled in his favor for if, as contended by Genesis Transport, tollgate fees form part of overhead expense, why were not expenses for fuel and maintenance also charged to overhead expense. Both parties appealed to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), petitioners questioning the order for them to refund "underpayment"

The NLRC affirmed the Labor Arbiters decision with modification. It deleted the award to Taroy of attorneys fees. It brushed aside Taroys claim of having been illegally suspended, it having been raised for the first time on appeal.

The parties filed their respective motions for reconsideration which were denied. On respondents appeal, the Court of Appeals partly granted the same, it ruled that petitioner Genesis Transport violated Taroys statutory right to due process when he was preventively suspended for more than thirty (30) days, in violation of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Labor Code. Their motion for reconsideration having been denied, petitioners filed the present recourse.

On the issue of refund of "underpayment," petitioners aver that cases of similar import involving also the respondent union have been decided with finality in their favor by the NLRC

ISSUE: Whether or not the petition should be granted?

HELD: A court cannot take judicial notice of any fact which, in part, is dependent on the existence or non-existence of a fact of which the court has no constructive knowledge.

Absent proof that the NLRC cases cited by petitioners have attained finality, the Court may not consider them to constitute res judicata on petitioners claim for refund of the "underpayment" due Taroy.

Neither may the Court take judicial notice of petitioners claim that the deduction of tollgate fees from the gross earnings of drivers is an accepted and long-standing practice in the transportation industry. None of the material requisites for the Court to take judicial notice of a particular matter was established by petitioners.

Albeit the amounts representing tollgate fees were deducted from gross revenues and not directly from Taroys commissions, the labor tribunal and the appellate court correctly held that the withholding of those amounts reduced the amount from which Taroys 9% commission would be computed. Such a computation not only marks a change in the method of payment of wages, resulting in a diminution of Taroys wages in violation of Article 113 vis-vis Article 100 of the Labor Code, as amended. It need not be underlined that without Taroys written consent or authorization, the deduction is considered illegal.
Employer must act on the suspended workers status of employment within the 30-day period by concluding the investigation either by absolving him of the charges, or meting the corresponding penalty if liable, or ultimately dismissing him.

In the present case, petitioner company had until May 20, 2002 to act on Taroys case. It did by terminating him through a notice dated May 10, 2002, hence, the 30-day requirement was not violated even if the termination notice was received only on June 4, 2002, absent anyshowing that the delayed service of the notice on Taroy was attributable to Genesis Transport.

Taroys statutory due process not having been violated, he is not entitled to the award of nominal damages. DENIED.

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