Monetary award to employees; burden of proof

Employees may be adjudged entitled to money claims and full reimbursement of their respective placement fees. However, such award may be adjudged equivalent to amount covered by the unexpired term of the employment contract in accordance with our rulings in Serrano v. Gallant Maritime Services, Inc.[1] and Sameer Overseas Placement Agency, Inc. v. Cabiles.[2]In Serrano, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the clause in Section 10 of R.A. No. 8042 limiting the wages that could be recovered by an illegally dismissed overseas worker to three months. It was held that the clause "or for three (3) months for every year of the unexpired term, whichever is less" (subject clause) is both a violation of the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution.[3] In 2010, upon promulgation of Republic Act No. 10022,[4] the subject clause was reinstated.[5] Presented with the unique situation that the law passed incorporated the exact clause already declared unconstitutional, without any perceived substantial change in the circumstances, in Sameer, the Court, once again, declared the reinstated clause unconstitutional, this time as provided in Section 7 of R.A. No. 10022.[6]

Unauthorized monthly deductions may also be ordered to be refunded to the employees. In the case of Powerhouse v. Rey,[7] it was the employer's contention that the claim for refund was based merely on allegations; however, the Court said that respondent employees were able to present proof before the NLRC in the form of the two (2) passbooks given to each of them by their foreign employer. According to respondent employees, the "First Passbooks," where their salaries, including their overtime pay were deposited, were in the custody of the employer, while - the "Second Passbooks" where their allowances were deposited, were in their custody. They were only able to make withdrawals from their Second Passbooks, however, their foreign employer made illegal deductions from their First Passbooks. The pertinent pages of these First Passbooks are part of the record of this case. Considering that Powerhouse failed to dispute this claim, the same is deemed admitted.[8]

It must be remembered that the burden of proving monetary claims rests on the employer. The reason for this rule is that the pertinent personnel files, payrolls, records, remittances and other similar documents are not in the possession of the worker but in the custody and absolute control of the employer.[9] Thus, in failing to present evidence to prove payment of all the monetary claims of employees, an employer is considered to have failed to discharge the onus probandi.

[1] G.R. No. 167614, March 24, 2009, 582 SCRA 255.

[2] G.R. No. 170139, August 5, 2014.

[3] G.R. No. 167614, March 24, 2009.

[4] An Act Amending Republic Act No. 8042, Otherwise Known as the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, as amended, Further Improving the Standard of Protection and Promotion of the Welfare of Migrant Workers, their Families and Overseas Filipinos in Distress, and for Other Purposes.

[5] R.A. No. 10022, Section 7. Section 10 of Republic Act No. 8042, as amended, is hereby amended to read as follows:

"SEC. 10. Money Claims. - Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, the Labor Arbiters of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) shall have the original and exclusive jurisdiction to hear and decide, within ninety (90) calendar days after the filing of the complaint, the claims arising out of an employer-employee relationship or by virtue of any law or contract involving Filipino workers for overseas deployment including claims for actual, moral, exemplary and other forms of damage. Consistent with this mandate, the NLRC shall endeavor to update and keep abreast with the developments in the global services industry.

x x x

"In case of termination of overseas employment without just, valid or authorized cause as defined by law or contract, or any unauthorized deductions from the migrant worker's salary, the worker shall be entitled to the full reimbursement if his placement fee and the deductions made with interest at twelve percent (12%) per annum, plus his salaries for the unexpired portion of his employment contract or for three (3) months for every year of the unexpired term, whichever is less.

x x x (Emphasis supplied.)

[6] G.R. No. 167614, March 24, 2009 or G.R. No. 170139, August 5, 2014.


[8] RULES OF COURT, Rule 8, Sec. 11 in relation to Sec. 3. Rule 1 of the NLRC Rules of Procedure.

[9] Villar v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. 130935, May 11, 2000, 331 SCRA 686, 695.