Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Philips Semiconductor vs. Fadriquela

Facts: On May 8, 1992, respondent Eloisa Fadriquela executed a Contract of Employment with the petitioner in which she was hired as a production operator with a daily salary of P118. Her initial contract was for a period of three months up to August 8, 1992, but was extended for two months when she garnered a performance rating of 3.15. Her contract was again renewed for two months or up to December 16, 1992, when she received a performance rating of 3.8. After the expiration of her third contract, it was extended anew, for three months, that is, from January 4, 1993 to April 4, 1993. 

After garnering a performance rating of 3.4, the respondent?s contract was extended for another three months, that is, from April 5, 1993 to June 4, 1993. She, however, incurred five absences in the month of April, three absences in the month of May and four absences in the month of June. Line supervisor Shirley F. Velayo asked the respondent why she incurred the said absences, but the latter failed to explain her side. The respondent was warned that if she offered no valid justification for her absences, Velayo would have no other recourse but to recommend the non-renewal of her contract. The respondent still failed to respond, as a consequence of which her performance rating declined to 2.8. Velayo recommended to the petitioner that the respondent?s employment be terminated due to habitual absenteeism, in accordance with the Company Rules and Regulations. Thus, the respondent’s contract of employment was no longer renewed. 

LA: dismissed complaint for lack of merit 

NLRC: affirmed LA decision and holding that “the respondent was a contractual employee whose period of employment was fixed in the successive contracts of employment she had executed with the petitioner. Thus, upon the expiration of her contract, the respondent’s employment automatically ceased. The respondent’s employment was not terminated; neither was she dismissed.” 

CA: reversed LA and NLRC decision 

Issue/s: 
(1) Whether or not the respondent was still a contractual employee of the petitioner as of June 4, 1993; 

(2) Whether or not the petitioner dismissed the respondent from her employment; 

(3)  If so, whether or not she was accorded the requisite notice and investigation prior to her dismissal; and 

(4) Whether or not the respondent is entitled to reinstatement and full payment of backwages as well as attorney’s fees. 

Held: 
(1) NO. In this case, the respondent was employed by the petitioner on May 8, 1992 as production operator. She was assigned to wirebuilding at the transistor division. There is no dispute that the work of the respondent was necessary or desirable in the business or trade of the petitioner. She remained under the employ of the petitioner without any interruption since May 8, 1992 to June 4, 1993 or for one (1) year and twenty-eight (28) days. The original contract of employment had been extended or renewed for four times, to the same position, with the same chores. Such a continuing need for the services of the respondent is sufficient evidence of the necessity and indispensability of her services to the petitioner’s business. By operation of law, then, the respondent had attained the regular status of her employment with the petitioner, and is thus entitled to security of tenure as provided for in Article 279 of the Labor Code. 

(2) YES. The SC agreed with the appellate court that Fadriquela was dismissed by the petitioner without the requisite notice and without any formal investigation. Given the factual milieu in this case, the respondent?s dismissal from employment for incurring five (5) absences in April 1993, three (3) absences in May 1993 and four (4) absences in June 1993, even if true, is too harsh a penalty. 

(3)  NO. The dismissal is illegal because, first, she was dismissed in the absence of a just cause, and second, she was not afforded procedural due process 

(4) YES. In pursuance of Article 279 of the Labor Code, it is proper to order the reinstatement of petitioner to her former job and the payment of her full backwages. Also, having been compelled to come to court to protect her rights, petitioner’s prayer for attorney’s fees is granted. 

Doctrine: The primary standard to determine a regular employment is the reasonable connection between the particular activity performed by the employee in relation to the business or trade of the employer. The test is whether the former is usually necessary or desirable in the usual business or trade of the employer. 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 the repeated and continuing need for its performance as sufficient evidence of the necessity, if not indispensability of that activity to the business of the employer. Hence, the employment is also considered regular, but only with respect to such activity and while such activity exists. The law does not provide the qualification that the employee must first be issued a regular appointment or must be declared as such before he can acquire a regular employee status. 

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