Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Atok Big Wedge Company vs. Jesus P. Gison [GR No. 169510, August 8, 2011]

FACTS: Gison was engaged as part-time consultant on retainer basis by Atok Big Wedge Company (Atok), Inc. through its then AVP and Acting Resident Manager, Rutillo A. Torres. As a consultant on retainer basis, Gison assisted petitioner's retained legal counsel with matters pertaining to the prosecution of cases against illegal surface occupants within the area covered by the company's mineral claims. Gison was likewise tasked to perform liaison work with several government agencies, which he said was his expertise.

Atok did not require respondent to report to its office on a regular basis. As payment for his services, respondent received a retainer fee of Php3,000 a month, which was delivered to him either at his residence or in a local restaurant. The parties executed a retainer agreement, but such agreement was misplaced and can no longer be found. The said arrangement continued for the next eleven years.

Sometime thereafter, Gison requested that petitioner cause his registration with SSS. Atok did not accede to his request as he was only a retainer/consultant. Subsequent events led to a complaint for illegal dismissal among others with the NLRC. The Labor Arbiter rendered a Decision ruling in favor of the petitioner company. Finding no employee-employer relationship between petitioner and respondent, the Labor Arbiter dismissed the complaint for lack of merit.

ISSUE: Whether or not there exist an employee-employer relationship between the parties

RULING: No. The so-called “control test” is commonly regarded as the most crucial and determinative indicator of the presence or absence of an employee-employer relationship. Under the control test, an employee-employer relationship exists where the person for whom the services are performed reserves the right to control not only the end achieved, but also the manner and means to be used in reaching the end.

Applying the aforementioned test, an employee-employer relationship is apparently absent in the case at bar. More importantly, petitioner did not prescribe the manner in which respondent would accomplish any of the tasks in which his expertise as a liaison officer was needed; respondent was left alone and given the freedom to accomplish the tasks using his own means and method. Respondent was assigned tasks to perform, but petitioner did not control the manner and methods by which respondent performed these tasks. Verily, the absence of element of control on the part of the petitioner engenders a conclusion that he is not an employee of the petitioner.

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