San Miguel Corporation vs. National Labor Relations Commission, Third Division

G.R. No. 125606. October 7, 1998

FACTS:

In 1990, De Guzman, private respondent, was hired by petitioner as helper/bricklayer for a specific project, the repair and upgrading of furnace C at its Manila Glass Plant. His contract of employment provided that said temporary employment was for a specific period of approximately four (4) months. On April 30, 1991, private respondent’s employee contract was terminated on that same day as there was no more work to be done.

On May 10, 1991, private respondent was again hired for a specific job for a specific period of approximately three (3) months. In July 1991, after the completion of this task, private respondent’s services were terminated. On August 1, 1991, complainant saw his name in a Memorandum posted at the Company’s Bulletin Board as among those who were considered dismissed.

On August 12, 1994, or after the lapse of more than three (3) years from the completion of the last undertaking, private respondent filed a complaint for illegal dismissal. The LA dismissed the case for lack of merit and sustained petitioner’s argument that private respondent was a project employee. Moreover, his silence for more than three (3) years without any reasonable explanation tended to weaken his claim.

NLRC, promulgated its assailed decision, reversing Labor Arbiter decision. The scheme of subsequently re-hiring complainant after only ten (10) days from the last day of the expiration of his contract of employment is one way of doing violence to the employee’s constitutional right to security of tenure under which even employees under probationary status are amply protected.

ISSUE: WON private respondents are regular employees.

HELD:

NO, private respondent was hired for a specific project that was not within the regular business of the corporation since petitioner is not engaged in the business of repairing furnaces.

Under Article 280 of the Labor Code, an employment is deemed regular when the activities performed by the employee are usually necessary or desirable in the usual business or trade of the employer even if the parties enter into an agreement stating otherwise. But considered not regular under said Article are (1) the so-called “project employment” the termination of which is more or less determinable at the time of employment, such as those connected with a particular construction project; and (2) seasonal employment, which by its nature is only for one season of the year and the employment is limited for the duration of that season, such as the Christmas holiday season. Nevertheless, an exception to this exception is made: any employee who has rendered at least one (1) year of service, whether continuous or intermittent, with respect to the activity he performed and while such activity actually exists, must be deemed regular.

The nature of one’s employment does not depend on the will or word of the employer. Nor on the procedure of hiring and the manner of designating the employee, but on the nature of the activities to be performed by the employee, considering the employer’s nature of business and the duration and scope of the work to be done.

The undertakings where private respondent was hired primarily as helper/bricklayer have specified goals and purposes which are fulfilled once the designated work was completed. Moreover, such undertakings were also identifiably separate and distinct from the usual, ordinary or regular business operations of petitioner, which is glass manufacturing. These undertakings, the duration and scope of which had been determined and made known to private respondent at the time of his employment, clearly indicated the nature of his employment as a project employee. Thus, his services were terminated legally after the completion of the project.

NOTES:

General rule, the factual findings and conclusions drawn by the National Labor Relations Commission are accorded not only great weight and respect, but even clothed with finality and deemed binding on the Court, as long as they are supported by substantial evidence. However, when such findings and those of the Labor Arbiter are in conflict, it behooves this Court to scrutinize the records of the case, particularly the evidence presented, to arrive at a correct decision.

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