Labor Law

UNIVERSAL ROBINA vs. CATAPANG et al. G.R. No. 164736 October 14, 2005 Labor, Employer-Employee Relationship

FACTS:

The individual respondents were hired by the petitioner company on various dates from 1991 to 1993 to work at its duck farm in Laguna. The respondents were hired under an employment contract which provided for a five-month period. After the expiration of the said employment contracts, the petitioner company would renew them and re-employ the respondents. This practice continued until sometime in 1996, when the petitioners informed the respondents that they were no longer renewing their employment contracts.

Respondents filed separate complaints for illegal dismissal, reinstatement, backwages, damages and attorneys fees against the petitioners.

The petitioners submit that the respondents are not regular employees. They aver that it is of no moment that the respondents have rendered service for more than a year since they were covered by the five-month individual contracts to which they duly acquiesced. The petitioners contend that they were free to terminate the services of the respondents at the expiration of their individual contracts. The petitioners maintain that, in doing so, they merely implemented the terms of the contracts.

 

ISSUE:

Whether or not respondents are regular employees of petitioner company.

 

RULING:

The primary standard, therefore, of determining regular employment is the reasonable connection between the particular activity performed by the employee in relation to the usual trade or business of the employer. The test is whether the former is usually necessary or desirable in the usual business or trade of the employer.

The connection can be determined by considering the nature of work performed and its relation to the scheme of the particular business or trade in its entirety. Also, if the employee has been performing the job for at least a year, even if the performance is not continuous and merely intermittent, the law deems repeated and continuing need for its performance as sufficient evidence of the necessity if not indispensability of that activity to the business. Hence, the employment is considered regular, but only with respect to such activity and while such activity exists.

Thus, we quote with approval the following excerpt from the decision of the CA:

It is obvious that the said five-month contract of employment was used by petitioners as a convenient subterfuge to prevent private respondents from becoming regular employees. Such contractual arrangement should be struck down or disregarded as contrary to public policy or morals. To uphold the same would, in effect, permit petitioners to avoid hiring permanent or regular employees by simply hiring them on a temporary or casual basis, thereby violating the employees’ security of tenure in their jobs.

Petitioners’ act of repeatedly and continuously hiring private respondents in a span of … 3 to 5 years to do the same kind of work negates their contention that private respondents were hired for a specific project or undertaking only.

Further, factual findings of labor officials who are deemed to have acquired expertise in matters within their respective jurisdiction are generally accorded not only respect but even finality, and bind us when supported by substantial evidence.

 

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