Legend Hotel vs Realuyo (G.R. No. 153511 July 18, 2012)

Legend Hotel (Manila) vs Realuyo AKA Roa
G.R. No. 153511 July 18, 2012

Facts: Respondent averred that he had worked as a pianist at the Legend Hotel’s Tanglaw Restaurant from September 1992 with an initial rate of P400.00/night that was given to him after each night’s performance; that his rate had increased to P750.00/night; and that during his employment, he could not choose the time of performance, which had been fixed from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm for three to six times/week. He added that the Legend Hotel’s restaurant manager had required him to conform with the venue’s motif; that he had been subjected to the rules on employees’ representation checks and chits, a privilege granted to other employees; that on July 9, 1999, the management had notified him that as a cost-cutting measure his services as a pianist would no longer be required effective July 30, 1999; that he disputed the excuse, insisting that Legend Hotel had been lucratively operating as of the filing of his complaint; and that the loss of his employment made him bring his complaint.

Issues: 1. Whether or not petition for certiorari to the CA is proper.
2. Whether or not there is ER-EE relationship.

3. Whether or not retrenchment as a ground for respondent’s dismissal is valid.

Held: YES. There is no longer any doubt that a petition for certiorari brought to assail the decision of the NLRC may raise factual issues, and the CA may then review the decision of the NLRC and pass upon such factual issues in the process.8 The power of the CA to review factual issues in the exercise of its original jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari is based on Section 9 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, which pertinently provides that the CA “shall have the power to try cases and conduct hearings, receive evidence and perform any and all acts necessary to resolve factual issues raised in cases falling within its original and appellate jurisdiction, including the power to grant and conduct new trials or further proceedings.”

YES. Petitioner actually wielded the power of selection at the time it entered into the service contract dated September 1, 1992 with respondent. This is true, notwithstanding petitioner’s insistence that respondent had only offered his services to provide live music at petitioner’s Tanglaw Restaurant, and despite petitioner’s position that what had really transpired was a negotiation of his rate and time of availability. The power of selection was firmly evidenced by, among others, the express written recommendation dated January 12, 1998 by Christine Velazco, petitioner’s restaurant manager, for the increase of his remuneration.

Respondent’s remuneration, albeit denominated as talent fees, was still considered as included in the term wage in the sense and context of the Labor Code, regardless of how petitioner chose to designate the remuneration. Anent this, Article 97(f) of the Labor Code clearly states:

xxx wage paid to any employee shall mean the remuneration or earnings, however designated, capable of being expressed in terms of money, whether fixed or ascertained on a time, task, piece, or commission basis, or other method of calculating the same, which is payable by an employer to an employee under a written or unwritten contract of employment for work done or to be done, or for services rendered or to be rendered, and includes the fair and reasonable value, as determined by the Secretary of Labor, of board, lodging, or other facilities customarily furnished by the employer to the employee.

That respondent worked for less than eight hours/day was of no consequence and did not detract from the CA’s finding on the existence of the employer-employee relationship. In providing that the “normal hours of work of any employee shall not exceed eight (8) hours a day,” Article 83 of the Labor Code only set a maximum of number of hours as “normal hours of work” but did not prohibit work of less than eight hours.

The power of the employer to control the work of the employee is considered the most significant determinant of the existence of an employer-employee relationship. This is the so-called control test, and is premised on whether the person for whom the services are performed reserves the right to control both the end achieved and the manner and means used to achieve that end.

A review of the records shows, however, that respondent performed his work as a pianist under petitioner’s supervision and control. Specifically, petitioner’s control of both the end achieved and the manner and means used to achieve that end was demonstrated by the following, to wit: a. He could not choose the time of his performance, which petitioners had fixed from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm, three to six times a week; b. He could not choose the place of his performance; c. The restaurant’s manager required him at certain times to perform only Tagalog songs or music, or to wear barong Tagalog to conform to the Filipiniana motif; and d. He was subjected to the rules on employees’ representation check and chits, a privilege granted to other employees. Relevantly, it is worth remembering that the employer need not actually supervise the performance of duties by the employee, for it sufficed that the employer has the right to wield that power.

NO. Retrenchment is one of the authorized causes for the dismissal of employees recognized by the Labor Code. It is a management prerogative resorted to by employers to avoid or to minimize business losses. On this matter, Article 283 of the Labor Code.

The Court has laid down the following standards that an employer should meet to justify retrenchment and to foil abuse, namely: (a) The expected losses should be substantial and not merely de minimis in extent; (b) The substantial losses apprehended must be reasonably imminent; (c) The retrenchment must be reasonably necessary and likely to effectively prevent the expected losses; and (d) The alleged losses, if already incurred, and the expected imminent losses sought to be forestalled must be proved by sufficient and convincing evidence.

Anent the last standard of sufficient and convincing evidence, it ought to be pointed out that a less exacting standard of proof would render too easy the abuse of retrenchment as a ground for termination of services of employees.

In termination cases, the burden of proving that the dismissal was for a valid or authorized cause rests upon the employer. Here, petitioner did not submit evidence of the losses to its business operations and the economic havoc it would thereby imminently sustain. It only claimed that respondent’s termination was due to its “present business/financial condition.” This bare statement fell short of the norm to show a valid retrenchment. Hence, we hold that there was no valid cause for the retrenchment of respondent.

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