Novel and unique issue
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - May 15, 2019 - 12:00am

A laundry woman usually works as domestic servant rendering services in an employer’s home and ministering exclusively to the personal comfort and enjoyment of the employer’s family. In this case however, the laundry woman whom we shall call “Annie” works in the staff houses of an industrial company (AMCI). The novel issue here is whether Annie can be considered a regular employee of said company rather than a mere domestic servant.

Annie was hired by AMCI to perform laundry services at its staff house located in Mindanao. In the beginning she was paid on a piece rate basis. However after nine years of service she was paid on a monthly basis at P250 per month which was ultimately increased to P575.

After working in the company for almost 15 years, she accidentally slipped and hit her back on a stone while she was attending to her assigned task hanging her laundry, and could not therefore continue her work. So she reported the accident to her immediate supervisor and to the personnel officer who permitted her to go on leave for medication. To persuade her to quit her job, she was offered P2,000 which was eventually increased to P5,000. However she refused the offer and preferred to return to work. But AMCI refused to allow her to return to work and dismissed her two months later.

So Annie filed a request for assistance with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). After hearing both parties who submitted position papers, the Labor Arbiter assigned to the case rendered a decision in favor of Annie ordering AMCI to pay her salary differential, emergency living allowance, 13th month pay differential, and separation pay for every year of service all totaling to P55,161.42.

AMCI thus filed a Petition before the Supreme Court contending that Annie should be treated as a mere house helper or domestic servant and not as a regular employee of the company entitled to the awards granted by the Labor Arbiter of the DOLE.

The Supreme Court however denied its petition. According to the SC, “domestic servant” or “house helper” refers to any person, male or female, employed in the employer’s home to minister exclusively to the personal comfort and enjoyment of the employer’s family. This covers family drivers, domestic servants, laundry women, yayas, gardeners, house boys, and other similar house helps (Rule XIII, Section 1 (b), Book 3 of the Labor Code). This definition cannot be interpreted to include laundrywoman working in the staff houses of a company, like Annie who attends to the needs of the company’s guest and other persons availing of its facilities. While it may be true that the work of a laundrywoman in a home or in a company may be similar in nature, the difference in their circumstances is that a laundrywoman at home is actually serving the family while a laundrywoman in a company renders service in the staff houses or within the premises of the business of the company or corporation or single proprietorship engage in business or industry or any other agricultural or similar pursuit. In this case, Annie is an employee of the company entitled to the privileges of a regular employee. And because of the accident while she was performing her job, she was not able to work and was ultimately separated from the service. She is therefore entitled to appropriate relief as regular employee of AMCI including her separation pay considering that she eventually appears to be no longer interested in returning to her work for valid reasons (Apex Mining Co. Inc. vs NLRC and Candido, G.R. 94951, April 22, 1991).

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