Latest Supreme Court decisions on labor issues

DIRECT FROM THE LABOR FRONT - Atty Josephus B Jimenez - The Freeman

These are exciting times, and some very interesting developments are unfolding in our legal and labor relations systems. Under our systems of law, the legislative department (consisting of Congress and the Senate) makes the laws, and the President approves them, while the executive is expected to enforce and implement each one of the laws. When there is conflict between labor and management, in the implementation and interpretation of the various labor laws, the DOLE and the NLRC (National Labor Relations Commission) conciliate, mediate and arbitrate. Then appeals are elevated first to the Court of Appeals, then to the Supreme Court. This writer has studied all decisions by the Supreme Court in labor cases. I will share my insights with you, dear readers.

As a Professor of Law in various universities in Manila, and as a Bar reviewer in twelve Bar Review Centers from Vigan to Gensan, this writer starts this year's round of total review of all Supreme Court decisions in 2013 and 2014. This columnist is also speaking in various fora for Personnel and HR Managers on labor relations and Termination labor cases in order to guide our practitioners in making decisions about recruitment, compensation, benefits, unions, collective bargaining, unfair labor practices, strikes and compensation for disease, disability and death of seamen and other workers due to work-related causes and circumstances. Last week, we were at the Cebu Parklane Hotel speaking about the ASEAN Integration. I also did it in Davao, Iligan, Ozamiz, Cagayan de Oro, and CARAGA.

This year, the Supreme Court came up with very interesting decisions that should call the attention of businessmen, managers and employees. In the case of Dreamland Hotel Resort versus Stephen R Johnson, (GR 191455, 12 March 2014), the highest court of the land decided that an Australian national was illegally dismissed as hotel manager and ordered payment of full back wages. Separation pay was also directed to be paid instead of reinstatement because the strained relations between the parties prevented bringing the manager back to work. Here, the Court held that multiple and repeated refusal to pay one's personnel his salaries is equivalent to dismissal from employment. Even expats here have access to our courts for redress of grievances.

In another case, the International School, Manila versus the International School union (GR 167286, 05 February 2014), the High Court ruled that when a teacher is proven to be grossly inefficient and highly ineffective, she may be separated from the service. However, since the cause of the separation is neither misconduct or fraud or insubordination, she should be granted separation benefits on account of her many years of past faithful services. In the case of Raul Cosare versus Bradcom Asia, Inc. (GR 201298, 05 Feb 2014), the Supreme Court held that even when a personnel was made an incorporator of the company, if he is dismissed illegally, the management would still be guilty of illegal dismissal. And such is not an intra-corporate case but a labor dispute.

In the case of United Tourists promotions versus Harland Kemplin (GR 205453, 05 Feb 2014), the Court decided in favor of an American national who was hired as company president. The charges of loss of trust and confidence were dismissed because it was raised only belatedly, for the first time, when the case was already pending. In Intel Philippines Inc. versus NLRC (GR 200575, 05 Feb 2014), the Court decided in favor of the company. A young Filipino manager was ordered to pay back to the company the amount of P2.4 million which he received as earlier ordered by the NLRC. The Court held that it was unfair to require the company to pay him such amount (it was a total of P3.2M less tax) because he was not entitled to it in the first place. What is more telling is that he already executed a quitclaim releasing the company from all liabilities.

You will know the details of these and many other cases in our next columns. Indeed, these are very exciting times, and many interesting things are unfolding. The more we know them and study these events and developments, as well as these cases and decisions, the more insights and wisdom we shall gain. And from then on, we can decide on issues in a better light and with more accuracy and judiciousness. This is the only way to improve the quality of our own judgment and actions. This is the only way to make sure that we are not violating any law and that we are giving others what are due to them. Of course, we shall also know how to defend our rights against those who seek to transgress them.

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