Francisco v. NLRC
ANGELINA FRANCISCO, Petitioner,
NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION, KASEI CORPORATION, SEIICHIRO TAKAHASHI, TIMOTEO ACEDO, DELFIN LIZA, IRENE BALLESTEROS, TRINIDAD LIZA and RAMON ESCUETA, Respondents.
G.R. No. 170087
August 31, 2006
In 1995, petitioner Angelina Francisco was hired by Kasei Corporation during its incorporation stage. She was designated as Accountant and Corporate Secretary and was assigned to handle all the accounting needs of the company. She was also designated as Liaison Officer to the City of Makati to secure business permits, construction permits and other licenses for the initial operation of the company.
Although she was designated as Corporate Secretary, she was not entrusted with the corporate documents; neither did she attend any board meeting nor required to do so. She never prepared any legal document and never represented the company as its Corporate Secretary. However, on some occasions, she was prevailed upon to sign documentation for the company.
In 1996, petitioner was designated Acting Manager. The corporation also hired Gerry Nino as accountant in lieu of petitioner. As Acting Manager, petitioner was assigned to handle recruitment of all employees and perform management administration functions; represent the company in all dealings with government agencies, especially with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Social Security System (SSS) and in the city government of Makati; and to administer all other matters pertaining to the operation of Kasei Restaurant which is owned and operated by Kasei Corporation.
For five years, petitioner performed the duties of Acting Manager. As of December 31, 2000 her salary was P27, 500.00 plus P3, 000.00 housing allowance and a 10% share in the profit of Kasei Corporation.
In January 2001, petitioner was replaced by Liza R. Fuentes as Manager. Petitioner alleged that she was required to sign a prepared resolution for her replacement but she was assured that she would still be connected with Kasei Corporation. Timoteo Acedo, the designated Treasurer, convened a meeting of all employees of Kasei Corporation and announced that nothing had changed and that petitioner was still connected with Kasei Corporation as Technical Assistant to Seiji Kamura and in charge of all BIR matters.
Thereafter, Kasei Corporation reduced her salary by P2, 500.00 a month beginning January up to September 2001 for a total reduction of P22, 500.00 as of September 2001. Petitioner was not paid her mid-year bonus allegedly because the company was not earning well. In October 2001, petitioner did not receive her salary from the company. She made repeated follow-ups with the company cashier but she was advised that the company was not earning well.
On October 15, 2001, petitioner asked for her salary from Acedo and the rest of the officers but she was informed that she is no longer connected with the company.
Since she was no longer paid her salary, petitioner did not report for work and filed an action for constructive dismissal before the labor arbiter.
Argument of Private Respondent: Private respondents averred that petitioner is not an employee of Kasei Corporation. They alleged that petitioner was hired in 1995 as one of its technical consultants on accounting matters and act concurrently as Corporate Secretary. As technical consultant, petitioner performed her work at her own discretion without control and supervision of Kasei Corporation. Petitioner had no daily time record and she came to the office any time she wanted. The company never interfered with her work except that from time to time; the management would ask her opinion on matters relating to her profession. Petitioner did not go through the usual procedure of selection of employees, but her services were engaged through a Board Resolution designating her as technical consultant. The money received by petitioner from the corporation was her professional fee subject to the 10% expanded withholding tax on professionals, and that she was not one of those reported to the BIR or SSS as one of the company’s employees.
Petitioner’s designation as technical consultant depended solely upon the will of management. As such, her consultancy may be terminated any time considering that her services were only temporary in nature and dependent on the needs of the corporation.
To prove that petitioner was not an employee of the corporation, private respondents submitted a list of employees for the years 1999 and 2000 duly received by the BIR showing that petitioner was not among the employees reported to the BIR, as well as a list of payees subject to expanded withholding tax which included petitioner. SSS records were also submitted showing that petitioner’s latest employer was Seiji Corporation.
Labor Arbiter: Petitioner was illegally dismissed
NLRC: the decision of the Labor Arbiter was affirmed
On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed and set aside the decision of the NLRC. The subsequent motion for reconsideration was also denied, hence, the present recourse.
(1) Whether there was an employer-employee relationship between petitioner and private respondent Kasei Corporation; and if in the affirmative
(2) Whether petitioner was illegally dismissed.
(1) YES. By applying the control test, there is no doubt that petitioner is an employee of Kasei Corporation because she was under the direct control and supervision of Seiji Kamura, the corporation’s Technical Consultant. She reported for work regularly and served in various capacities as Accountant, Liaison Officer, Technical Consultant, Acting Manager and Corporate Secretary, with substantially the same job functions, that is, rendering accounting and tax services to the company and performing functions necessary and desirable for the proper operation of the corporation such as securing business permits and other licenses over an indefinite period of engagement.
Under the broader economic reality test, the petitioner can likewise be said to be an employee of respondent corporation because she had served the company for six years before her dismissal, receiving check vouchers indicating her salaries/wages, benefits, 13th month pay, bonuses and allowances, as well as deductions and Social Security contributions from August 1, 1999 to December 18, 2000. When petitioner was designated General Manager, respondent corporation made a report to the SSS signed by Irene Ballesteros. Petitioner’s membership in the SSS as manifested by a copy of the SSS specimen signature card which was signed by the President of Kasei Corporation and the inclusion of her name in the on-line inquiry system of the SSS evinces the existence of an employer-employee relationship between petitioner and Respondent Corporation. It is therefore apparent that petitioner is economically dependent on Respondent Corporation for her continued employment in the latter’s line of business.
Petitioner is an employee of respondent Kasei Corporation. She was selected and engaged by the company for compensation, and is economically dependent upon respondent for her continued employment in that line of business. Her main job function involved accounting and tax services rendered to Respondent Corporation on a regular basis over an indefinite period of engagement. Respondent Corporation hired and engaged petitioner for compensation, with the power to dismiss her for cause. More importantly, Respondent Corporation had the power to control petitioner with the means and methods by which the work is to be accomplished.
(2) YES. The corporation constructively dismissed petitioner when it reduced her salary by P2, 500 a month from January to September 2001. This amounts to an illegal termination of employment, where the petitioner is entitled to full back wages. Since the position of petitioner as accountant is one of trust and confidence, and under the principle of strained relations, petitioner is further entitled to separation pay, in lieu of reinstatement.
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