My husband and his cousin were employed as truck drivers of a logistics company. They deliver milk and other similar products all throughout the Philippines. They had a three-year contract which started in February 2012 up to February 2015. Sometime in December 2014, rumors in their company were circulating that the two of them were involved in stealing some company merchandise. Although their supervisor talked to them, no formal investigation was made.
Last March of this year, they were no longer allowed to enter the company premises. The guards said that they have been terminated already. So now my husband and his cousin are contemplating on filing a labor complaint for illegal dismissal against their company because they believe that they should be considered regular employees since they have been with the company for several years now. As such, their company cannot simply terminate them without proper cause and investigation. We just want to get your advice if they should pursue the filing of their labor complaint.
Article 280 of Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 442, as amended, otherwise known as the Labor Code of the Philippines, defines regular employees as those who are engaged to perform activities which are usually necessary or desirable in the usual business or trade of the employer, except where the employment has been fixed for a specific project or undertaking the completion or termination of which has been determined at the time of the engagement of the employee or where the work or service to be performed is seasonal in nature and the employment is for the duration of the season.
In the situation that you have presented before us, it may very well be said that the tasks of your husband and his cousin, being truck drivers, are necessary or desirable in the usual business or trade of their employer as it is engaged in logistics or actual distribution of products to their clients. However, they cannot be considered as regular employees, notwithstanding the fact that they have been rendering services to their company for three years because there exists a contract between them and their former company which particularly stipulates the period of their employment, that is, from February 2012 up to February 2015. They are, thus, considered to belong to the exception to the rule as provided in the definition of regular employees mentioned above.
Accordingly, it is justified for the security guards of their former company not to allow them to enter the company premises starting March 2015 as their contract of employment is deemed to have terminated at the end of February 2015. In view thereof, it is not advisable to pursue a labor complaint against their former employers as this may result ino an unfavorable outcome for your husband and his cousin.
We further take note of the ruling of the Supreme Court in the case of Labayog vs. M. Y. San Biscuits, Inc. (494 SCRA 486, G.R. No. 148102, July 11, 2006):
“x x x Where the duties of the employee consist of activities which are necessary or desirable in the usual business of the employer, the parties are not prohibited from agreeing on the duration of employment. Article 280 does not proscribe or prohibit an employment contract with a fixed period provided it is not intended to circumvent the security of tenure.
Two criteria validate a contract of employment with a fixed period: (1) the fixed period of employment was knowingly and voluntarily agreed upon by the parties without any force, duress or improper pressure being brought to bear on the employee and without any circumstances vitiating consent or, (2) it satisfactorily appears that the employer and employee dealt with each other on more or less equal terms with no moral dominance whatever being exercised by the former on the latter. x x x
Each contract provided for an expiration date. Petitioners knew from the beginning that the employment offered to them was not permanent but only for a certain fixed period. They were free to accept or to refuse the offer. When they expressed their acceptance, they bound themselves to the contract. x x x”
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org