He Is Not Our Employee

Gerome alleged that he was hired by JTA Packing Corporation (JTA) on December 26, 2014 as an all-around driver.

He narrated that on September 5, 2016, an officer of JTA maltreated him, prevented him from leaving the company premises, and threatened his life. Gerome no longer reported to work.

Believing that his continued employment became impossible, unbearable, and unlikely, Gerome filed a complaint for illegal dismissal against his employer on January 30, 2017.

JTA contended that Gerome was not its employee, as established by the following documents which never included Gerome’s name:

  • copies of its alpha list of employees as filed with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) for the years 2014-2016;
  • payroll monthly reports and 13th month pay it paid for the years 2015-2016;
  • reports on Social Security System (SSS) contributions of its employees remitted for the years 2015-2016;
  • PhilHealth remittance reports on contributions of its employees in 2016; and
  • Pag-IBIG fund membership and registration/remittance forms indicating the names of its employees and their contributions for the period of 2015-2016.

On June 28, 2017, the Office of the Labor Arbiter rendered a Decision which declared the existence of an employer-employee relationship between Gerome and JTA. It then ruled that Gerome was constructively dismissed because his continued employment with JTA was rendered impossible due to fear after the September 5, 2016 incident of maltreatment and detention.

On appeal, the National Labor Relations Commission reversed and set aside the Decision of the Office of the Labor Arbiter. It dismissed the complaint for lack of employer-employee relationship between Gerome and JTA.

One reason was that the pay slips submitted by Gerome failed to reveal who issued the same. The Commission also discovered discrepancies on the dates of their issue in that the pay slips dated back as early as March 2014 contrary to Gerome’s claim that he was hired in December of the same year.

The other reason was that JTA’s documentary evidence showed that Gerome was not among its employees.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling of the National Labor Relations Commission, in view of Gerome’s failure to substantiate his claim that he is an employee of JTA.

Gerome elevated his case to the Supreme Court.

Was Gerome an employee of JTA?

The Supreme Court ruled in the negative.

The Court reiterated the settled rule that allegations in the complaint must be duly proven by competent evidence and that the burden of proof is on the party making the allegation. In an illegal dismissal case, the onus probandi rests on the employer to prove that its dismissal of an employee was for a valid cause. However, before a case for illegal dismissal can prosper, an employer-employee relationship must first be established. In this regard, the “four-fold test” determines the existence of an employer-employee relationship, to wit: (a) the selection and engagement of the employee; (b) the payment of wages; (c) the power of dismissal; and (d) the power to control the employee’s conduct.

In the present case, the Court stressed that since it was Gerome who was claiming to be an employee of JTA, he had the burden of proving the existence of an employer-employee relationship. The Court found that Gerome failed to discharge this burden.

Gerome did not present any employment contract or company identification card to prove Gerome’s employment with JTA. According to the Court, in a business establishment, an identification card is usually provided not only as a security measure but mainly to identify the holder thereof as a bona fide employee of the firm that issues it.

The pay slips presented by Gerome bore no indication that the amount he allegedly received came from JTA. The Court pointed out that the pay slips submitted by Gerome even showed that he had been receiving compensation as early as February 2014, when he had claimed that he was hired by JTA months later, or on December 26, 2014. The Court said that this wide gap between February 2014 and December 2014 was not a trivial inconsistency.

Furthermore, there were no deductions from Gerome’s supposed salary such as withholding tax, SSS, PhilHealth or Pag-IBIG Fund contributions which were usual deductions from employees’ salaries.

On the other hand, the following voluminous documentary evidence submitted by JTA, which were duly signed by its authorized representative and stamp received by the concerned government agencies, indubitably showed that Gerome was not among its employees:

  • the alpha list of employees submitted to the Bureau of Internal Revenue for the years during which Gerome claims to have been employed by JTA;
  • the payroll monthly reports; and
  • the remittances made by JTA of its employees’ monthly contributions to the SSS, PhilHealth and Pag-IBIG Fund.

As to the power of control, the Court acknowledged that the purported driver’s itineraries presented by Gerome prescribed the manner by which his work as a driver is to be carried out. However, the Court found that the said driver’s itineraries were not signed by JTA’s authorized personnel and contained discrepancies on JTA’s name and address. For the Court, the driver’s itineraries were insufficient to establish the element of control.

The Court accordingly denied Gerome’s petition for lack of merit.

Further reading:

  • Ginta-Ason v. J.T.A. Packaging Corp., G.R. No. 244206, March 16, 2022.