Almirante: Pro-forma complaint

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By Dominador Almirante

Labor case Digest

Friday, January 17, 2014


RESPONDENT Josafat Gutang filed a complaint for money claims against petitioner Samar-Med Distribution, a sole proprietorship registered in the name of Danilo V. Roleda. He claimed that Samar-Med had difficulty paying his compensation during his employment, resulting in his not being paid salaries since November 1995, allowances since June 1994 and commissions from sales, and 13th month pay in 1996. He also alleged that Samar-Med made illegal deductions in June 1994 and February 1995. Consequently, he had been compelled to look for other sources of income beginning on March 26, 1996 in order to survive.

Roleda contended that since Gutang’s complaint before the labor arbiter did not include illegal dismissal as his cause of action, this means that the instant case does not involve the issue of illegal dismissal. Is there merit to this contention?

The Supreme Court ruling: No.

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The petitioner’s contention that the validity of Gutang’s dismissal should not be determined because it had not been included in his complaint before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) is bereft of merit.

The complaint of Gutang was a mere checklist of possible causes of action that he might have against Roleda. Such manner of preparing the complaint was obviously designed to facilitate the filing of complaints by employees and laborers who are thereby enabled to expediently set forth their grievances in a general manner.

But the non-inclusion in the complaint of the issue of dismissal did not necessarily mean that the validity of the dismissal could not be an issue. The rules of the NLRC require the submission of verified position papers by the parties should they fail to agree upon an amicable settlement, and bar the inclusion of any cause of action not mentioned in the complaint or position paper from the time of their submission by the parties.

With Gutang’s position paper having alleged not only the bases for his money claims, but also that he had been “compelled to look for other sources of income in order to survive” and that his employment had not been formally terminated, thereby entitling him to “full backwages aside from his other claims for unpaid monies,” the consideration and ruling on the propriety of Gutang’s dismissal by the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC were proper (Samar-Med Distribution vs. National Labor Relations Commission, & Josafat Gutang, G.R. No. 162385, July 15, 2013).

(Almirante is a former labor arbiter.)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 18, 2014.

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