CEBU

Almirante: Project employment

Labor Case Digest

IN MAY 2013, respondent Jose Calma Development Corp. (JCDC), a company engaged in the construction business, hired petitioner Ramon Mirandilla (Ramon) as finishing carpenter for its construction projects. Sometime in October 2015, he was asked by JCDC to sign a document purporting to be termination of his project contract.

Ramon claimed he was a regular employee and was surprised to learn that his employment had been terminated despite not having violated any company policy. Thus, he filed a complaint for illegal dismissal and other money claims against JCDC and its president and owner Jose Gregorio Antonio Calma Jr.

Respondents denied that Ramon was illegally dismissed and asserted that he was a project employee who was duly apprised of his status as such, and whose employment was coterminous with the completion of his project. On Oct. 29, 2015, JCDC submitted to the Department of Labor and Employment an Establishment Employment Report indicating the termination of Ramon’s employment due to “project completion.” They added that Ramon committed several violations of company rules and regulations.

Whose contention finds merit?

Ruling: That of Ramon.

Respondents submitted Ramon’s Weekly Time Records (WTRs) as primary proof of his alleged project employment status. While these WTRs do indicate Ramon’s particular assignments for certain weeks starting from Nov. 8, 2013 to May 27, 2015, they do not, however, indicate that he was particularly engaged by JCDC for each of the projects stated therein, and that the duration and scope thereof were made known to him at the time his services were engaged. At best, these records only show that he had worked for such projects. By and of themselves, they do not show that Ramon was made aware of his status as a project employee at the time of hiring, as well as of the period of his employment for a specific project or undertaking.

In fact, the WTRs actually show that Ramon was engaged as an all purpose carpenter who was made to work at JCDC’s several project sites on a regular basis, as his working assignments were just re-shuffled from one project to another without any clear showing that his engagement for each project site was constitutive of a particular contract of project employment.

For instance, the WTRs show that during the weeks of Nov. 14 to 20, 2013 and Nov. 21 to 27, 2013, Ramon was assigned at the project sites “Friedberg One Serendra East Tower” and “Repetto Shangrila” on various dates. However, the following week (i.e., Nov. 28 to Dec. 4, 2013), he was only assigned at “Repetto Shangrila.” Similarly, on April 10 to 14, 2014, he was assigned at the project “Ernest Cu.” Then, the week after (i.e., April 17 to 23, 2014), he alternated between the project sites “Yakal” and “Ernest Cu.”

However, the following week (i.e., April 24 to 30, 2014) he reported back to the project “Ernest Cu” and another called “Repetto Rockwell.” In all of these, it is noteworthy that no project employment contract was shown designating his engagement for each particular undertaking, much more was it demonstrated that he was informed of the scope and duration thereof.

Clearly, by virtue of this pattern of reassignment, Ramon should be deemed as a regular employee, as he was actually tasked to perform work which is usually necessary and desirable to the trade and business of his employer, and not merely engaged for a specific project or undertaking. In GMA Network Inc. v. Pabriga, 722 Phil. 161 (2013), the Court pointed out that if the particular job or undertaking is within the regular or usual business of the employer company and it is not identifiably distinct or separate from the other undertakings of the company such that there is clearly a constant necessity for the performance of the task in question, the said job or undertaking should not be considered a project, as in this case.

In addition, if Ramon were to be considered as a project employee for each of the project sites indicated in the WTRs, then JCDC should have submitted a report of termination to the nearest public employment office every time his employment was terminated due to completion of each construction project. However, JCDC only submitted one Establishment Employment Report dated, Oct. 29, 2015. (Ramon Mirandilla, et al. vs. Jose Calma Development Corp. and Jose Gregorio Antonio Calma Jr., G.R. 242834, June 26, 2019).


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