CEBU

Almirante: Attorney’s fees

Labor Case Digest

PETITIONER Ernesto P. Gutierrez filed a complaint against respondent Nawras Manpower Services Inc. for illegal dismissal with money claims including attorney’s fees.

The Labor Arbiter (LA) found petitioner illegally dismissed and awarded him money claims and attorney’s fees. The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) affirmed the LA’s decision in toto. The Court of Appeals affirmed the NLRC decision but deleted among others, the award of attorney’s fees due to the LA’s failure to explain the factual circumstances warranting such award.

Did the CA err in deleting the award of attorney’s fees?

Ruling: Yes.

In Kaisahan at Kapatiran ng mga Manggagawa at Kawani sa MWC-East Zone Union v. Manila Water Co. Inc., 676 Phil. 262 (2011), this Court differentiated the ordinary and extraordinary concepts of attorney’s fees. Attorney’s fees under the extraordinary concept refer to those awarded by the Court to the losing party. These may be awarded in specific instances enumerated under Article 2208 of the Civil Code. Under paragraph 7 of Article 2208, attorney’s fees may be recovered “in actions for recovery of wages.”

In actions for recovery of wages, such as the instant case, a specific provision under the Labor Code governs. Article 111(a) of the Labor Code provides:

Art. 111. Attorney’s Fees. – (a) In cases of unlawful withholding of wages, the culpable party may be assessed attorney’s fees equivalent to 10 percent of the amount of wages recovered.

We construed Article 111 of the Labor Code as an exception to the general rule of strict construction in the award of attorney’s fees. In Kaisahan, we held that “although an express finding of facts and law is still necessary to prove the merit of the award, there need not be any showing that the employer acted maliciously or in bad faith when it withheld wages.” The findings of fact required to prove entitlement to attorney’s fees in labor cases refer to the unjustified withholding of lawful wages.

Here, it is undisputed that petitioner was not paid lawful wages corresponding to the unexpired portion of the contract. Therefore, petitioner is entitled to attorney’s fees. (Ernesto P. Gutierrez vs. Nawras Manpower Services Inc., et al., G.R. 234296, Nov. 27, 2019).


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