Almirante: Standards in Probationary Employment

On Aug. 19, 2009, respondent Miguel J. Verzo (Verzo) was hired by petitioner Enchanted Kingdom, Inc. (Enchanted) to work as section head-mechanical and instrumentation maintenance (SH-MIM) for its theme park in Sta. Rosa City, Laguna for a period of six months on probationary status. He was provided with a detailed list of responsibilities that he should fulfill.

During the probationary period, Enchanted assessed Verzo’s performance as not up to par. He was recommended by his immediate supervisor that he should not be considered for regularization. In Feb. 3, 2010, Enchanted furnished Verzo a copy of the cast member performance appraisal for regularization, which reported that he only obtained a score of 70 out of 100. Ln Feb. 15, 2010, Enchanted formally informed Verzo that he did not qualify for regularization because his work performance for the past five months did not meet the requirements of his position.

Verzo filed a complaint for illegal dismissal, damages and attorney’s fees against Enchanted. He claimed that it was only after he was formally hired that he was informed of his probationary status. And even after, despite being placed on a probationary status, he was not advised as to the standards required for his regularization. Did his complaint prosper?

Ruling: No.

Section 6(d), Rule I, Book VI of the Implementing Rules of the Labor Code provides that if the employer fails to inform the probationary employee of the reasonable standards on which his regularization would be based at the time of the engagement, then the said employee shall be deemed a regular employee, Thus:

(d) In all cases of probationary employment, the employer shall make known to the employee the standards under which he will qualify as a regular employee at the time of his engagement. Where no standards are made known to the employee at that time, he shall be deemed a regular employee.

In Abbott Laboratories v. Alcaraz, G.R.No. 192571, July 23, 2013, 701 SCRA 682, the Court stated that when dealing with a probationary employee, the employer is made to comply with two (2) requirements: first, the employer must communicate the regularization standards to the probationary employee; and second, the employer must make such communication at the time of the probationary employee’s engagement. If the employer fails to comply with either, the employee is deemed as a regular and not a probationary employee.

x x x

In the case at bench, the evidence is clear that when Verzo was first hired by Enchanted, he was placed on a probationary status. The letter, dated August 26, 2009, clearly reflects not only the agreement of both parties as to the probationary status of the employment and its duration, but also the fact that Enchanted informed Verzo of the standards for his regularization, Thus:

x x x

2. You will be on a probationary status from August 19, 2009 to February 18, 2010.

3. As Section Head for Mechanical & Instrumentation Maintenance, you shall be responsible for mechanical and structural system assessments and inspection to evaluate conditions, operations and maintenance requirements of rides, facilities and buildings to ensure compliance with applicable codes, regulations and standards. Please see attach Job Description for the details of your responsibilities.

x x x

Clearly from the above, Enchanted informed Verzo that he was being placed on probation. Aside from the probationary nature of his employment, the agreement of the parties specifically showed: the duration of such status; the benefits to which he was entitled once regularized; and most importantly, the standard with which he must comply in order to be regularized (Mendoza, J., SC 2nd Division, Enchanted Kingdom, Inc. vs. Miguel J. Verzo, G.R. No. 209559, December 09, 2015).

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