Felicilda vs. Uy
G.R. No. 221241, September 14, 2016


Petitioner alleged that respondent Manchesteve H. Uy (respondent) hired him as a truck driver for the latter’s trucking service under the business name “Gold Pillars Trucking” ( GPT).

In connection therewith, petitioner was issued a company identification card (ID), assigned in one of GPT’s branches in Manila, and paid on a percentage basis. On December 9, 2011, petitioner took a nap at the workstation while waiting for his truck to be loaded with cargoes, all of which were delivered to respondent’s clients on schedule.

The next day, or on December 10, 2011, respondent’s helper told petitioner   that his employment was already terminated due to his act of sleeping while on the job. Claiming that he was dismissed without just cause and due process, and that his act of taking a nap did not prejudice respondent’s business, petitioner filed a complaint for illegal dismissal with money claims against respondent, before the NLRC, docketed as NLRC NCR Case No. 12-18409-11.

In his defense, respondent denied the existence of an employer-employee relationship between him and petitioner, considering that petitioner was: (a) paid merely on a per trip “percentage” basis and was not required to regularly report for work; ( b) free to offer his services to other companies; and (c) not under respondent’s control with respect to the means and methods by which he performed his job as a truck driver.

Respondent added that petitioner’s company ID did not indicate that the latter was his employee, but only served the purpose of informing the GPT’ s clients that petitioner was one of respondent’s authorized drivers. Finally, respondent averred that it no longer engaged petitioner’s services due to the latter’s “serious transgressions and misconduct.”

LA Ruling:

The Labor Arbiter (LA) ruled in petitioner’s favor and, accordingly, ordered respondent to pay the aggregate sum of P80,145.52 representing his backwages and separation pay.

Finding that petitioner’s service as truck driver was indispensable to respondent’s business operations, the LA concluded that petitioner was respondent’s regular employee and, thus, may only be dismissed for just or authorized cause and with due process. Absent any showing of a clear and valid cause to terminate petitioner’s employment, respondent was, therefore, guilty of illegal dismissal. Aggrieved, respondent appealed to the NLRC.

NLRC Ruling:

The NLRC affirmed the LA ruling. It ruled that an employer-employee relationship existed between the parties, considering that: (a) respondent engaged petitioner’s services without the aid of a third party or a manpower agency; (b) the payment of wages on a percentage basis did not negate such existence; (c) respondent’s power to dismiss petitioner was inherent in his selection and engagement of the latter as truck driver; and ( d) respondent exercised control and supervision over petitioner’s work as shown in the former’ s determination of the latter’s delivery areas and schedules.18 Considering that respondent failed to show a lawful cause for petitioner’s dismissal, the NLRC sustained the order of payment of monetary awards in petitioner’s favor.

Respondent moved for reconsideration, but was denied. Undaunted, respondent filed a petition for certiorari before the CA.

CA Ruling:

The CA set aside the NLRC ruling and, instead, dismissed petitioner’s complaint for illegal dismissal with money claims for lack of merit. Contrary to the findings of the LA and the NLRC, the CA held that the elements of payment of wages and control in determining an employer-employee relationship were absent, considering that petitioner was not paid wages, but commissions only, which amounts varied depending on the kind of cargo, length of trip, and fuel consumption. The CA observed that there was no evidence to show that respondent exercised control over the means and methods by which petitioner was to perform his duties. Further, petitioner failed to refute the claims that: (a) the payment of his commission was dependent on his efficiency, discipline, and industry, which factors were beyond respondent’s control; (b) he was not required to regularly report for work and may make himself available to other companies; and ( c) the company ID was merely issued to him for the purpose of apprising respondent’s clients that he was the authorized driver.25 Petitioner moved for reconsideration, but was denied; hence, the petition.


Whether or not there was employer-employee relationship in this case

SC Ruling:

The SC found merit in the petition.

All the four (4) elements are present in this case: First. It is undisputed that respondent hired petitioner to work as a truck driver for his private enterprise, GPT.

Second. Petitioner received compensation from respondent for the services he rendered. Contrary to the findings of the CA, while the wages paid were determined on a “per trip” or commission basis, it has been constantly ruled that such does not negate employment relationship.

Article 97 (f) of the Labor Code broadly defines the term “wage” as “the remuneration or earnings, however designated, capable of being expressed in terms of money, whether fixed or ascertained on a time, task, piece, or commission basis, or other method of calculating the same, which is payable by an employer to an employee under a written or unwritten contract of employment for work done or to be done, or for services rendered or to be rendered x x x.”

That petitioner was paid on a “per trip” or commission basis is insignificant as this is merely a method of computing compensation and not a basis for determining the existence or absence of an employer-employee relationship.

Third. Respondent’s power to dismiss was inherent in the selection and engagement of petitioner as truck driver.

Fourth. The presence of the element of control, which is the most important element to determine the existence or absence of employment relationship, can be safely deduced from the fact that: (a) respondent owned the trucks that were assigned to petitioner; (b) the cargoes loaded in the said trucks were exclusively for respondent’s clients; and (c) the schedule and route to be followed by petitioner were exclusively determined by respondent.

The latter’s claim that petitioner was permitted to render service to other companies was not substantiated and there was no showing that he indeed worked as truck driver for other companies.

Given all these considerations, while petitioner was free to carry out his duties as truck driver, it cannot be pretended that respondent, nonetheless, exercised control over the means and methods by which the former was to accomplish his work.

To reiterate, the power of control refers merely to the existence of the power. It is not essential for the employer to actually supervise the performance of duties of the employee, as it is sufficient that the former has a right to wield the power, as in this case.

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