Family drivers’ employment rights are governed by the Civil Code and not the Labor Code. Section 44 of Republic Act No. 10361, otherwise known as the “Domestic Workers Act” or “Batas Kasambahay” (Kasambahay Law), expressly repealed Chapter III (Employment of Househelpers) of the Labor Code, which includes Articles 141 and 149 that used to govern the rights of the family drivers under the Labor Code.
Thus, the SC held in the following case:
Atienza vs. Saluta
G.R. No. 233413, June 17, 2019
Family driver; Family driver is not governed by the Labor Code on his compensation and dismissal; Employer-employee relationship; the onus probandi falls on Saluta to establish or substantiate his claim by the requisite quantum of evidence given that it is axiomatic that whoever claims entitlement to the benefits provided by law should establish his or her right thereto; Appeal; A party who did not appeal shall not benefit from the reversed judgment; Dismissal; Unsubstantiated allegation of verbal dismissal cannot establish the fact of dismissal
Version of Respondent Noel Saluta (Saluta):
On December 11, 2014, while driving along North Luzon Expressway, Saluta hit the rear portion of the vehicle in front of him. Thus, he was made to pay the amount of P15,000.00 to answer for the damages caused to the said vehicle. The amount was first advanced by the company, but will be deducted from his monthly salary. On the said occasion, the authorities confiscated his driver’s license and issued him a Temporary Operator’s Permit (TOP).
On December 23, 2014, Saluta told Petitioner Celia Atienza (Atienza) that he needed to absent himself from work because he had to claim his driver’s license since his TOP had already expired. According to him, Atienza refused to excuse him from work because she had appointments lined up that day. As it was illegal for him to drive without a license, he was constrained to get his license the following day, December 24, 2014; thus, he failed to report for work. However, before going on leave, he first requested another company driver to drive for Atienza. When Atienza learned that he was not around, she immediately called him up saying, “kung hindi ka makakapag-drive ngayon, mabuti pa maghiwalay na tayo.” Upon hearing such words, Saluta concluded that he had been verbally terminated.
When Saluta went to CRV Corporation on the same day, Rodolfo Reyes (Reyes), the General Manager of the company, confirmed that he was already terminated from work. As it was Christmas Eve, he requested that he be given his last salary, but this was refused on the ground that he has yet to reimburse the company the P15,000.00 it had advanced.
Thus, Saluta filed a complaint against CRV Corporation and Atienza for illegal dismissal, non-payment of wages, overtime pay, holiday pay, premium pay for work on holidays and rest day, illegal deduction, and issuance of a certificate of employment.
Version of Petitioner Celia Atienza (Atienza):
For her part, Atienza contended that Saluta was not dismissed from work, rather he abandoned his job when he refused to report for work and took a leave of absence without permission. Atienza claimed that Saluta was not an employee of CRV Corporation, but was hired by Atienza as her personal/family driver with a monthly salary of P9,000.00 and free board and lodging. His duty was simply to drive for her and her family to anywhere they wish to go. His monthly salary was coursed through Reyes.
Sometime in December 2014, while driving her brother-in-law’s car, Saluta was involved in a vehicular accident. Since Saluta readily admitted his fault, she agreed to lend him P15,000.00 so that he could immediately pay for the damages he caused.
On the night of December 22, 2014, Saluta asked for permission if he could go to Pampanga as he needed to sign some papers. She agreed on the condition that Saluta would report for work the following day. On December 23, 2014, Saluta did not report for work as instructed. Instead, he simply called Atienza to inform her that he will be absent because he had to renew his expired driver’s license. That was the last time she had heard from Saluta.
Atienza subsequently learned that on December 27, 2014, Saluta asked Reyes for his remaining salary of P2,100.00 for the period covering December 16 to 22, 2014. Because Saluta had not yet paid his P15,000.00 loan, he was told that his salary could not be released. Nevertheless, Reyes extended to him a personal loan in the amount of P4,000.00 which Saluta promised to pay. Saluta communicated with Reyes for the last time on January 7, 2015 when the former told the latter that he would no longer return to work. Thus, Atienza was surprised to learn that on April 7, 2015, or more than three months from the time he failed to report for work, Saluta filed a complaint for illegal dismissal.
The Labor Arbiter dismissed Saluta’s complaint except insofar as his claim for illegal deduction and request for the issuance of a certificate of employment are concerned.
The Labor Arbiter held that Saluta failed to prove by substantial evidence that he was an employee of CRV Corporation. Given the admission of Atienza that Saluta was her personal driver and considering that the employer-employee relationship between CRV Corporation and Saluta had not been established, Saluta was deemed an employee of Atienza.
According to the LA, being a personal driver, his compensation for work and indemnity for dismissal were governed by Articles 1689, 1697 and 1699 of the Civil Code. The monthly salary of P9,000.00 being received by Saluta was reasonable and in accordance with Article 1689 of the Civil Code. His claims for overtime pay, holiday pay and premium for work done on holidays, as well as premium for work done on rest day cannot be granted as the Labor Code exempts from coverage househelpers and persons in the personal service of another from such benefits.
The Labor Arbiter further held that the amount of P15,000.00 cannot be charged against Saluta as it had not been proved that he was the one responsible for the vehicular accident that transpired in December 2014. As for Saluta’s request to be issued an employment certificate, the same must be granted as he was entitled thereto pursuant to Article 1699 of the Civil Code. The Labor Arbiter also dismissed the complaint for illegal dismissal for lack of showing that Saluta was illegally terminated from the service, or that he was prevented from returning to work. On the contrary, the Labor Arbiter found Saluta to have left his employment without justifiable reason. For such reason, he was deemed to have forfeited the salary due him and unpaid pursuant to Article 1697 of the Civil Code.
The NLRC reversed and set aside the decision of the Labor Arbiter.
The NLRC held that while it may be true that Saluta failed to present substantial evidence to prove that he was under the employ of CRV Corporation as one of its drivers, it is also true that Atienza did not dispute that Saluta was driving for her. By alleging that Saluta was her personal driver, it becomes incumbent upon her to prove their employer-employee relationship which she failed to do.
The respective allegations of the parties show that Saluta was an employee of CRV Corporation. Furthermore, the allegation put forward by Atienza that Saluta customarily reported for work to Reyes, the General Manager, and the act of the latter of extending a personal loan to the former proved that Saluta was indeed under the employ of the company.
As to claims of illegal dismissal and abandonment of work by complainant and Saluta, respectively, the NLRC held that both parties failed to adduce evidence to support their respective contentions.
Atienza filed a Partial Motion for Reconsideration, but it was denied. Alleging grave abuse of discretion, Atienza elevated the case before the CA by way of petition for certiorari.
The CA, like the NLRC, ruled that Saluta failed to prove by substantial evidence that he was a company driver of CRV Corporation.
However, in order to level the playing field in which the employer was pitted against the employee, the CA deemed it necessary to reexamine the evidence presented by Atienza in support of her claim that she was the real employer of Saluta. The CA was not convinced that Atienza hired Saluta in her personal capacity for the former’s failure to present Saluta’s employment contract duly signed by Atienza and showing the date Saluta was hired, his work description, salary and manner of its payment.
The CA added that as a top official of CRV Corporation, Atienza could have easily negated Saluta’s allegation that he was employed by the company by presenting the payrolls, complete list of personnel, salary vouchers and SSS registration of the company, but she did not do so. Atienza also failed to explain why Saluta was customarily reporting to and receiving his salary through Reyes if he truly was her personal driver. Atienza also did not refute that Saluta’s salaries were paid through Automated Teller Machines (ATM) just like the rest of the employees of the company. That Saluta was an employee of CRV Corporation was further showed by the fact that the company wields the power of dismissal. If Saluta was indeed the employee of Atienza, there would be no reason for him to go to CRV Corporation’s office to confirm whether he was terminated or not after he was verbally dismissed by Atienza and ask for the release of his salary from the company.
The CA also held that Atienza failed to adduce evidence showing that Saluta was not terminated for just or authorized cause and after the observance of due process. On the contrary, the appellate court found the failure of Saluta to report for work op December 24, 2014 in order for him to be able to claim his driver’s license as his TOP had already expired to be reasonable; thus, not enough reason for his dismissal. The CA was likewise not convinced that Saluta abandoned his job as no evidence was presented indicating Saluta’s clear intention to sever his employment with the company. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the Decision of the NLRC with modification.
Atienza moved for reconsideration, but the CA denied it.
Whether or not the burden of proving existence of employer-employee relationship lies with the employer
Whether or not an unsubstantiated verbal dismissal can establish the claim of illegal dismissal
Whether or not the fact of non-payment of salary proves termination
Whether or not the rights of a family driver are still governed by the Labor Code
Whether or not a party who did not appeal can benefit from the reversal of judgment
The SC granted the petition.
In resolving the issue of whether Saluta was an employee of CRV Corporation, it held that to ascertain the existence of an employer-employee relationship, jurisprudence has invariably adhered to the four-fold test, to wit: (1) the selection and engagement of the employee; (2) the payment of wages; (3) the power of dismissal; and (4) the power to control the employee’s conduct, or the so-called “control test.”
Although no particular form of evidence is required to prove the existence of an employer-employee relationship, and any competent and relevant evidence to prove the relationship may be admitted, a finding that the relationship exists must nonetheless rest on substantial evidence, or such amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion. In this case, a scrutiny of the records will bear out that Saluta failed to substantiate his claim that he was a company driver of CRV Corporation.
According to the SC, apart from Saluta’s staunch insistence that he was a company driver of CRV Corporation, he did not proffer any competent evidence, documentary or otherwise, as would prove his claimed employment with the company. He did not present his employment contract, company identification card, company pay slip or such other document showing his inclusion in the company payroll that would show that his services had been engaged by CRV Corporation.
Saluta’s contention that he received his salaries through the ATM like the other employees of the company, even if true, does not sufficiently show that his salaries were paid by the company as its employee. Saluta also failed to present any proof showing how the company wielded the power of dismissal and control over him. Evidence is wanting that the company monitored Saluta in his work. It had not been shown that Saluta was required by the company to clock in to enable it to check his work hours and keep track of his absences.
On the other hand, the records showed that Atienza had a say on how he performed his work. It is Atienza who decides when she needed the services of Saluta. As a matter of fact, Saluta had to secure permission from Atienza before he can take a leave of absence from work. That Atienza also enjoyed the power of dismissal is beyond question given that Saluta himself believed that Atienza verbally terminated him. Because Saluta failed to establish his employment with CRV Corporation, the Court must necessarily agree with the Labor Arbiter that Saluta was the personal/family driver of Atienza.
Both the NLRC and the CA made it Atienza’s obligation to prove that Saluta was under her employ and not a company driver of CRV Corporation. The Court does not agree. It must be emphasized that the rule of thumb remains: the onus probandi falls on Saluta to establish or substantiate his claim by the requisite quantum of evidence given that it is axiomatic that whoever claims entitlement to the benefits provided by law should establish his or her right thereto. Unfortunately, Saluta failed to hurdle the required burden of proof as would give ground for this Court to agree with him.
It is axiomatic that in illegal dismissal cases, the employer bears the burden of proving that the termination was for a valid or authorized cause. However, there are cases wherein the facts and the evidence do not establish prima facie that the employee was dismissed from employment. Before the employer is obliged to prove that the dismissal was legal, the employee must first establish by substantial evidence the fact of his dismissal from service. If there is no dismissal, then there can be no question as to the legality or illegality thereof.
Saluta’s bare claim of having been dismissed from employment by Atienza, unsubstantiated by impartial and independent evidence, is insufficient to establish such fact of dismissal. Bare and unsubstantiated allegations do not constitute substantial evidence and have no probative value. It must be emphasized that aside from the allegation that he was verbally terminated from his work, Saluta failed to present any competent evidence showing that he was prevented from returning to his work. Reyes did not issue any statement to corroborate the claimed termination of Saluta. That he was refused to be given his salary did not at all prove the fact of his termination. It must be taken into account that salaries of employees may not be released for myriad of reasons. Termination may only be one of them.
The Court reiterates the basic rule of evidence that each party must prove his affirmative allegation, that mere allegation is not evidence. The Court must also stress that the evidence presented to show the employee’s termination from employment must be clear, positive, and convincing. Absent any showing of an overt or positive act proving that Atienza had dismissed Saluta, the latter’s claim of illegal dismissal cannot be sustained -as the same would be self-serving, conjectural, and of no probative value.
The SC held that abandonment is a matter of intention and cannot lightly be inferred or legally presumed from certain equivocal acts citing the case of Protective Maximum Security Agency, Inc. vs. Fuentes. The burden of proving abandonment is upon the employer who, whether pleading the same as a ground for dismissing an employee or as a mere defense, additionally has the legal duty to observe due process.
The Court finds that there is no abandonment in this case. Aside from his absence from work, Atienza failed to present any proof of Saluta’s overt conduct which clearly manifested his desire to end his employment. Settled is the rule that mere absence or failure to report for work is not tantamount to abandonment of work. This is especially so in light of his having filed a case for illegal dismissal which is inconsistent with abandonment of employment. An employee who takes steps to protest his dismissal cannot logically be said to have abandoned his work. The filing of such complaint is proof enough of his desire to return to work, thus, negating any suggestion of abandonment.
The SC held that the Civil Code shall govern the rights of family drivers. Section 44 of Republic Act No. 10361, otherwise known as the “Domestic Workers Act” or “Batas Kasambahay” (Kasambahay Law), expressly repealed Chapter III (Employment of Househelpers) of the Labor Code, which includes Articles 141 and 149 that used to govern the rights of the family drivers under the Labor Code.
The Kasambahay Law, on the other hand, made no mention of family drivers in the enumeration of those workers who are covered by the law. This is unlike Article 141 of the Labor Code. Section 4 (d) of the Kasambahay Law pertaining to who are included in the enumeration of domestic or household help cannot also be interpreted to include family drivers because the latter category of worker is clearly not included.
It is a settled rule of statutory construction that the express mention of one person, thing, or consequence implies the exclusion of all others -this is expressed in the familiar maxim, expressio unius est exclusio alterius. Moreover, Section 2 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Kasambahay Law provides that the IRR shall apply to all parties to an employment contract for the services of the enumerated Kasambahay, whether on a live-in or live-out arrangement and that it shall not cover family drivers.
The aforecited administrative rule clarified the status of family drivers as among those not covered by the definition of domestic or household help as contemplated in Section 4 (d) of the Kasambahay Law. Such provision should be respected by the courts, as the interpretation of an administrative government agency, which is tasked to implement the statute, is accorded great respect and ordinarily controls the construction of the courts.
Moreover, the statutory validity of the same administrative rule was never challenged. This Court has ruled time and again that the constitutionality or validity of laws, orders, or such other rules with the force of law cannot be attacked collaterally. There is a legal presumption of validity of these laws and rules. Unless a law or rule is annulled in a direct proceeding, the legal presumption of its validity stands. And while it is true that constitutional provisions on social justice demand that doubts be resolved in favor of labor, it is only applicable when there is doubt. Social justice principles cannot be used to expand the coverage of the law to subjects not intended by the Congress to be included.
Due to the express repeal of the Labor Code provisions pertaining to househelpers, which includes family drivers, by the Kasambahay Law; and the non-applicability of the Kasambahay Law to family drivers, there is a need to revert back to the Civil Code provisions, particularly Articles 1689, 1697 and 1699, Section 1, Chapter 3, Title VIII, Book IV thereof. Since what were expressly repealed by the Kasambahay Law were only Articles 141 to 152, Chapter III of the Labor Code on Employment of Househelpers; and the Labor Code did not repeal the Civil Code provisions concerning household service which impliedly includes family drivers as they minister to the needs of a household, the said Civil Code provisions stand. To rule otherwise would leave family drivers without even a modicum of protection. Certainly, that could not have been the intent of the lawmakers.
Pursuant to Article 1697 of the Civil Code, Saluta shall be paid the compensation he had already earned plus that for 15 days by way of indemnity if he was unjustly dismissed. However, if Saluta left his employment without justifiable reason, he shall forfeit any salary due him and unpaid for not exceeding 15 days. Given that there is neither dismissal nor abandonment in this case, none of the party is entitled to claim any indemnity from the other. Verily, in a case where the employee’s failure to work was occasioned neither by his abandonment nor by a termination, the burden of economic loss is not rightfully shifted to the employer; each party must bear his own loss. Otherwise stated, Saluta’s act of not reporting to work after a verbal miscommunication cannot justify the payment of any form of remuneration.
The P9,000.00 salary Saluta receives a month is reasonable and in accordance with Article 1689 of the Civil Code. Hence, Atienza may not be made to pay Saluta wage differentials. Atienza is not also liable to Saluta for the payment of holiday pay, 13th month pay and service incentive leave pay because persons in the personal service of another, such as family drivers, are exempted from the coverage of such benefits pursuant to Articles 82,38 9439 and 9540 of the Labor Code, and Section 3 (d)41 of the implementing rules of Presidential Decree No. 851.
The reversal of the judgment rendered by the appellate court will not inure to the benefit of CR V Corporation considering that CRV Corporation did not appeal the decision of the appellate court.