Monday, May 12, 2014

You have been hired and made to sign a contract stating you are a project employee, but you have been working indefinitely with the company. Are you considered a project employee so that the company may terminate your employment citing end-of-project or season, and without need for just or authorized cause?


The case below discusses the determining factors for a project employee, and how one who started as a project employee may eventually become a regular employee.

Duration of project employment
should be determined at the time of
hiring

In the instant case, the appointments issued to petitioner indicated that he was hired for specific projects. This Court is convinced however that although he started as a project employee, he eventually became a regular employee of PNCC.

Under Article 280 of the Labor Code, as amended, a project employee is one whose "employment has been fixed for a specific project or undertaking the completion or termination of which has been determined at the time of the engagement of the employee or where the work or services to be performed is seasonal in nature and the employment is for the duration of the season." Thus, the principal test used to determine whether employees are project employees is whether or not the employees were assigned to carry out a specific project or undertaking, the duration or scope of which was specified at the time the employees were engaged for that project.33

In the case at bar, petitioner worked continuously for more than two years after the supposed three-month duration of his project employment for the NAIA II Project. While his appointment for said project allowed such extension since it specifically provided that in case his "services are still needed beyond the validity of the contract, the Company shall extend his services," there was no subsequent contract or appointment that specified a particular duration for the extension. His services were just extended indefinitely until "Personnel Action Form – Project Employment" dated July 7, 1998 was issued to him which provided that his employment will end a few weeks later or on August 4, 1998. While for first three months, petitioner can be considered a project employee of PNCC, his employment thereafter, when his services were extended without any specification of as to the duration, made him a regular employee of PNCC. And his status as a regular employee was not affected by the fact that he was assigned to several other projects and there were intervals in between said projects since he enjoys security of tenure.

Failure of an employer to file
termination reports after every
project completion proves that an
employee is not a project employee

As a rule, the findings of fact of the CA are final and conclusive and this Court will not review them on appeal.34 The rule, however, is subject to the following exceptions:

The jurisdiction of the Court in cases brought before it from the appellate court is limited to reviewing errors of law, and findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are conclusive upon the Court since it is not the Court’s function to analyze and weigh the evidence all over again. Nevertheless, in several cases, the Court enumerated the exceptions to the rule that factual findings of the Court of Appeals are binding on the Court: (1) when the findings are grounded entirely on speculations, surmises or conjectures; (2) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (3) when there is grave abuse of discretion; (4) when the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts; (5) when the findings of fact are conflicting; (6) when in making its findings the Court of Appeals went beyond the issues of the case, or its findings are contrary to the admissions of both the appellant and the appellee; (7) when the findings are contrary to that of the trial court; (8) when the findings are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based; (9) when the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioner’s main and reply briefs are not disputed by the respondent; (10) when the findings of fact are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record; or (11) when the Court of Appeals manifestly overlooked certain relevant facts not disputed by the parties, which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion.35

In this case, records clearly show that PNCC did not report the termination of petitioner’s supposed project employment for the NAIA II Project to the DOLE. Department Order No. 19, or the "Guidelines Governing the Employment of Workers in the Construction Industry," requires employers to submit a report of an employee’s termination to the nearest public employment office every time an employee’s employment is terminated due to a completion of a project. PNCC submitted as evidence of its compliance with the requirement supposed photocopies of its termination reports, each listing petitioner as among the employees affected. Unfortunately, none of the reports submitted pertain to the NAIA II Project. Moreover, DOLE NCR verified that petitioner is not included in the list of affected workers based on the termination reports filed by PNCC on August 11, 17, 20 and 24, 1998 for petitioner’s supposed dismissal from the NAIA II Project effective August 4, 1998. This certification from DOLE was not refuted by PNCC. In Tomas Lao Construction v. NLRC,36 we emphasized the indispensability of the reportorial requirement:

Moreover, if private respondents were indeed employed as "project employees," petitioners should have submitted a report of termination to the nearest public employment office every time their employment was terminated due to completion of each construction project. The records show that they did not. Policy Instruction No. 20 is explicit that employers of project employees are exempted from the clearance requirement but not from the submission of termination report. We have consistently held that failure of the employer to file termination reports after every project completion proves that the employees are not project employees. Nowhere in the New Labor Code is it provided that the reportorial requirement is dispensed with. The fact is that Department Order No. 19 superseding Policy Instruction No. 20 expressly provides that the report of termination is one of the indicators of project employment.37

 

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