South Davao Development Corp. vs. Sergio L. Gamo, et al (G.R. No. 171814, May 8, 2009)
Petitioner filed a petition for certiorari for the decision made by the CA in ascertaining that the private respondents (Gamo and those copraceros under him) were regular seasonal employees who can be dismissed by the petitioner at the end of the season provided due process is observed. Also, SDDC petitions for CA’s ruling that Eleanor Cosep did not abandon her work.
Petitioner SDDC is the operator of coconut and mango farm in Davao Oriental and Davao del Sur. On August 1963, petitioner hired Sergio Gamo as foreman. In 1987, petitioner appointed Gamo as a copra maker contractor. 3 of the respondents were all employees in the coconut farm while 4 of them were all employees of the mango farm. All of these respondents were later transferred by SDDC to Gamo as copraceros. From 1987 to 1999, Gamo and petitioner entered into a profit-sharing agreement (30%-70%, respectively). The other copra workers were paid by Gamo from his 30% share. Sometime later, Gamo and petitioner were not able to agree on the profit-sharing. Thus, petitioner terminated Gamo and the other copra workers. The respondents alleged they were illegally dismissed.
Respondent Eleonor Cosep was also employed as a mango classifier in the packing house of SDDC’s mango farm in Davao Oriental. In October 1999, she did not report for work as she had wanted to raise and sell pigs instead.
- Whether or not there is an employer-employee relationship between SDDC and Gamo
- Whether or not Eleonor abandoned her work at SDDC
To determine the existence of an employee-employer relationship, the 4-fold test must be applied:
- Selection and engagement of the employee
- Payment of wages
- Power of dismissal
- Power of control
Among these elements, the power of control is the most important. From the time they were hired up to the time they were reassigned, the respondents’ status as SDDC’s employees did not cease. Power to control the manner of doing the work is determinant as long as it exists. It does not necessarily need actual exercise of such power to control. Power to control existed in the petitioners’ reassignment the employees, even there was a change in the payment scheme.
On the other case, it was ruled that Eleanor did not abandon her work. Abandonment, as a just and valid ground for dismissal, required the deliberate and unjustified refusal of the employee to return for work. Two (2) elements must be present:
- Failure to report for work or absence without valid or justifiable reason, and;
- Clear intention to sever the employee-employer relationship
The 2nd element is more determinant of the intent and must be evidenced by overt acts. As such, Eleonor’s mere absence is insufficient as the burden of proof rests upon the employer to show that the employee clearly and deliberately intended to discontinue her employment with no intention of returning. In SDDC’s case, the employer did not undertake with the due process requirement of sending notices to the employee prior to dismissal.