Case Digest: Olympia Housing, Inc. v. Allan Lapastora and Irene Ubalubao

G.R. No. 187691

January 13, 2016

REYES, J.:

Facts:

A complaint for illegal dismissal, payment of backwages and other benefits, and regularization of employment filed by Allan Lapastora (Lapastora) and Irene Ubalubao (Ubalubao) against Olympic Housing, Inc. (OHI), the entity engaged in the management of the Olympia Executive Residences (OER), a condominium hotel building situated in Makati City. Lapastora and Ubalubao alleged that they worked as room attendants of OHI from March 1995 and June 1997, respectively, until they were placed on floating status on February 24, 2000, through a memorandum sent by Fast Manpower.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary


To establish employer-employee relationship with OHI, Lapastora and Ubalubao alleged that they were directly hired by the company and received salaries directly from it. They also claimed that OHI exercised control over them as they were issued time cards, disciplinary action reports and checklists of room assignments. It was also OHI which terminated their employment after they petitioned for regularization. Prior to their dismissal, they were subjected to investigations for their alleged involvement in the theft of personal items and cash belonging to hotel guests and were summarily dismissed by OHI despite lack of evidence.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary


For their part, OHI and Limcaoco alleged that Lapastora and Ubalubao were not employees of the company but of Fast Manpower, an independent contractor with which it had a contract of services, particularly, for the provision of room attendants.


Reinforcing OHI's claims, Fast Manpower reiterated that it is a legitimate manpower agency and that it had a valid contract of services with OHI, pursuant to which Lapastora and Ubalubao were deployed as room attendants. Lapastora and Ubalubao were, however, found to have violated house rules and regulations and were reprimanded accordingly. It denied the employees' claim that they were dismissed and maintained they were only placed on floating status for lack of available work assignments.


During the pendency of the case, Ubalubao, on her own behalf, filed a Motion to Dismiss/Withdraw Complaint and Waiver.


Issue:

Whether or not Lapastora was illegally dismissed.


Ruling:

The court ruled in the affirmative.


Indisputably, Lapastora was a regular employee of OHI. As found by the LA, he has been under the continuous employ of OHI since March 3, 1995 until he was placed on floating status in February 2000. His uninterrupted employment by OHI, lasting for more than a year, manifests the continuing need and desirability of his services, which characterize regular employment.


By the nature of its petitioner’s business, it is necessary that it maintains a pool of housekeeping staff to ensure that the premises remain an uncluttered place of comfort for the occupants. It is no wonder why Lapastora, among several others, was continuously employed by OHI precisely because of the indispensability of their services to its business.


The argument that formal notices of investigation were not complied with since he was not an employee of OHI but of Fast Manpower does not hold because Lapastora was under the effective control and supervision of OHI through the company supervisor. She gave credence to the pertinent records of Lapastora's employment, i.e., timecards, medical records and medical examinations, which all indicated OHI as his employer. That there is an existing contract of services between OHI and Fast Manpower where both parties acknowledged the latter as the employer of the housekeeping staff, including Lapastora, did not alter established facts proving the contrary.


To justify fully the dismissal of a regular employee, the employer must, as a rule, prove that the dismissal was for a just cause and that the employee was afforded due process prior to dismissal. As a complementary principle, the employer has the burden of proving with clear, accurate, consistent, and convincing evidence the validity of the dismissal.


It appears that OHI failed to prove that Lapastora's dismissal was grounded on a just or authorized cause. While it claims that it had called Lapastora's attention several times for his infractions, it does not appear from the records that the latter had been notified of the company's dissatisfaction over his performance and that he was not given an opportunity to explain. In the same manner, allegations regarding Lapastora's involvement in the theft of personal items and cash belonging to hotel guests remained unfounded suspicions as they were not proven despite OHI's probe into the incidents.


In the present case, Lapastora was not informed of the charges against him and was denied the opportunity to disprove the same. He was summarily terminated from employment.

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