Case Digest: Jamias et al. v. NLRC

G.R. No. 159350

March 9, 2016

Bersamin, J.:

Facts:

Respondent Innodata Philippines, Inc. (Innodata), a domestic corporation engaged in the business of data processing and conversion for foreign clients, hired the petitioners on various dates and under a project based contract for a period of one year.


After their respective contracts expired, petitioners filed a complaint for illegal dismissal claiming that Innodata had made it appear that they had been hired as project employees in order to prevent them from becoming regular employees.


The petitioners maintain that they should be accorded regular status to the employees because the work they performed were necessary and desirable to the business of data encoding, processing and conversion.


Issue:

Whether or not the contract of employment signed by the petitioners were invalid.


Ruling:

In holding that their contract of employment were valid, the Court reiterated that a fixed period in a contract of employment does not by itself signify an intention to circumvent Article 280 of the Labor Code.


A fixed term agreement, to be valid, must strictly conform with the requirements and conditions provided in Article 280 of the Labor Code. The test to determine whether a particular employee is engaged as a project or regular employee is whether or not the employee is assigned to carry out a specific project or undertaking, the duration or scope of which was specified at the time of his engagement. The fixed period of employment must be knowingly and voluntarily agreed upon by the parties, without any force, duress or improper pressure being brought to bear upon the employee and absent any other circumstances vitiating his consent, or it must satisfactorily appear that the employer and employee dealt with each other on more or less equal terms with no moral dominance whatsoever being exercised by the former on the latter.


The fixing by Innodata of the period specified in the contracts of employment according to the duration of the projects the company were engaged to perform did not indicate any ill-motive to circumvent the petitioners’ security of tenure. Furthermore, there is no indication that the petitioners were made to sign the contracts against their will. Hence, they knowingly agreed to the terms of and voluntarily signed their respective contracts.


Also, the necessity and desirability of the work performed by the employees are not the determinants in term employment, but rather the "day certain" voluntarily agreed upon by the parties. It would be unusual for a company like Innodata to undertake a project that had no relationship to its usual business.


In fine, the employment of the petitioners who were engaged as project employees for a fixed term legally ended upon the expiration of their contract.

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