Posted by: Elmer Brabante | April 3, 2009

Escasinas vs. Shangri-la’s Mactan Island Resort


JEROME D. ESCASINAS and EVAN RIGOR SINGCO vs. SHANGRI-LA’S MACTAN ISLAND RESORT and DR. JESSICA J.R. PEPITO
GR No. 178827
March 24, 2009

 

FACTS:

Registered nurses Jeromie D. Escasinas and Evan Rigor Singco (petitioners) were engaged in 1999 and 1996, respectively, by Dr. Jessica Joyce R. Pepito (respondent doctor) to work in her clinic at respondent Shangri-la’s Mactan Island Resort (Shangri-la) in Cebu of which she was a retained physician.

In late 2002, petitioners filed with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) a complaint for regularization, underpayment of wages, non-payment of holiday pay, night shift differential and 13th month pay differential against respondents, claiming that they are regular employees of Shangri-la. Shangri-la claimed, however, that petitioners were not its employees but of respondent doctor, that Article 157 of the Labor Code, as amended, does not make it mandatory for a covered establishment to employ health personnel, that the services of nurses is not germane nor indispensable to its operations, and that respondent doctor is a legitimate individual contractor who has the power to hire, fire and supervise the work of nurses under her.

The Labor Arbiter (LA) declared petitioners to be regular employees of Shangri-la, noting that the petitioners usually perform work which is necessary and desirable to Shangri-la’s business, and thus ordered Shangri-la to grant them the wages and benefits due them as regular employees from the time their services were engaged.

Upon appeal, the NLRC declared that no employer-employee relationship existed between Shangri-la and petitioners. It ruled that contrary to the finding of the LA, even if Art. 280 of the Labor Code states that if a worker performs work usually necessary or desirable in the business of an employer, he cannot be automatically deemed a regular employee, and that the Memorandum of Agreement between the respondent and the respondent doctor amply shows that respondent doctor was in fact engaged by Shangri-la on retainer basis, under which she could hire her own nurses and other clinic personnel.

The Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed the NLRC decision, concluding that all aspects of employment of petitioners being under the supervision and control of respondent doctor and since Shangri-la is not principally engaged in the business of providing medical or healthcare services, petitioners could not be regarded as regular employees of Shangri-la.

ISSUES:

1. Whether or not Article 157 of the Labor Code make it mandatory for covered establishment to employ health personnel; and

2. Whether or not there exists an employer-employee relationship between Shangri-la and petitioners.

HELD:

The Court holds that, contrary to petitioners’ postulation, Art. 157 does not require the engagement of full-time nurses as regular employees of a company employing not less than 50 workers. Thus, the Article provides:

ART. 157. Emergency medical and dental services. – It shall be the duty of every employer to furnish his employees in any locality with free medical and dental attendance and facilities consisting of:

    (a) The services of a full-time registered nurse when the number of employees exceeds fifty (50) but not more than two hundred (200) except when the employer does not maintain hazardous workplaces, in which case the services of a graduate first-aider shall be provided for the protection of the workers, where no registered nurse is available. The Secretary of Labor shall provide by appropriate regulations the services that shall be required where the number of employees does not exceed fifty (50) and shall determine by appropriate order hazardous workplaces for purposes of this Article;(b) The services of a full-time registered nurse, a part-time physician and dentist, and an emergency clinic, when the number of employees exceeds two hundred (200) but not more than three hundred (300); and(c) The services of a full-time physician, dentist and full-time registered nurse as well as a dental clinic, and an infirmary or emergency hospital with one bed capacity for every one hundred (100) employees when the number of employees exceeds three hundred (300).

    In cases of hazardous workplaces, no employer shall engage the services of a physician or dentist who cannot stay in the premises of the establishment for at least two (2) hours, in the case of those engaged on part-time basis, and not less than eight (8) hours in the case of those employed on full-time basis. Where the undertaking is nonhazardous in nature, the physician and dentist may be engaged on retained basis, subject to such regulations as the Secretary of Labor may prescribe to insure immediate availability of medical and dental treatment and attendance in case of emergency.

Under the foregoing provision, Shangri-la, which employs more than 200 workers, is mandated to “furnish” its employees with the services of a full-time registered nurse, a part-time physician and dentist, and an emergency clinic which means that it should provide or make available such medical and allied services to its employees, not necessarily to hire or employ a service provider. As held in Philippine Global Communications vs. De Vera:

    x x x while it is true that the provision requires employers to engage the services of medical practitioners in certain establishments depending on the number of their employees, nothing is there in the law which says that medical practitioners so engaged be actually hired as employees, adding that the law, as written, only requires the employer “to retain”, not employ, a part-time physician who needed to stay in the premises of the non-hazardous workplace for two (2) hours.The term “full-time” in Art. 157 cannot be construed as referring to the type of employment of the person engaged to provide the services, for Article 157 must not be read alongside Art. 280 in order to vest employer-employee relationship on the employer and the person so engaged. So De Vera teaches:x x For, we take it that any agreement may provide that one party shall render services for and in behalf of another, no matter how necessary for the latter’s business, even without being hired as an employee. This set-up is precisely true in the case of an independent contractorship as well as in an agency agreement. Indeed, Article 280 of the Labor Code, quoted by the appellate court, is not the yardstick for determining the existence of an employment relationship. As it is, the provision merely distinguishes between two (2) kinds of employees, i.e., regular and casual. x x x

The phrase “services of a full-time registered nurse” should thus be taken to refer to the kind of services that the nurse will render in the company’s premises and to its employees, not the manner of his engagement.

The existence of an independent and permissible contractor relationship is generally established by considering the following determinants: whether the contractor is carrying on an independent business; the nature and extent of the work; the skill required; the term and duration of the relationship; the right to assign the performance of a specified piece of work; the control and supervision of the work to another; the employer’s power with respect to the hiring, firing and payment of the contractor’s workers; the control of the premises; the duty to supply the premises, tools, appliances, materials and labor; and the mode, manner and terms of payment.

On the other hand, existence of an employer- employee relationship is established by the presence of the following determinants: (1) the selection and engagement of the workers; (2) power of dismissal; (3) the payment of wages by whatever means; and (4) the power to control the worker’s conduct, with the latter assuming primacy in the overall consideration.

Against the above-listed determinants, the Court holds that respondent doctor is a legitimate independent contractor. That Shangri-la provides the clinic premises and medical supplies for use of its employees and guests does not necessarily prove that respondent doctor lacks substantial capital and investment. Besides, the maintenance of a clinic and provision of medical services to its employees is required under Art. 157, which are not directly related to Shangri-la’s principal business – operation of hotels and restaurants.

As to payment of wages, respondent doctor is the one who underwrites the following: salaries, SSS contributions and other benefits of the staff; group life, group personal accident insurance and life/death insurance for the staff with minimum benefit payable at 12 times the employee’s last drawn salary, as well as value added taxes and withholding taxes, sourced from her P60,000.00 monthly retainer fee and 70% share of the service charges from Shangri-la’s guests who avail of the clinic services. It is unlikely that respondent doctor would report petitioners as workers, pay their SSS premium as well as their wages if they were not indeed her employees.

With respect to the supervision and control of the nurses and clinic staff, it is not disputed that a document, “Clinic Policies and Employee Manual” claimed to have been prepared by respondent doctor exists, to which petitioners gave their conformity and in which they acknowledged their co-terminus employment status. It is thus presumed that said document, and not the employee manual being followed by Shangri-la’s regular workers, governs how they perform their respective tasks and responsibilities.

In fine, as Shangri-la does not control how the work should be performed by petitioners, it is not petitioners’ employer.

 

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