Labor Law

Far East Agricultural Supply, Inc. vs Jimmy Lebatique

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515 SCRA 491 – Labor Law – Labor Standards – Abandonment – Service Incentive Leave – Field Personnel

In March 1996, Lebatique was hired as a driver by FAR EAST AGRICULTURAL SUPPLY, INC. with a daily wage of P223.50. His job as a driver includes the delivery of animal feeds to the clients of the company. He must report either in the morning or in the afternoon to make the deliveries.

On January 24, 2000, Lebatique was suspended by Manuel Uy (brother of FEASI’s General Manager Alexander Uy) for allegedly using the company vehicle illegally.

On the same day, Lebatique filed a complaint for nonpayment of overtime pay against Alexander Uy.

Uy summoned Lebatique and asked why he was claiming overtime pay. Lebatique said since he started working with the company he has never been paid OT pay. Uy consulted with his brother. On January 29, 2000, Uy told Lebatique to look for another job.

Lebatique then filed an Illegal Dismissal case against the company.

The Labor Arbiter ruled in favor of Lebatique. Uy was ordered to reinstate Lebatique and at the same time to pay Lebatique his 13th month pay, back wages (time when case was pending), service incentive leave pay and OT pay – all amounting to P196,659.72.

Uy argued that Lebatique was not dismissed and that he was merely suspended; that he abandoned his job; and that Lebatique was a field personnel not entitled to overtime pay and service incentive leave.

ISSUE: Whether or not Lebatique is a field personnel.

HELD: No. Lebatique is a regular employee.

Uy illegally dismissed Lebatique when he told him to look for another job. Judging at the sequence of event, Lebatique earned the ire of Uy when he filed a complaint for nonpayment of OT pay on the day Lebatique was suspended by Manuel Uy. Such is not a valid reason for dismissing Lebatique.

Uy cannot therefore claim that he merely suspended Lebatique.

Further, Lebatique did not abandon his job. His filing of this case is proof enough that he had no intention to abandon his job.

To constitute abandonment as a just cause for dismissal, there must be:

(a) absence without justifiable reason; and

(b) a clear intention, as manifested by some overt act, to sever the employer-employee relationship.

None of the above was proven by Uy.

Also, Lebatique is not a field personnel as defined above for the following reasons:

(1) company drivers, including Lebatique, are directed to deliver the goods at a specified time and place;

(2) they are not given the discretion to solicit, select and contact prospective clients; and

(3) Far East issued a directive that company drivers should stay at the client’s premises during truck-ban hours which is from 5:00 to 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 to 9:00 p.m.

As a regular employee, Lebatique is entitled to service incentive leave and OT pay.

The Supreme Court affirmed the Labor Arbiter’s decision but remanded the case for properly computing Lebatique’s OT pay taking in to consideration the company’s time keeping records.

Field Personnel Defined

Field personnel are those who regularly perform their duties away from the principal place of business of the employer and whose actual hours of work in the field cannot be determined with reasonable certainty.

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