Norma Mabeza vs National Labor Relations Commission

G.R. No. 118506 – 271 SCRA 670 – Labor Law – Labor Standards – Wages – Facilities vs Supplements

Norma Mabeza was an employee hired by Hotel Supreme in Baguio City. In 1991, an inspection was made by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) at Hotel Supreme and the DOLE inspectors discovered several violations by the hotel management. Immediately, the owner of the hotel, Peter Ng, directed his employees to execute an affidavit which would purport that they have no complaints whatsoever against Hotel Supreme. But Mabeza refused to certify said affidavit with the fiscal’s office so this led in her dismissal. She sued Peter Ng and one of her complaints against him was underpayment because her wage was less than the minimum wage. Peter Ng argued that the reason for such low payment was because she was being given free lodging, water, electricity, and water consumption by the hotel.

ISSUE: Whether or not such amenities provided by the hotel be considered as facilities which are deductible from Mabeza’s wage.

HELD: No. There are requisites before such can be done and they are:

  1. Proof must be shown that such facilities are customarily furnished by the trade.
  2. The provision of deductible facilities must be voluntarily accepted in writing by the employee.
  3. Facilities must be charged at fair and reasonable value.

None of these were complied with in the case at bar. More significantly, the food and lodging, or the electricity and water consumed by Mabeza were not facilities but supplements. A benefit or privilege granted to an employee for the convenience of the employer is not a facility. The criterion in making a distinction between the two not so much lies in the kind (food, lodging) but the purpose.  Considering, therefore, that hotel workers are required to work different shifts and are expected to be available at various odd hours, their ready availability is a necessary matter in the operations of a small hotel, such as Hotel Supreme.

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Read another version of this digest here (Abandonment of Work; Loss of Confidence)