[T]he burden rests on the employer to prove payment, rather than on the employees, to prove non-payment of the wages she is entitled to

Published by reposted only Date posted on December 28, 2016

By Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star), Dec 28, 2016

The general rule in Labor Law is that the burden rests on the employer to prove payment, rather than on the employees to prove non-payment of the wages she is entitled to. This is one of the issues raised and resolved in this case of Ellen.

Ellen was initially hired as cashier by a corporation engaged in the business of car dealership including service and sales of parts and accessories of a well known brand of motor vehicle (TPI). Working in the same company, as mechanic in the service department, was her husband Roger. As Ellen worked her way up to eventually become the Insurance Sales Executive, Roger also became active in the company’s union of worker occupying the position of president.

Things turned sour for Ellen however when her husband Roger organized a collective bargaining unit through a certification election. The officers/directors of the union including Roger was dismissed by TPI. Thereafter, Ellen also received a Notice to Explain accusing her of having committed various acts relative to the processing of the insurance of three units as outside transactions instead of considering them as new business accounts under TPI’s marketing department. According to TPI she was preventively suspended because of such charge and then received a Notice of Termination, one month later.

Thus Ellen filed a complaint before the Labor Arbiter (LA) against TPI and its officials for illegal dismissal, where she also prayed for the payment of her earned substantial commissions, tax rebates, annual profit sharing and attorney’s fees. According to her, after suddenly dismissing the Union officials including her husband, TPI also started harassing her for her husband’s active involvement in the union until she was likewise dismissed from the service.

For their defense, TPI and its officials explained Ellen was charged and proven to have committed acts of dishonesty and falsification by claiming commissions for new business accounts which should have been duly credited to the company’s marketing department. They further averred that Ellen’s claim for commissions, tax rebates and other benefits were unfounded and without documents and validation.

The LA however dismissed Ellen’s complaint as she herself admitted in her letter-explanation that she indeed processed the insurance of units from TPI’s own dealership and received commissions which were rightly attributable to TPI’s marketing department. The LA said that Ellen’s acts constituted dishonesty which is tantamount to serious misconduct, a just cause for dismissal. The LA also denied Ellen’s claim for unpaid commissions because the documents submitted in support thereof were mere computations which are insufficient proof. So the LA merely ordered TPI to pay Ellen’s salary for the last month of her employment.

This ruling was affirmed by the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) with the modification ordering TPI only to also pay Ellen her unpaid commissions, tax rebates for achieved monthly targets, salary deductions and profit sharing all totaling P617,248.08. The NLRC held that only TPI is liable for the other monetary claims as it failed to present documents showing that Ellen is not entitled to said claims as per her computation. It exculpated the other officials from such liability as it was not shown that they acted with gross negligence or bad faith. The Court of Appeals affirmed this ruling. So both Ellen and TPI appealed to the Supreme Court (SC) on separate petitions for certiorari. Ellen contended that her dismissal was illegal and unjust, while TPI questioned the monetary award to Ellen.

The SC however affirmed the CA ruling. Ellen was not able to show that her dismissal was unjust and illegal as her acts of receiving commissions which were rightly attributable to TPI indeed constituted serious misconduct.

On TPI’s liability to Ellen for the monetary claims, the SC said that they are given to her as incentives or forms of encouragement in order for her to put extra effort in performing her duties. Hence they are considered commissions which are direct remuneration for services rendered. These commissions fall within the definition of “wages” under Section 97 (f) of the Labor Code or the remuneration of earnings, however designated, capable of being expressed in terms of money, whether fixed or ascertained on a time, task, piece, or commission basis payable by an employer to an employee under a written or unwritten contract. Thus Ellen’s allegation of non-payment of such monetary benefits places the burden upon TPI to prove with a reasonable degree of certainty that it paid said benefits and that Ellen actually received such payment or that she is not entitled thereto.

Once the employee has set out with particularity in her complaint, position paper or affidavits or other documents the labor standard benefits she is entitled and which she alleged that employer failed to pay, it becomes the employer’s burden to prove that it has paid these money claims. In this case, TPI simply dismissed Ellen’s claims for being self-serving and unfounded without even presenting any tinge of proof showing that Ellen was already paid of such benefits or that she was not entitled thereto. Since Ellen already earned these monetary benefits, she must promptly receive the same, notwithstanding the fact that she was legally terminated from employment (Toyota Pasig Inc. vs. Vilma S. De Peralta, G.R. 213488, November 7, 2016).

Email: attyjosesison@gmail.com

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