SC CLARIFIES NLRC'S JURISDICTION VIS-à-VIS DOLE'S VISITORIAL AND ENFORCEMENT POWER

In a 2009 decision, the Supreme Court (SC) had the occasion to rule that where the employer-employee relationship has ceased, claims for payment of monetary benefits arising out of employer-employee relationship has to be referred to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) because it is the NLRC which has jurisdiction in view of the termination of the employer-employee relationship.

 

The SC explains that the same procedure has to be followed where no employer-employee relationship has ever existed since it is the NLRC that has jurisdiction in view of the absence of employer-employee relationship between the evidentiary parties from the start. The law accords a prerogative to the NLRC over the claim when the employer-employee relationship has terminated or such relationship has not arisen at all.   

 

Verily, in case no employer-employee relationship has ever existed, its existence is a matter which is not easily determinable from an ordinary inspection, necessarily so, because the elements of such a relationship are not verifiable from a mere ocular inspection. The intricacies and implications of an employer-employee relationship demand that the level of scrutiny should be far above the cursory and the mechanical. While documents, particularly documents found in the employers office are the primary source materials, what may prove decisive are factors related to the history of the employers business operations, its current state as well as accepted contemporary practices in the industry. More often than not, the question of employer-employee relationship becomes a battle of evidence, the determination of which should be comprehensive and intensive and therefore best left to the specialized quasi-judicial body that is the NLRC.

 

Similarly, the SC reiterated its previous rulings that the determination of the existence of employer-employee relationship is still primarily lodged with the NLRC. The existence of an employer-employee relationship is a statutory prerequisite to and a limitation on the power of the Secretary of Labor (DOLE), one which the legislative branch is entitled to impose. The rationale underlying this limitation is to eliminate the prospect of competing conclusions of the Secretary of Labor and the NLRC, on a matter fraught with questions of fact and law, which is best resolved by the quasi-judicial body, which is the NLRC, rather than an administrative official of the executive branch of the government.

 

Furthermore, the SC was of the view that the DOLE in the exercise of its visitorial and enforcement power somehow has to make a determination of the existence of an employer-employee relationship. Such prerogatival determination, however, cannot be coextensive with the visitorial and enforcement power itself. Indeed, such determination is merely preliminary, incidental and collateral to the DOLE’s primary function of enforcing labor standards provisions. The determination of the existence of employer-employee relationship is still primarily lodged with the NLRC. (People’s Broadcasting vs. The Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment, et. al., G.R. No. 179652, May 8, 2009)

 

 

Similarly, the SC reiterated its previous rulings that the determination of the existence of employer-employee relationship is still primarily lodged with the NLRC. The existence of an employer-employee relationship is a statutory prerequisite to and a limitation on the power of the Secretary of Labor (DOLE), one which the legislative branch is entitled to impose. The rationale underlying this limitation is to eliminate the prospect of competing conclusions of the Secretary of Labor and the NLRC, on a matter fraught with questions of fact and law, which is best resolved by the quasi-judicial body, which is the NLRC, rather than an administrative official of the executive branch of the government.

Furthermore, the SC was of the view that the DOLE in the exercise of its visitorial and enforcement power somehow has to make a determination of the existence of an employer-employee relationship. Such prerogatival determination, however, cannot be coextensive with the visitorial and enforcement power itself. Indeed, such determination is merely preliminary, incidental and collateral to the DOLE’s primary function of enforcing labor standards provisions. The determination of the existence of employer-employee relationship is still primarily lodged with the NLRC.

(People’s Broadcasting vs. The Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment, et. al., G.R. No. 179652, May 8, 2009)

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