24. Viernes vs Nlrc

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<p>G.R. NO. 108405. APRIL 4, 2003</p> <p>VIERNES VS. NLRC AND BENGUET ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE, INC. (BENECO)FACTS:Petitioners services as meter readers were contracted for hardly a months duration, from October 8to 31, 1990. The said term notwithstanding, petitioners were allowed to work until January 2, 1991. OnJanuary 3, 1991, they were each served their identical notices of termination. On the same date, they filed complaints for illegal dismissal. They contended that they were not apprentices but regular employees whose services were illegally and unjustly terminated in a manner that was whimsical and capricious. On the other hand, private respondent BENECO invoked Article 283 of the Labor Code in defense of the questioned dismissal. The Labor Arbiter dismissed the complaints for lack of merit. However, it ordered BENECO to extend to the petitioners the contract of temporary employment that the former had offered, with the exception ofJaime Viernes. Also, the Labor Arbiter directed BENECO to pay each the amount equivalent to their monthly salary as indemnity for its failure to give complainants the 30-day notice mandated under Article 283 of the Labor Code. Modifying the Arbiters decision, the NLRC rendered that the dismissal was illegal. It ordered petitioners reinstatement to their former position as meter readers or to any equivalent position with payment of backwages limited to one year deleting the award of indemnity.ISSUES:Whether or not the petitioners should be reinstated to their former position as meter readers on probationary status despite the finding that they are regular employees under Article 280 of the Labor Code?HELD:YES. Reinstatement means restoration to a state or condition from which one had been removed or separated. In case of probationary employment, Article 281 of the Labor Code requires the employer to make known to his employee at the time of the latters engagement of the reasonable standards under which they may qualify as a regular employee. In the case at bar, there is nothing on the letter of appointment that their employment as meter readers was on probationary basis. It was not shown that they were informed either, at the time of their appointment, the reasonable standards under which they could qualify as regular employees. Instead, they were initially engaged to perform their job for a limited period, their employment being fixed for a definite period. The principle enunciated in Brent School, Inc. vs. Zamora applies only to fixed term employments. While it is true that the petitioners were initially employed on a fixed term basis as their employment contracts were only for a month, they were allowed to continue working in the same capacity as meter readers without the benefit of a new contract or without the term of their employment being fixed a 5new. After October 31, 1991, the employment of petitioners is no longer on a fixed term basis. The complexion of the employment relationship is totally changed for the petitioners have attained the status ofregular employees.Under Article 280 of the Labor Code, there are two instances whereby it is determined that an employee is regular: (1) the particular activity performed by the employee is necessary or desirable to the usual trade or business of the employer; or (2) if the employee has been performing the job for at least one year. The petitioners fall under the first category.The job of a meter reader is necessary to the business of BENECO since unless the meter reader records the electric consumption of the subscribing public, there could not be a valid basis for billing the customers of BENECO. The fact that the petitioners were allowed to continue working after the expiration of their employment is evidence of the necessity and desirability of their service to BENECOs business. Since petitioners are already regular employees at the time of their illegal dismissal from employment, they are entitled to be reinstated to their former position as regular employees, not merely probationary. Moreover, under Article 279, as amended by R.A. No. 6715, an illegally dismissed employee is entitled to full backwages, inclusive of allowances and to his other benefits or their monetary equivalent computed from the time his compensation was withheld from him up to the time of his actual reinstatement. Therefore, petitioners backwages should not be limited to one year only</p>