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BERNARDO v NLRC

July 12, 1999
Panganiban, J.
Certiorari on NLRC decision affirming the LA ruling (dismissing complaint)

Topic in Syllabus: Employment rights and privileges

[Facts]
 43 complainants- DEAF-MUTES who were hired on various periods (1988
to 1993) by respondent Far East Bank and Trust Co. as Money Sorters and
Counters
o Through a uniformly worded agreement “Employment Contract for
Handicapped Workers”
o At the time this case arose, there were 56 deaf-mute money
sorters. 37 renewed.
o 6 month terms wherein could be terminated for a just and
reasonable cause, and after 6 months if not renewed explicitly,
considered terminated.
o Also, training for 1 month, after which it would be determined if
employee would be kept for the remainder of the 6 months.
 Far East Bank: Complainants are NOT regular employees; complainants
are a SPECIAL CLASS OF WORKERS – hired temporarily under a special
employment arrangement, resulting in (as also stated in the contract
itself), the cognizance of the bank of its social responsibility as
approached by some civic-minded citizens and authorized government
agencies who suggested such possibility of hiring such disabled workers.
The Bank also said that such hiring was only acceptable to them on a
special arrangement basis for manual work which was really part of the
tellers’ work.
 Petitioners submitted a list specifying when each of them was hired and
dismissed.
 LA ruled lack of merit and dismissed complaint; NLRC affirmed, saying
that petitioners could not be deemed regular employees under A280 of
the Labor Code.
o Workers were hired as an accommodation to recommendation of
civic oriented personalities whose employment were covered by
the Employment Contract with special provisions on duration of
contract as per A80.

[Issues]

1) WON regular employees.

2) WON contracts which provide for a period of 6 months valid.
3) WON Magna Carta for the Disabled (RA 7277) applicable.

[Held] Petition meritorious.

However, only those who worked more than 6 months deemed regular.

 Magna Carta for Disabled Persons mandates that qualified disabled
persons be granted the same terms and conditions of employment as
qualified able-bodied employees.  Rooted not merely on charity or
accommodation, but on justice for all.
 Sec. 5 of Magna Carta mandates equal opportunity for employment and
that same benefits, incentives, etc., be given to a disabled person.
 The fact is that the employees were qualified disabled persons removes it
from the ambit of A80 (which provides for the specification of the
employment period among others). They were qualified to do their work
and assume the responsibilities of their positions.
 Thus, they are covered by A280 (Regular and Casual Employment).
 Test of WON employee is regular, De Leon v NLRC: Primary standard of
determining = reasonable connection between the particular activity
performed by the employee in relation to the usual trade or business of
the employer. Also, if employee has been performing the job for at least
ONE YEAR, the law deems repeated and continuing need for its
performance as sufficient evidence of the necessity of that activity to the
business. Hence, regular, but only with respect to such activity, while such
activity exists.
 Contract signed here is akin to a probationary employment, during
which the bank determined their fitness for the job. When the bank
renewed, therefore, the employees became regular.
 Petitioners who worked more than 6 months (i.e. those renewed at any
point) are deemed ILLEGALLY DISMISSED. (Back wages and
reinstatement granted and if job no longer available- separation pay.)
 As for those who worked only 6 months, not deemed regular employees
and not entitled to same benefits.
 Brent School v. Zamora (wherein court upheld the validity of an
employment contract with a fixed term) does NOT apply because the term
limit here was based on the disability. They are qualified for their
positions.
 A contract of employment is impressed with public interest. Labor laws
cannot be circumvented simply by contracting with each other.
 On argument that petitioners were merely “accommodated” employees,
this does not change the nature of employment.