G.R. 200857, 22 October 2014
The twenty-eight (28) respondents in this case were employees of petitioner FVR Skills and Services Exponents, Inc. (petitioner), an independent contractor engaged in the business of providing janitorial and other manpower services to its clients. On April 21, 2008, the petitioner entered into a Contract of Janitorial Service (service contract) with Robinsons Land Corporation (Robinsons). Pursuant to this, the respondents were deployed to Robinsons.
Halfway through the service contract, the petitioner asked the respondents to execute individual contracts which stipulated that their respective employments shall end on December 31, 2008, unless earlier terminated. When petitioner and Robinsons no longer extended their contract of janitorial services, petitioner dismissed the respondents as they were project employees whose duration of employment was dependent on the petitioner’s service contract with Robinsons.
The respondents responded to the termination of their employment by filing a complaint for illegal dismissal with the NLRC. They argued that they were not project employees; they were regular employees who may only be dismissed for just or authorized causes. The LA ruled in the petitioner’s favor. The respondents disagreed with the LA and appealed to the NLRC, which reversed the LA’s ruling, and held that they were regular employees. The CA dismissed the petitioner’s certiorari petition and affirmed the NLRC’s decision.
Moreover, CA held that petitioners Fulgencio V. Rana (Rana) and Monina R. Burgos (Burgos), the president and general manager of FVR Skills and Services Exponents, Inc., respectively, are solidarily liable with the corporation for the payment of the respondents’ monetary awards. As corporate officers, they acted in bad faith when they intimidated the respondents in the course of asking them to sign their individual employment contracts.
Whether Petitioners Rana and Burgos, the president and general manager of FVR Skills and Services Exponents, Inc are solidarily liable with the corporation.
NO. Even though the respondents are regular employees, not project employees, the respondents failed to allege in the complaint that the director or officer assented to patently unlawful acts of the corporation, or that the officer was guilty of gross negligence or bad faith. They did not specifically allege in their complaint that Rana and Burgos willfully and knowingly assented to the petitioner’s patently unlawful act of forcing the respondents to sign the dubious employment contracts in exchange for their salaries. The respondents also failed to prove that Rana and Burgos had been guilty of gross negligence or bad faith in directing the affairs of the corporation.
To hold an officer personally liable for the debts of the corporation, and thus pierce the veil of corporate fiction, it is necessary to clearly and convincingly establish the bad faith or wrongdoing of such officer, since bad faith is never presumed.
Because the respondents were not able to clearly show the definite participation of Burgos and Rana in their illegal dismissal, we uphold the general rule that corporate officers are not personally liable for the money claims of the discharged employees, unless they acted with evident malice and bad faith in terminating their employment.
*Case digest by Earl M. Acoymo, Refresher, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2019-2020