Employers find themselves in a problem when a non-employee files a labor complaint against them.

Labor Complaint by a non-employee

Initiating a labor case is relatively easy. The complainant simply has to fill up DOLE forms. For the first stage, he/she will be required to fill up a Request for Assistance (RFA) to initiate the Single Entry Approach (SENA). If the issue is not settled there, the complainant may proceed to filling up and formally filing a Labor Complaint against the employer.

With the simplicity of the process, it is likely and it does happen that the employer finds himself facing a labor complaint by a non-employee. There are various possible causes leading to this situation. For instance, the employer and non-employee may have entered into a service agreement (e.g. events planning by a coordinator, fixing of electrical wiring by an electrician, engaging a driver for an isolated incident, etc.) and the contract is being interpreted by the complainant as an employment agreement. It may also be that a volunteer agreement is being challenged and the complainant-volunteer is seeking regularization. Worse, the complainant is filing a labor complaint despite not having any connection with the employer.

What should an employer do in such cases? The primary recourse of an employer is to have the case dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

Motion to Dismiss

In the 1st stage or SENA, the employer should clearly inform the labor arbitrator that there is no employer-employee relationship between the parties. Consequently, the employer should request that the SENA proceedings be terminated. It should be emphasized that the employer should not disregard or refuse to attend the SENA hearing as the case will be elevated from a Request For Assistance to a Labor Complaint.

Should the case proceed to the 2nd stage or the Labor Arbitrator, the employer should invoke the dismissal of the complaint for lack of jurisdiction. In the 2011 NLRC Rules of Procedure, the employer has the remedy of filing a written motion to dismiss on the ground of lack of jurisdiction there being no employer-employee relationship between the parties.[1] As the NLRC and the Labor Arbitrator has jurisdiction only over labor disputes, they do not have any power or authority to decide on a non-labor case. Consequently, the case will be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

If the employer fails to move for a dismissal, the case will proceed to the hearing and submission of pleadings. Thereafter, the Labor Arbitrator will issue the corresponding resolution of the case. Hence, it is crucial that the employer invoke the motion to dismiss at the earliest opportunity.

Substantial evidence

To substantiate the lack of employer-employee relationship, the employer may corroborate such fact through relevant documentation. This may be through a Certification clearly stating therein that the complainant is not an employee of the company. The employer may likewise provide for an affidavit declaring therein any relevant or prior circumstances showing that there is no employer-employee relationship between the parties (e.g. hiring of an electrician was simply for fixing an electrical wiring problem in the workplace).

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[1] 2011 NLRC Rules of Procedure. Sec. 5, Rule V.