SC’s Lazada ruling a boon for contractual riders, says labor leader
MANILA, Philippines — Contractual couriers may now press for their own job regularization by citing the landmark Supreme Court decision ordering online shopping giant Lazada to reinstate five dismissed riders and pay their back wages, according to a labor leader.
Federation of Free Workers president Sonny Matula said the Sept. 21 ruling of the high court’s Second Division made public last week was “historic” for “recognizing that regular employment is the norm and not the other way around.”
“This is a victory for workers,” he said, noting that the Supreme Court had once again “upheld the fundamental right of workers to a regular job.”
“Delivery riders in a similar situation may use this precedent in their complaint for regularization,” Matula added.
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court upheld the illegal dismissal case filed in 2017 by couriers Chrisden Ditiangkin, Hendrix Molines, Harvey Juanio, Joselito Verde, and Brian Anthony Nabong against Lazada E-services Philippines Inc.
The tribunal reversed the ruling of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) and the Court of Appeals (CA) and directed Lazada to reinstate the petitioners and pay them five years in back wages and benefits.
Burden of proof
Lazada hired the petitioners in 2016 as couriers tasked to pick up items from sellers and deliver them to the firm’s warehouse, with P1,200 each per day as a service fee, for one year.
An “independent contractor agreement” was drawn up between the company and the five, but in 2017, the petitioners were removed from their usual routes and not given any more work.
The couriers sued Lazada for illegal dismissal but the NLRC ruled in favor of Lazada in a decision later upheld by the CA, prompting them to elevate the case to the Supreme Court.
According to the high court, Lazada failed to demonstrate that no employer-employee relationship existed between the couriers and Lazada, noting that they had been directly hired and paid by the company and that each rider had signed an individual contract.
“When the status of the employment is in dispute, the employer bears the burden to prove that the person whose service it pays for is an independent contractor rather than a regular employee with or without fixed term,” the division chair, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, wrote in the decision.
The court ruled that the couriers satisfied both the four-fold and economic dependence tests in an employer-employee relationship.
Matula identified the factors that tipped the scales in the couriers’ favor: “Lazada hired the five delivery riders; paid them compensation; supervised and controlled their work not only as to the result but also the means to come up with the result; and it [had] the power to terminate the riders’ work engagement.”