Claudio Yap, a seafarer, was working on board the M/T Sea Scout when it was sold. He was allegedly told that he was entitled to ask for a transfer to another vessel, but no such transfer was made. Yap filed a complaint for illegal dismissal. Vessel interests argued that the dismissal was valid as the vessel was sold and no promise had been made regarding transfer to another vessel.
Both the labour arbiter and the National Labour Relations Commission sided with the seafarer and ruled that the dismissal was illegal. They granted the seafarer nine months' wages, since nine months were remaining on his contract. On appeal, the Court of Appeals upheld the decision but granted the seafarer only three months' wages, as per Section 10 of Republic Act 8042 (the Migrant Workers Act). The case was appealed to the Supreme Court.
Under Section 10 of the act, the liability of an employer for illegal termination of the employment of an overseas worker is the seafarer's salary for the unexpired portion of his or her employment contract or three months for every year of the unexpired term, whichever is less. (Incidentally, the same provision was also incorporated in Republic Act 10022, known as the Amended Migrant Workers Act).
The Supreme Court upheld the ruling on illegal dismissal, but ruled that the seafarer should be paid his salary for the unexpired portion of his employment contract.(1) Thus, the seafarer was to be paid the remaining nine months of his salary, rather than just the three months' salary granted by the Court of Appeals.
The court ruled that the three months' salary provision violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution, as it applied only to overseas workers with contracts of less than one year, and not to local workers with fixed-term employment contracts or overseas workers with an unexpired portion in their contracts of a year or more.
For further information on this topic please contact Ruben T Del Rosario at Del Rosario & Del Rosario law Offices by telephone (+63 2 810 1791), fax (+63 2 817 1740) or email ([email protected]).
(1) Yap v Thenamaris Ship's Management and Intermare Maritime Agencies Inc, GR 179532, Second Division, May 30 2011, Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura, Ponente.
August 17 2011