Wilhelmina Orozco vs Court of Appeals (2008)

January 24, 2015
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562 SCRA 36 – Labor Law – Labor Standards – Employer-employee Relationship in a Publication – Four Fold Test – Control Test

In March 1990, Wilhelmina Orozco was hired as a writer by the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI). She was the columnist of “Feminist Reflections” under the Lifestyle section of the publication. She writes on a weekly basis and on a per article basis (P250-300/article).

In 1991, Leticia Magsanoc as the editor-in-chief sought to improve the Lifestyle section of the paper. She said there were too many Lifestyle writers and that it was time to reduce the number of writers. Orozco’s column was eventually dropped.

Orozco filed for a case for Illegal Dismissal against PDI and Magsanoc. Orozco won in the Labor Arbiter where the arbiter ruled that there exists an employer-employee relationship between PDI and Orozco.

The case eventually reached the Court of Appeals where the CA ruled that there is no such relationship.

Orozco insists that by applying the four-fold test, it can be seen that she is an employee of PDI; Orozco insists that PDI had been exercising the power of control over her because:

a) PDI provides the guidelines as to what her article content should be;

b) PDI sets deadlines as to when Orozco must submit her article/s;

c) PDI controls the number of articles to be submitted by Orozco;

d) PDI requires a certain discipline from their writers so as to maintain their readership.

ISSUE: Whether or not a newspaper columnist is an employee of the newspaper which publishes the column.

HELD: No. The type of control being argued by Orozco is not the type of control contemplated under the four fold test principle in labor law. The Supreme Court emphasized: The main determinant to test control is whether the rules set by the employer are meant to control not just the results of the work but also the means and method to be used by the hired party in order to achieve such results.

In this case, the “control” exercised by PDI over Orozco, as mentioned earlier, is not that “control” contemplated under the four fold test. In fact, such standards set by PDI is merely incidental or inherent in the newspaper business and is not an exercise of control over Orozco.

Orozco has not shown that PDI, acting through its editors, dictated how she was to write or produce her articles each week. There were no restraints on her creativity; Orozco was free to write her column in the manner and style she was accustomed to and to use whatever research method she deemed suitable for her purpose. The apparent limitation that she had to write only on subjects that befitted the Lifestyle section did not translate to control, but was simply a logical consequence of the fact that her column appeared in that section and therefore had to cater to the preference of the readers of that section.

 

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