THE Supreme Court (SC) has ruled that Fitness First Phil., Inc. had an employer-employee relationship with ex-trainers in finding that the ex-trainers were entitled to benefits and legal fees.
In a statement on Thursday, the court found that the exclusivity clauses in the ex-trainers’ contracts, making them wholly dependent on the gym for their incomes.
“Under the Freelance Personal Trainer Agreement, petitioners (the former trainers) were required to sell only the company’s products per its price schedule and were prohibited from providing training outside of the club,” according to the ruling, written by Associate Justice Amy C. Lazaro-Javier.
“Petitioners were also wholly dependent upon Fitness First for their continued employment in their line of business.”
A copy of the ruling has yet to be uploaded to the court’s website.
It held that elements of an employer-employee relationship include the selection and engagement of the employee, the payment of wages, the power to dismiss and the power to control the employee’s conduct.
Fitness First had initially hired the gym trainers as fitness consultants en route to transitioning as freelance personal trainers.
Their respective contracts involved them being paid by the company on a commission basis, the court said.
“Fitness First also held the power to dismiss petitioners when it became manifest that the latter were unqualified or unfit to discharge their duties or failed to comply with the monthly Minimum Performance Standards under the Agreement,” the Supreme Court noted.
“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 and not a regular employee,” it said. — John Victor D. Ordoñez