My first labor law case

On this day May 1, when Labor Day is being celebrated, I’m reminded of my first memorable and notable labor law case.

The case involved a garbage truck driver as my client.

I was back then a senior law student at the University of the Philippines College of Law (U.P. Law). In our law school, we put into practice what we have learned for the past three (3) years by providing legal services to indigents and the underprivileged. This involved a one-year program with the U.P. Office of Legal Aid (or OLA as we called it).

So here I was in my first semester of OLA dressed in office attire, which was a combination of white long sleeves, a tie, black slacks, and polished leather shoes. I was acclimatizing to the working of a law office environment considering I’ve had no experience yet at that time, except perhaps for a summer internship at the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in my junior year.

Here comes a new client being raffled to me. I assisted him to a cubicle where we discussed his case and what steps would be taken afterwards.

From what I recall (we’re talking about 10 years ago), he was a garbage driver of a private company. He had been in this occupation for a long time about 20 years. For some reason, he was unceremoniously laid off without being given any formal notice or advise as to why. He was just simply informed that he will no longer be working for the company. Then, he proceeded to explaining that he was the breadwinner of the family and his being laid off caused a lot of financial problems for them. It was a sad tale.

What made the case memorable was what he said afterwards regarding his compensation and what he did after being laid off.

When he hold me how much we was making, I was amazed that he was being paid about three times more the minimum wage. At that time, the compensation was comparable to, if not better, than entry-level positions in relatively big call centers. If I may add, this was even bigger than what first year lawyers would be receiving in many law firms. Hence, the surprise.

Then, he went on to state that he looked for work resulting in him applying for work abroad. He was fortunate to have landed a job somewhere in the Middle East as a truck driver which would pay him about seven times the minimum wage, plus benefits. He was going to leave in the next two months. While he did not want to pursue the complaint against his employer, his wife encouraged him to do so considering the debts that they incurred resulting from him being jobless for more than three (3) months.

The guy had some seriously good luck.

In addition, he carried himself in all humility as any hardworking individual who prefers to keep his head down and focus on his work to provide for his family. He was a good person.

When I started working on that case, I met his wife who was also a pleasant individual. When we filed our case, I was confident in a win considering that there was zero due process afforded to my client. True enough, we won that case. The wife was able to collect a substantial amount for the full backwages and damages resulting from illegal dismissal. I was glad at the turn out of that case.