Walk-in Settlement: a better mode of executing a labor settlement
The preferential use of voluntary modes in settling disputes between workers and employers for the promotion of industrial peace is well recognized in the Constitution and the labor laws.
Any labor issue may be settled by the company and the employee between themselves. They can do the settlement right at the workplace, often times with the assistance of a notary public to make the agreement under oath. The only concern here is that there are instances where an employee still files a labor case, even after the settlement to question its validity by raising issues on voluntariness of the settlement, sufficiency of the consideration, etc. Once a labor case is filed, the Labor Arbiter cannot just dismiss the case by reason of the previous settlement signed before a notary public, as he is still mandated to look into the complaint and evaluate its merits, unless the complainant withdraws the case.
This is where the process of “walk-in settlement” at the National Labor Relations Commission comes in. This can be completed on the same day that it is initiated. If the company and the employee have already decided to settle, it may not be enough to execute the settlement before a notary public. Just to put aside the possibility that the employee will still file a case after signing a quitclaim, the company has the option of presenting the settlement agreement to the Labor Arbiter’s Office right away precisely for the purpose of executing the settlement there and asking the Labor Arbiter to approve it. The parties need only to go to the NLRC, where the employee will fill out the usual complaint form but with the note that it is for “walk-in settlement”.
After accomplishing the complaint form, the matter will be raffled off to a Labor Arbiter, who shall then meet the parties, ask questions to confirm that the complainant is entering into a settlement voluntarily and that he understands the terms of the settlement, including the effect of receiving any compromise amount from the company. Once the Labor Arbiter is satisfied that the settlement is voluntary, reasonable and valid, he will ask the complainant to sign a quitclaim in favor of the company, waiving all his rights in relation to the complaint. The quitclaim will then be the basis for the Labor Arbiter to issue an Order recognizing and approving the settlement. This Order shall be binding on the parties and shall be considered as “with prejudice”, which serves to prevent the complainant from pursuing any further action against the company with respect to the issues raised in the complaint.
Indeed, while a settlement between the company and the employee before a notary public is always welcome, if given a choice, there is nothing better than having the settlement executed right before the Labor Arbiter if only to remove any chance that the issue that has been settled will only be raised again in a labor complaint.
In essence, a “walk-in settlement” has the same effect as any other settlement of labor complaints executed before the Labor Arbiter. The only difference is that in a “walk-in settlement”, the complainant has already decided to enter into a settlement at the time that he is filing the complaint and he, along with the company, would merely want the Labor Arbiter to sign off on it. This cannot be said of the usual labor complaints where the complainant and the company have yet to explore the possibility of settlement.
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