Sonza v. ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation (G.R. No. 138051)


Respondent ABS-CBN signed an Agreement with the Mel and Jay Management Development Corporation where the latter agreed to provide petitioner Sonza’s services exclusively to ABS-CBN as talent for radio and television. Later, Sonza tendered a letter rescinding their agreement and filed a complaint before the DOLE for payment of his labor standard benefits. ABS-CBN contends on the ground that no employer-employee relationship existed between the parties. The Labor Arbiter found for respondent citing that Sonza as a ‘talent’ cannot be considered an employee of petitioner. Both NLRC and CA affirmed.


Whether or not employer-employee relationship existed between petitioner and ABS-CBN.

Ruling: NO.

Applying the control test to the present case, we find that SONZA is not an employee but an independent contractor. The control test is the most important test our courts apply in distinguishing an employee from an independent Contractor. This test is based on the extent of control the hirer exercises over a worker. The greater the supervision and control the hirer exercises, the more likely the worker is deemed an employee. The converse holds true as well – the less control the hirer exercises, the more likely the worker is considered an independent contractor.

We find that ABS-CBN was not involved in the actual performance that produced the finished product of SONZA’s work. ABS-CBN did not instruct SONZA how to perform his job. ABS-CBN merely reserved the right to modify the program format and airtime schedule “for more effective programming.” ABS-CBN’s sole concern was the quality of the shows and their standing in the ratings. Clearly, ABS-CBN did not exercise control over the means and methods of performance of SONZA’s work.

In any event, not all rules imposed by the hiring party on the hired party indicate that the latter is an employee of the former. In this case, SONZA failed to show that these rules controlled his performance. We find that these general rules are merely guidelines towards the achievement of the mutually desired result, which are top-rating television and radio programs that comply with standards of the industry.

Being an exclusive talent does not by itself mean that SONZA is an employee of ABS-CBN. Even an independent contractor can validly provide his services exclusively to the hiring party. In the broadcast industry, exclusivity is not necessarily the same as control.

*Not every performance of services for a fee creates an employer-employee relationship. To hold that every person who renders services to another for a fee is an employee – to give meaning to the security of tenure clause – will lead to absurd results.


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