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Dismissal case law update. Randall Van Voore Bowman Gilfillan Attorneys. S188 – fair reason and fair procedure ‘Honesty, such a lonely word…’ ‘Sex, Lies and Videotape’ ‘Diamonds are Forever’ Theft but only in the technical sense? Callings and Visions .

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dismissal case law update

Dismissal case law update

Randall Van Voore

Bowman Gilfillan Attorneys


S188 – fair reason and fair procedure

  • ‘Honesty, such a lonely word…’
  • ‘Sex, Lies and Videotape’
  • ‘Diamonds are Forever’
  • Theft but only in the technical sense?
  • Callings and Visions
mec department of finance eastern cape v de milander
MEC Department of Finance, Eastern Cape v De Milander
  • main issue: whether De Milander dismissed – s186(1)(b) of LRA
  • De Milander to prove reasonable expectation of renewal of contract, entailed answering two questions:
    • first, had she actually expected her contract to be renewed and
    • second, if so, was that subjective expectation reasonable?
  • De Milander failed first leg of the test, transferred to a permanent post, which had been advertised soon after her transfer, must have given De Milander food for thought
  • When post advertised for a full time appointment, she could not have expected her fixed-term contract to be renewed
  • Even in absence of testimony from officials concerned, De Milander’s claim that she had been promised a new contract was at odds with correspondence between, De Milander failed to satisfy first part of test: that she had actually believed that her contract would be extended
dyasi v onderstepoort biological products limited others
Dyasi v Onderstepoort Biological Products Limited & Others
  • tussle between Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and board of company over whether managing director should be suspended and disciplined, company a parastatal, State is majority shareholder
  • Minister has power to appoint MD but board must manage company’s day to day affairs
  • board decided to suspend Dyasi pending disciplinary proceedings, Minister instructed board to lift suspension and drop proceedings but board refused
  • Dyasi accused of sleeping with female colleague, discussing other colleagues with her and interfering with remuneration report which formed basis of collective agreement with unions
  • Dyasi approached Court on urgent basis for, inter alia, order uplifting suspension and stopping disciplinary proceedings
dyasi v ondestepoort biological products limited others
Dyasi v Ondestepoort Biological Products Limited & Others
  • urgent application postponed and Dyasi dismissed, when Court reconvened still necessary to establish whether disciplinary proceedings lawful
  • while Minister had power to appoint MD, it did not follow that this entailed suspending and disciplining him, matters of discipline were a managerial prerogative
  • MD was employed by company and board accordingly had authority to decide whether to institute disciplinary action against him and whether to recommend to Minister that he be dismissed
  • charges against MD were serious and called for disciplinary action, board obliged by PFMA to take effective disciplinary measures to deal with misconduct of this nature
  • board not only had authority to institute disciplinary proceedings against Dyasi but was obliged to do so
nehawu others v van der bijl park society for the aged
NEHAWU & Others v Van der Bijl Park Society for the Aged
  • Society retrenched a number of NEHAWU members in outsourcing operation, union referred dispute to CCMA, certificate of ‘non-resolution’ issued
  • union instructed attorney and a statement of claim delivered, however it was outside 90 day time limit by some 3 months
  • union applied for condonation claiming that delay due to lengthy internal processes union had to follow before approval could be obtained to instruct attorneys
  • union had 3 months to deal with matter, when it finally instructed attorney it took a further eighty-seven days to file the statement of claim and attorneys had not explained their ‘tardiness’ and accordingly it had to be assumed that delay caused by union alone
nehawu others v van der bijl park society for the aged1
NEHAWU & Others v Van der Bijl Park Society for the Aged
  • Court accepted that NEHAWU was large and complex organisation, but this cut both ways
  • In 15 years since LRA union had enough time to adapt internal procedures to comply with 90 day time period
  • union also failed to prove reasonable prospects of success – Society had undertaken to request service provider to employ as many of affected employees as possible, and all of them but applicants had been transferred or had accepted agreed severance package
  • application for condonation was refused
rainbow farms pty ltd v ccma 2011 5 bllr 451 lac
Rainbow Farms (Pty) Ltd v CCMA [2011] 5 BLLR 451 (LAC)
  • employee dismissed for unauthorised removal of company property
  • employee caught attempting to leave premises with litre of milk, milk had been issued free of charge to drink while on duty, however employees prohibited from removing ‘free issue’ items from premises
  • CCMA ruled dismissal was unfair because not been proved that employee aware of rule prohibiting removal of ‘free issue’ milk
  • Labour Court dismissed company’s review application on ground that employee was not guilty of charge because he had not yet left premises when apprehended and that a lesser sanction more appropriate
  • during arbitration proceedings employee’s main contention was that rule prohibiting removal of company property did not cover ‘free issue’ milk, arbitrator had accepted that employee unaware of rule because he had not attempted to conceal milk when leaving premises
rainbow farms pty ltd v ccma 2011 5 bllr 451 lac1
Rainbow Farms (Pty) Ltd v CCMA [2011] 5 BLLR 451 (LAC)
  • LAC:
    • finding on review employee could not be guilty of ‘unauthorised removal of company property’ was incorrect, common cause at arbitration that employee attempted to remove milk
  • removal with intention of carrying off property was in itself sufficient ground to sustain charge of unauthorised removal
  • proper test for distinguishing between completed and uncompleted acts of appropriation is whether owner has lost possession and appropriator acquired possession – this occurred when employee removed milk from kitchen
  • Court a quo’s finding that act of removal not completed was wrong
rainbow farms pty ltd v ccma 2011 5 bllr 451 lac2
Rainbow Farms (Pty) Ltd v CCMA [2011] 5 BLLR 451 (LAC)
  • arbitrator himself rejected employee’s evidence that there were exceptions to rule against removing ‘free issue’ milk
  • fact that employee had openly displayed milk when he reached security gate could be seen, not only as indicative of belief that he was entitled to remove milk, but also as a brazen act of defiance
  • when all evidence was taken into account, inescapable conclusion was that employee had contravened a rule of which he was fully aware, and that he had been dishonest
  • arbitrator’s conclusion that dismissal was unfair, was accordingly, not a conclusion a reasonable commissioner could have reached
mangope v sa football association 2011 4 bllr 391 lc
Mangope v SA Football Association [2011] 4 BLLR 391 (LC)
  • Mangope and SAFA concluded 3 year fixed-term contract, subject to 3 month probation
  • After 3 months probation extended for further month because Mangope had been off sick for some time, at the end of that month contract terminated
  • Mangope claimed termination was unlawful because he had been given no indication that his performance was lacking and because SAFA breached its obligation to treat him fairly, Mangope sought compensation equal to remuneration he would have received for balance of contract
  • SAFA contended that Mangope’s performance had been poor and that matter could not be resolved on motion proceedings because of numerous disputes of fact
  • Court: generally inappropriate to pursue by way of motion proceedings matters in which there are genuine and material disputes of fact, however not every dispute of fact requires applications to be referred for oral evidence
mangope v sa football association 2011 4 bllr 391 lc1
Mangope v SA Football Association [2011] 4 BLLR 391 (LC)
  • Court must adopt a robust approach when assessing alleged disputes of fact
  • Court found that disputes of fact emanated largely from SAFA’s side and many arose from a misunderstanding of cause of action and issues
  • action instituted in terms of common law and facts of narrow compass
  • nothing turned on reasons why probation period was extended, sole issue was whether SAFA complied with terms of agreement before terminating it
  • contract expressly provided that should Mangope’s performance be found lacking during probation he would be advised and counseled
mangope v sa football association 2011 4 bllr 391 lc2
Mangope v SA Football Association [2011] 4 BLLR 391 (LC)
  • remedies either in common law or LRA, LRA has not affected remedies available under law of contract – under the common law unlawful breach or repudiation of an employment contract entitles employee to challenge breach, or to accept it and sue for damages
  • SAFA failed to follow procedure, all it did was to forward certain complaints about Mangope’s performance to him
  • SAFA had not availed itself of the opportunity to reply to Mangope’s affidavit concerning mitigation of damages
  • Mangope was awarded R1 777 000.00 (One million seven hundred and seventy seven thousand rand) as damages
stander v elrc others 2011 4 bllr 411 lc
Stander v ELRC & Others [2011] 4 BLLR 411 (LC)
  • Stander taught for 30 years, dismissed for slapping 17 year old pupil, Stander provocation to a degree that rendered his actions involuntary
  • found guilty of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, dismissal was upheld by arbitrator
  • Court found that commissioner had not considered whether dismissal was fair but had rather accepted that employer had a bona fide belief that employee should be dismissed, as result commissioner failed to enquire into whether Stander had intended to assault learner and had ignored psychiatric evidence, admitted by consent, which indicated contrary
  • commissioner had also inexplicably found, without supporting evidence, that Stander might repeat a similar offence
  • award was set aside and remitted to the council to be heard by another commissioner
seardel group trading pty ltd t a romatex home textiles v petersen others 2011 2 bllr 211 lc
Seardel Group Trading (Pty) Ltd t/a Romatex Home Textiles v Petersen & Others [2011] 2 BLLR 211 (LC)
  • maintenance fitter refused to perform maintenance work during annual shutdown unless paid more than normal rate of pay, dismissed for refusing to obey a lawful instruction
  • commissioner found that compelling employees to work during annual shutdown breached provisions of BCEA and main agreement
  • Court noted that BCEA and main agreement both prohibit requiring or permitting employees to work ‘during any period of annual leave’
  • employment contract - employee was entitled to 20 days annual leave, commissioner erroneously equated company’s annual shutdown with annual leave
  • employee always worked during annual shutdowns and was allowed to take his annual leave at any other time of year
  • award was reviewable on that basis and since reason for dismissal was fair, followed that dismissal must be fair
mahlamu v ccma others 2011 4 bllr 381 lc
Mahlamu v CCMA & Others [2011] 4 BLLR 381 (LC)
  • company employed Mahlamu as a security guard, employment contract stipulated that it would expire automatically on termination of contract between company and its client or if client no longer required Mahlamu’s service ‘for whatever reason’
  • when client cancelled security contract company informed Mahlamu that his services were no longer required because it had no alternative position for him
  • Mahlamu referred an alleged unfair dismissal dispute to CCMA
  • commissioner found that since client no longer required Mahlamu’s services, employment contract between Mahlamu and company had terminated automatically and that Mahlamu had accordingly failed to prove dismissal
  • contending that commissioner made a material error of law, Mahlamu approached Labour Court on review
mahlamu v ccma others 2011 4 bllr 381 lc1
Mahlamu v CCMA & Others [2011] 4 BLLR 381 (LC)
  • Labour Court
    • Judges had adopted different views on the legal consequences of contacts of service the duration of which are linked to the happening of some external event. However in dealing with that issue in SA Post Office Limited v Mampeule [2010] 10 BLLR 1052 (LAC) the Labour Appeal Court had endorsed the view that parties may not contract out of the fairness requirements of the LRA and that in such cases the employer must still prove that the termination clause was fairly triggered
  • import of commissioner’s award was that Mahlamu’s security of employment entirely dependant on will or whim of client, could at any time, and for any reason, simply state that employee’s services were no longer required and, that done, contract would terminate automatically and by operation of law, leaving employee with no remedy
mahlamu v ccma others 2011 4 bllr 381 lc2
Mahlamu v CCMA & Others [2011] 4 BLLR 381 (LC)
  • question was whether contracts of the type concluded between Mahlamu and the employer were permitted by the LRA
  • contractual device that purports to render termination of contract of employment as something other than a dismissal, with result that employee is denied right to challenge fairness thereof in terms of s188 of LRA is the very mischief that the Act prohibits
  • this reasoning did not apply to contracts where termination is set by occurrence of a particular event, in such cases there is no conversion of right not to be unfairly dismissed into a contractual right
  • However, where event is, for example, a defined act of misconduct or incapacity, or, as in the present instance, a decision by a third party that has the consequence of termination of employment, the fair dismissal provisions of LRA are flouted
  • Court: commissioner had committed a reviewable error of law and arbitration award set aside
safa v ramabulana n o another 2011 3 bllr 291 lc
SAFA v Ramabulana N.O. & Another [2011] 3 BLLR 291 (LC)
  • employee employed on a fixed term contract as SAFA’s head of security, subject to a specific term that contract would incorporate SAFA’s disciplinary code
  • employee called to CEO’s office, informed criminal charges of theft against him were being investigated, denied knowledge charges – CEO offered him choice of resigning or facing criminal prosecution, employee did not resign and his probationary period was extended by one month
  • During extended probationary period employee was arrested in full view of crowds in a soccer stadium, release on bail and resumed work contract was terminated
  • at arbitration SAFA claimed that employee had been dismissed for ‘incompatibility’ because of negative effect his arrest would have made on FIFA before World Cup
  • commissioner rejected that claim and found employee should not have been dismissed before his performance had properly been assessed and without having been given an opportunity to explain circumstances of arrest
  • Court: commissioner properly applied provisions of LRA and code of good practice and the dismissal was based on nothing more than a suspicion, fact that employee was still on probation was not licence for treating him unfairly, SAFA had laboured under misapprehension that FIFA would somehow endorse dismissal
city of cape town v salgbc others 2011 5 bllr 504 lc
City of Cape Town v SALGBC & Others [2011] 5 BLLR 504 (LC)
  • employee dismissed for gross dishonesty after discovery that, 9 years earlier she had presented a fake Namibian driver’s licence to South African authorities for conversion
  • arbitrator found that employee had indeed obtained licence by fraud, municipality entitled to discipline her but ruled that dismissal was too harsh a penalty because the fraud was not committed in workplace and did not relate to employee’s duties and because municipality had not considered whether a lesser sanction might be appropriate and further because offence committed 9 years earlier
  • Municipality contended that finding on sanction was unreasonable as employee had persisted with false defence, had properly been found guilty of gross dishonesty and had held a senior position which demanded ‘impeccable’ honesty
city of cape town v salgbc others 2011 5 bllr 504 lc1
City of Cape Town v SALGBC & Others [2011] 5 BLLR 504 (LC)
  • Labour Court :
    • when it comes to deciding on appropriateness of a sanction, it is not function of arbitrators to merely rubber stamp employers’ decisions
    • however, arbitrators not called to decide afresh what should be done
    • issue was whether commissioner had arrived at a reasonable decision on sanction
    • question was whether dishonest conduct of employee impacted on relationship with employer
    • mutual trust an essential element of employment relationship, Courts have generally held that dishonest conduct destroys employment relationship even if employees concerned have long service and clean disciplinary records
city of cape town v salgbc others 2011 5 bllr 504 lc2
City of Cape Town v SALGBC & Others [2011] 5 BLLR 504 (LC)
  • employee had been grossly dishonest and committed a criminal offence – she deceived the State and had persisted with false claims during investigation, disciplinary hearing and under oath at arbitration
  • employer (as an organ of State) entitled to require utmost trust in employees, especially one entrusted with public funds as employee had been
  • employee showed no remorse, fact that the fraud had been perpetrated a long period before did not serve as a mitigating factor because employee had continued to benefit from her fraud
  • award was set aside and employee’s dismissal ruled fair
allpass v mooikloof estates pty ltd t a mooikloof equestrian centre 2011 5 bllr 462 lc
Allpass v Mooikloof Estates (Pty) Ltd t/a Mooikloof Equestrian Centre [2011] 5 BLLR 462 (LC)
  • applicant, HIV positive for some 18 years, appointed as manager of employer’s equestrian centre on fixede term contract, subject to renewal
  • During pre-employment interview applicant disclosed that he was in good health, only debt was a bond over immovable property and was married
  • In response to further questioning disclosed marriage was civil union with another male, employer’s general manager indicated no problem with applicant’s sexual orientation because it already employed a ‘same sex’ couple in senior positions
  • week after applicant’s employment he and others asked to complete a ‘personal particulars’ form listing of allergies and chronic medications taken, applicant disclosed HIV positive and taking antiretroviral drugs
  • day after applicant was told he had been dismissed and was ordered off premises by a security officer acting on instructions of homeowners’ association
  • 2 days later applicant received letter informing him he had been dismissed for not telling truth about health at a pre-employment interview, letter recorded reason for dismissal as ‘fraudulent misrepresentations’
  • during his forceable removal from premises a security guard referred to applicant as a ‘moffie’ and a ‘vagrant’
allpass v mooikloof estates pty ltd t a mooikloof equestrian centre 2011 5 bllr 462 lc1
Allpass v Mooikloof Estates (Pty) Ltd t/a Mooikloof Equestrian Centre [2011] 5 BLLR 462 (LC)
  • referred an automatically unfair dismissal dispute
  • employer conceded that when senior management learned of medical condition decision taken to dismiss because of 2 incidents since his appointment which it claimed indicated that his HIV status would adversely affect his work
  • employer further contended that applicant had abruptly terminated an interview at which he would have been given an opportunity to state his case by running away and accusing the respondent of victimising him
  • Labour Court:
    • since HIV infection not expressly mentioned in LRA as prohibited ground, applicant had to prove it was an arbitrary ground akin to specifically mentioned grounds
      • HIV infection expressly listed as prohibited ground in EEA requiring employer to prove that discrimination on that ground was fair
        • EEA and Code of Good Practice confer on HIV positive persons right to privacy
        • With regard to the automatically unfair dismissal claim, applicant was required to make out a prima facie case that he had been discriminated against and company then had to show that discrimination was fair because it related to an inherent requirement of the job
allpass v mooikloof estates pty ltd t a mooikloof equestrian centre 2011 5 bllr 462 lc2
Allpass v Mooikloof Estates (Pty) Ltd t/a Mooikloof Equestrian Centre [2011] 5 BLLR 462 (LC)
  • Labour Court:
    • discrimination claim – company claimed that employee was dismissed for reasons relating to conduct and not because HIV positive, accordingly necessary to establish true reason for dismissal, company’s claim of dismissal for dishonesty had never been tested in a disciplinary hearing and could be discounted for that reason alone
    • also noteworthy that company requested personal particulars from applicant only after 2 other employees had commenced employment, request plainly aimed at extracting admissions of HIV status from employees concerned, inquiry constituted unfair discrimination in itself
    • clear from evidence that general manager shocked, not by applicant’s condition, but rather by fact that he had learned that company had unknowingly employed an HIV positive employee
      • employee’s evidence that he was fit enough to perform the demanding duties associated with his job had gone unchallenged
allpass v mooikloof estates pty ltd t a mooikloof equestrian centre 2011 5 bllr 462 lc3
Allpass v Mooikloof Estates (Pty) Ltd t/a Mooikloof Equestrian Centre [2011] 5 BLLR 462 (LC)
  • company’s suspicion that he was gravely ill was product of prejudice which in itself was discriminatory and belied true reason for dismissal which was employee’s HIV positive status rather than alleged concerns about his ‘general state of health’
  • true reason for dismissal: company’s aversion to employee’s positive HIV status
  • company’s defence (to both claims) that dismissal was justified by an inherent requirement of job, apparently based on the applicant’s acknowledgement that he was allergic to penicillin, confused inherent requirements with other requirements – the absence of a penicillin allergy was not mentioned in applicant’s job specifications and not mentioned in dismissal letter and company accordingly failed to prove ‘inherent requirement’ of job
  • applicant was not legally obliged to disclose HIV status, mere expectation that he should have done so violated his dignity and privacy
  • dual claims competent, a claim for both automatically unfair dismissal and unfair discrimination
mec for education gauteng v mgijima others 2011 32 ilj 604 lc
MEC for Education, Gauteng v Mgijima & Others (2011) 32 ILJ 604 (LC)
  • employee applied for post of Deputy Director-General in Gauteng Department of Education whilst on suspension by National Department of Arts & Culture and awaiting disciplinary proceedings into allegations of misconduct
  • at interview employee was specifically asked whether she had ‘any skeletons in the closet’ and she replied that she did not
  • employee concluded employment contract with dept, at about same time employee reached settlement agreement with National Department of Arts & Culture in terms of which she resigned and all charges against her were withdrawn
  • months later dept became aware of circumstances surrounding termination of employee’s deployment with DAC, dept regarded lack of disclosure of suspension and pending disciplinary hearing to be of serious nature and claimed that had it been aware of the facts at the time it would not have appointed her
  • In addition, dept considered employee’s failure to disclose material information to be a gross failure by employee to comply with standards of trust, honesty and candour required of prospective employees, particularly at senior level of Deputy Director-General
mec for education gauteng v mgijima others 2011 32 ilj 604 lc1
MEC for Education, Gauteng v Mgijima & Others (2011) 32 ILJ 604 (LC)
  • pre-dismissal arbitration proceedings arbitrator found, relying on criminal law presumption of innocent until proven guilty, that no duty on employee to disclose that she was on suspension
  • Labour Court:
    • primary ground of review relied on by dept was a process related attack – that arbitrator failed to apply his mind properly to true issues and to all the evidence before him, thus committing a gross irregularity
    • outcome of arbitration proceedings not relevant and Court was not called upon to make any assessment whether outcome was one that fell within a band of decisions which a reasonable commissioner could make on available material
    • arbitrator manifestly wrong when relying in context of proceedings on presumption that ‘a person remains innocent until proven guilty’, arbitrator appeared incorrectly to have understood that the issue to be determined by him was whether employee was in fact guilty or not of disciplinary charges brought against her by the DAC
mec for education gauteng v mgijima others 2011 32 ilj 604 lc2
MEC for Education, Gauteng v Mgijima & Others (2011) 32 ILJ 604 (LC)
  • however, crucial issue before arbitrator was employee’s non-disclosure at time of her interview and during subsequent period leading to signing of contract
  • post for which employee applied was senior post and one that clearly required unimpeachable honesty and integrity on part of its incumbent, employee’s failure to disclose material information in response to an express invitation to do so deprived dept of opportunity to make an informed decision as to effect, if any, of suspension and pending charges on contemplated employment relationship
  • arbitrator, in the exercise of his functions, failed to apply his mind properly to the issues before him and in doing so had acted other than as a reasonable decision maker would
num others v ccma others 2011 32 ilj 956 lc
NUM & Others v CCMA & Others (2011) 32 ILJ 956 (LC)
  • employees employed by mine as rock drill operator and rock drill assistant, seen leaving an area where ‘scratching’ had taken place – someone had attempted to break into a diamondiferous fissure and, although no direct evidence implicating the employees in the act, the mine had held them responsible
  • Diamond theft a problem for mine and its code contained dismissible offence of ‘unauthorised breaking and searching of fissure and / or aiding and abetting diamond theft’
  • evidence relied upon mine was fact that hammer, pinch bar and shovel were found at scene, no indication that anyone other than employees worked in that area and if anyone else had been there, their headlamps would have been seen, employees would have had ample time to complete drilling of holes allotted to them and to engage in ‘scratching’
  • Employees charged in terms of disciplinary code and offence ‘aiding and abetting diamond theft’, mine contended that this was broad term for specific offence in disciplinary code (unauthorised breaking and searching of fissure and / or aiding and abetting diamond theft) but nature of charge at all times clear to employees and union
  • employees called to separate disciplinary hearings but hearings chaired by same person, employees found guilty and dismissed, referred alleged unfair dismissal disputes to CCMA and dismissals upheld
num others v ccma others 2011 32 ilj 956 lc1
NUM & Others v CCMA & Others (2011) 32 ILJ 956 (LC)
  • employees approached Labour Court on review, matter remitted to CCMA for adjudication before another commissioner, dismissals ruled substantively fair but procedurally unfair in respect of one employee and awarded one employee an amount equivalent to 1 months’ salary as compensation
  • union approached Labour Court to review and set aside that arbitration award
  • argued that commissioner erred - applied disciplinary code that was not applicable to parties, that he found them guilty of ‘unauthorised breaking and searching of fissure and / or aiding and abetting diamond theft’ whereas in fact they were charged with ‘aiding and abetting diamond theft’, that circumstantial evidence relied on did not justify finding and that he did not apply his mind correctly to amount of compensation awarded for procedural unfairness
  • Labour Court:
    • evidence before commissioner established that applicable disciplinary code was tendered by mine, document tendered by employees incomplete and commissioner had not reached an unreasonable conclusion in this regard
num others v ccma others 2011 32 ilj 956 lc2
NUM & Others v CCMA & Others (2011) 32 ILJ 956 (LC)
  • on wording of charge Court affirmed commissioner’s view that ‘unintelligent and poorly worded charges’ were common feature of disciplinary proceedings and one had to enquire into substance of matter to determine if this resulted in unfairness
  • commissioner concluded that wording did not result in unfairness as parties at all times clear as to nature of allegation against employees and activity they were accused of, commissioner’s reasoning could not be faulted
  • commissioner did rely largely on circumstantial evidence to reach his conclusion on substantive fairness but he drew his conclusions after careful analysis of evidence, commissioner found that witnesses for mine were, for the most part, consistent in their version whereas employee who testified was contradictory and evasive, second employee elected not to testify and, weighing the two versions, commissioner found that the probabilities favoured version of the mine
  • commissioner’s finding was justified based on evidence before him
national union of mine workers others v ccma others 2011 32 ilj 956 lc
National Union of Mine Workers & Others v CCMA & Others (2011) 32 ILJ 956 (LC)
  • Labour Court:
    • in relation to the amount of compensation for procedural unfairness, commissioner did find that it was unfair that same chairperson presided over both disciplinary hearing, but in awarding compensation he took into account that dismissal was substantively fair, that the employee (in respect of whom procedural unfairness was found) did not testify and that there was no indication that the enquiry was in any other manner unfair
    • Court did not believe that the award was unreasonable or that no other commissioner would have made the same award, the award was soundly reasoned and could not be reviewed
kievits kroon country estate pty ltd v ccma others 2011 32 ilj 923 lc
Kievits Kroon Country Estate (Pty) Ltd v CCMA & Others (2011) 32 ILJ 923 (LC)
  • January 2007 employee began having visions and sought assistance of traditional healer, healer instructed employee to undergo training to become a traditional healer herself so as to appease her ancestors, employee began training and employer accomodated her
  • May 2007 employee sought permission to take a month’s unpaid leave from 6 June to 8 June 2007 to attend a ritual ceremony, submitted certificate from traditional healer verifying that she suffered from ‘perminitions of ancestors’ and needed to attend ceremony failing which she may collapse at work
  • employer did not accept certificate as valid and refused request for leave, compromise offer of 1 week’s unpaid leave rejected by employee and she absented herself for entire period
  • Upon return charged with various counts of misconduct including absence without valid reason for more than 3 days, employee dismissed following disciplinary hearing and referred alleged unfair dismissal dispute to CCMA
  • commissioner took into account that employee advised employer of whereabouts, submitted supporting document from traditional healer and called HR manager to ensure that she had received documents, she acted reasonably given her belief that her life was in danger if she did not attend ceremony
  • arbitrator – circumstances beyond employee’s control and employer failed to appreciate that she had a ‘calling’, awarded reinstatement
kievits kroon country estate pty ltd v ccma others 2011 32 ilj 923 lc1
Kievits Kroon Country Estate (Pty) Ltd v CCMA & Others (2011) 32 ILJ 923 (LC)
  • Labour Court:
    • employer contended that commissioner failed to apply his mind to facts, made incorrect findings on evidence such as concluding that employee might have died if she did not attend ceremony, made findings not supported by law and rendered an award not justifiable in relation to reasons given for it
    • case shows what happens when ‘cultures clash in the workplace’, on one hand employer concerned with making money and on other employee had visions and believed that her ancestors were calling her to become a sangoma, employer did not regard a ‘calling’ to be a sangoma to be an illness, employee believed that if she did not heed calling she would become ill
    • on analysis, most of the charges were unfair – primary question before commissioner was whether employee was justifiably absent from work for more than 3 days, in assessing fairness of dismissal for absenteeism several factors are taken into account, including a reasonable explanation for absence, and commissioner found that employee had a valid and persuasive reason for absence
kievits kroon country estate pty ltd v ccma others 2011 32 ilj 923 lc2
Kievits Kroon Country Estate (Pty) Ltd v CCMA & Others (2011) 32 ILJ 923 (LC)
  • based on the evidence Court was satisfied that commissioner’s decision was justifiable and that employee’s explanation for breaching rules on grounds of her cultural belief was justified
  • Court agreed that employee was faced with difficult choice (heed the calling of her ancestors or obey the rules of her employer)
  • review application was dismissed, no order as to costs
dolo v ccma others 2011 32 ilj 905 lc
Dolo v CCMA & Others (2011) 32 ILJ 905 (LC)
  • employee employed by casino as table supervisor, became involved with married man who was accused of defrauding his employer (a mining company)
  • boyfriend produced false invoices for payment by employer and paid monies so derived into employee’s bank account, employee signed first invoice with full knowledge that she had not provided services and accepted payment of amount, thereafter she merely served as a conduit for payments purportedly because boyfriend did not want his wife to find out about payments
  • criminal proceedings against boyfriend and employee, employee made a s204 statement and arising from this her employer dismissed her for misconduct on basis that it had lost trust in her and had ‘financial doubt’ about her due to her involvement in fraudulent transactions, also charged with bringing company’s name into disrepute
  • referred alleged unfair dismissal dispute to CCMA, commissioner found that although employee aware boyfriend engaged in unlawful activity her conduct did not affect casino directly, ordered the casino to re-employ in position that did not involve her working with cash even if such a position was a demotion, also given a final written warning valid for twelve months
dolo v ccma others 2011 32 ilj 905 lc1
Dolo v CCMA & Others (2011) 32 ILJ 905 (LC)
  • Casino accepted award and offered employee a receptionist position, employee declined and elected to review award, employee contended that commissioner erred in finding her dismissal was fair because she had not been found guilty of any misconduct and submitted that her section 204 statement ought not to have been taken into account, employee also raised procedural complaints – witnesses had not been sworn in and commissioner erred in not placing her back in her original position
  • review application launched Aug 2007, record reconstructed but only filed in Nov 2009 and then only because employer’s attorneys launched application to dismiss review application
  • review eventually heard, Labour Court:
    • actions outside workplace could be subject to discipline in certain circumstances, determination of whether conduct outside workplace could be subjected to disciplinary action was a multifaceted factual enquiry, Court confirmed commissioner’s finding that employee’s integrity had been tarnished by her involvement in fraudulent transactions and that her trustworthiness was in doubt, casino’s concern about her being in a position where she handled money was justified.
    • review application dismissed
dolo v ccma others 2011 32 ilj 905 lc2
Dolo v CCMA & Others (2011) 32 ILJ 905 (LC)
  • Court rejected employee’s argument that her section 204 statement was not admissable and confirmed that employee had admitted in that statement that she had participated in criminal activity, Court confirmed commissioner’s finding that employee’s argument that she was unaware of nature of her boyfriend’s activities was unreasonable
  • Court rejected submission that commissioner did not consider the fact that the casino suffered no loss and found that the commissioner had considered it but had balanced it against the fact that the casino had a right to take pre-emptive action to avoid risk and loss it might suffer if the employee remained in her position
  • Court did not consider alleged procedural defects to be material
ceppwawu v nbcci others 2011 2 bllr 137 lac
CEPPWAWU v NBCCI & Others [2011] 2 BLLR 137 (LAC)
  • employees dismissed for intimidating ‘scab’ workers during strike, all dismissed employees admitted that their images appeared on video footage viewed during disciplinary hearings
  • Company revoked dismissal of one of the employees and acquitted those who did not appear on video footage
  • arbitrator upheld dismissal of all employees, save one who was ruled unfairly dismissed because she could not be clearly identified on video footage, commissioner found further that employer could not be criticised for dismissing only those employees who had positively been identified
  • on review union persisted only with issue that dismissals were selective and unfair and the Labour Court dismissed application
  • LAC:
    • in principle it is unfair to select only some employees for discipline when others have committed the same misconduct, however in cases of mass misconduct there is nothing wrong with disciplining only those employees the employer is able to identify
ceppwawu v nbcci others 2011 2 bllr 137 lac1
CEPPWAWU v NBCCI & Others [2011] 2 BLLR 137 (LAC)
  • LAC:
    • to deny employers this right would be to require them to dismiss all employees engaged in collective action, whether or not their individual guilt was proved
    • employers can only be accused of applying selective discipline if, having evidence against the number of individual employees, they are arbitrarily select only a few to face disciplinary action
    • in cases of collective misconduct employers are entitled to proceed only against those employees whose guilt they can prove
    • where a number of employees are dismissed for collective misconduct, an incorrect decision to acquit a guilty employee can only be unfair if the decision flows from some discriminatory management policy
    • commissioner properly found that employer dismissed all employees against whom there was sufficient evidence of misconduct and that there was no evidence to prove that the employer had acted arbitrarily
    • commissioner’s conclusion was supported by his reasons, the evidence and the law, and was accordingly not open to review
j h adams v dcd dorbyl marine pty ltd c928 2009 unreported
J H Adams v DCD-Dorbyl Marine (Pty) Ltd – C928/2009 (unreported)
  • Adams dismissed for operational requirements, alleged dismissal automatically unfair – reason was a transfer or a reason related to a transfer
  • Following merger Adams transferred to employ of company, conditions attached to approval of merger included that 28 ‘white collar’ employees would be retrenched in the 12 months following the merger and Adams was a ‘white collar employee’
  • 28 April 2009 company issued a notice to all employees informing them that ‘blue collar’ workers would not face retrenchment but that 28 employees from service department ‘could be’ retrenched, 11 May 2009 company issued notice in terms of s189(3) to affected employees and notice referred to ruling of Competition Commission
  • proposed selection criteria were stipulated as ‘position and skill’, company viewed Adams’ position as redundant (buyer) due to restructuring of buying department
j h adams v dcd dorbyl marine pty ltd c928 2009 unreported1
J H Adams v DCD-Dorbyl Marine (Pty) Ltd – C928/2009 (unreported)
  • 14 May 2009 Adams was provided with an ‘exit pack containing UIF form, pension release form and letter dated 15 May 2009 confirming he would be ‘released of his duties with immediate effect’, Adams was ill and not at work on Friday 15 and Monday 18 May 2009, 19 May 2009 invited to meeting to take place on 22 May 2009 – at this meeting Adams was given a copy of staff communique dated 21 May 2009 dealing largely with applications for voluntary severance packages
  • Adams received undated letter from company’s general manager headed ‘termination of employment in accordance with section 189’ and informing him that his employment would be terminated with effect from 29 May 2009
  • Labour Court:
    • what was real reason for the dismissal?
    • company contends that but for the transfer Adams would still have been retrenched by Globe (transferor)
    • company’s evidence was that transferor would not have survived financially and that it would have continued with restructuring had merger not preceded
j h adams v dcd dorbyl marine pty ltd c928 2009 unreported2
J H Adams v DCD-Dorbyl Marine (Pty) Ltd – C928/2009 (unreported)
  • “I cannot find that the transfer was the main, dominant, proximate or most likely cause for the dismissal. The merger did lead to duplication and rationalisation, and may well have been the cause of some dismissals. However, the evidence that the position of buyer at Globe … was in any event in jeopardy, could not seriously be disputed in fact the merger was seen as a lifeline in circumstances where Globe was in dire straits financially and was about to embark on a large scale retrenchment”
  • procedural fairness - procedure company followed falls far short of requirements of s189
  • no proper attempt to engage with Adams in an attempt to avoid his dismissal or to seek alternatives, selection criteria were neither agreed nor objective and he had no opportunity to provide input, dismissal procedurally unfair and company ordered to pay Adams compensation equivalent to 12 months’ remuneration.
Value Logistics Ltd v Basson, National Bargaining Council for Road Freight Industry & McEwan N.O. (case no. C1025/09)
  • when can employee be held to be constructively dismissed and when can an employer be said to have made continued employment ‘intolerable’?
  • Basson employed as regional HR manager for coastal regions, at time of dismissal he reported directly to senior HR Manager (Sibisi)
  • Basson not coping with workload, e.g. he was required to hire 40 drivers between period 29 Jan and 6 Feb 2009 and found this impossible to do, April 2009 company removed the KZN from his responsibilities
  • Basson still failed to meet his required deliverables, company addressed his poor performance with him informally, no formal performance counseling sessions culminating in a written record were held, conflict ensued between Basson and Sibisi
  • 13 May 2009 unprotected strike commenced at company’s Cape Town premises, Sibisi flew to Cape Town to assist Basson, all company employees required to work long and difficult hours during stike, following strike Basson was booked off work for medical reasons for 11 days, medical certificate stipulated ‘exhaustion, stress’, Basson did not contact Sibisi to do a telephonic hand over of urgent work and denied any obligation on him to do so and further contended that due to his stress and exhaustion he was unable to do so
value logistics ltd v basson nbcrfi mcewan n o case no c1025 09
Value Logistics Ltd v Basson, NBCRFI & McEwan N.O. (case no. C1025/09)
  • Monday 18 May 2009 colleague made several attempts to contact Basson telephonically, finally managed to speak to his wife who informed her that he had gone to the family farm outside Robertson to rest and mobile phone reception was ‘patchy and intermittent’
  • colleague sent Basson ‘sms’ text message requiring that he contact her urgently, Basson received message at approxy 15h30 and telephoned colleague at 17h00, arrangements made for Basson’s office to be opened and for documentation to be couriered to Jhb so that another person could attend to his work
  • Basson returned to work on 25 May 2009, informed by colleague that she had been overseeing his work and was in possession of paperwork, Basson was required to consult a doctor before returning to work to ensure that he was fit to resume duties and he remained off work until 1 June 2009
  • Upon return to work Basson was handed a letter setting out implications and consequences of his failure to conduct a telephonic handover, matters were unresolved or unattended and this caused stress and embarrassment to company
value logistics ltd v basson nbcrfi and mcewann n o case no c1025 09
Value Logistics Ltd v Basson, NBCRFI and McEwann N.O. (case no. C1025/09)
  • One of Basson’s duties was to provide Sibisi with monthly reports and it was alleged that Basson was consistently late and reports submitted inaccurate and / or incomplete
  • 12 July 2009 Sibisi telephonically addressed Basson’s poor performance with him, 15 July 2009 Sibisi again telephoned Basson, according to BassonSibisi was shouting and screaming at him and called him a ‘stupid idiot’, Sibisi denied calling him a ‘stupid idiot’ or swearing at him
  • 15 July 2009 Basson handed in a letter of resignation effective 31 August 2009, letter recorded that resignation was ‘due to continuous unfair and extreme pressure’ which allegedly caused his health to deteriorate and also had a negative impact on his personal and family life
  • referred alleged unfair dismissal dispute, commissioner found that Basson was constructively dismissed due to ‘oppressive and unreasonable work environment’ which left Basson with ‘no alternative’ other than to resign and awarded Basson compensation equivalent to 5 months’ remuneration
  • test for constructive dismissal does not require that employee had no choice but to resign, but only that employer should have made continued employment intolerable (Strategic Liquor Services v MuvumbiN.O. & Others)
value logistics ltd v basson nbcrfi and mcewann n o case no c1025 091
Value Logistics Ltd v Basson, NBCRFI and McEwann N.O. (case no. C1025/09)
  • requirements for constructive dismissal - employee terminated employment contract, continued employment had become intolerable and employer must have made continued employment intolerable
  • In Murray v Minister of Defence SCA held that “even if the employer is responsible, it may not be to blame. There are many things that an employer may fairly and reasonably do that make an employee’s position intolerable. More is needed – the employer must be culpably responsible in some way for the intolerable conditions : the conduct must have lacked reasonable and proper cause”
  • company contended that award reviewable on various grounds, most pertinent review ground - commissioner failed to consider common cause evidence that Basson sought to withdraw his resignation and notwithstanding this (which clearly indicated that employment relationship not intolerable) commissioner concluded that Basson was constructively dismissed as he ‘had no option but to resign’
  • company contended that commissioner’s conclusion in face of such evidence is not a conclusion that a reasonable commissioner would have reached
value logistics ltd v basson nbcrfi mcewann n o case no c1025 09
Value Logistics Ltd v Basson, NBCRFI & McEwann N.O. (case no. C1025/09)
  • Court noted that in his evidence Basson said that he ‘maybe reacted just a little bit too quickly’ when he resigned, his further evidence included that he was ‘willing to sit around a table and talk’ and these are not sentiments of a person whose continued employment had been made intolerable
  • Court concluded that award is not one that a reasonable commissioner could have reached, award was reviewed and set aside and substituted with an order that Basson was not dismissed
num and maloma v samancor ltd meibc stemmett n o sca case no 625 2010 25 may 2011
NUM and Maloma v Samancor Ltd, MEIBC & Stemmett N.O. – SCA case no. 625/2010 – 25 May 2011
  • Maloma employed as furnace operator in Aug 1996, 20 March 2006 arrested on suspicion of robbery, charges subsequently withdrawn and returned to work
  • 20 May 2006 again arrested on same charge and detained for 140 days until release on bail, meanwhile on 30 May 2006, 10 days after 2nd arrest company terminated his employment
  • Letter of dismissal sent to police station where he was being detained but he did not receive it, no hearing before termination, ‘post- dismissal hearing’ held after his release and company did not reverse earlier dismissal
  • arbitrator found dismiss both substantively and procedurally unfair and issued an award requiring Maloma’s reinstatement with effect from 2 Nov 2006 (date of the post-dismissal hearing)
  • company approached Labour Court to review and set aside the award, alleged review grounds - arbitrator committed a gross irregularity, exceeded his powers, misconducted himself and that award was irrational and not justified by evidence
num and maloma v samancor ltd meibc stemmett n o sca case no 625 2010 25 may 20111
NUM and Maloma v Samancor Ltd, MEIBC & Stemmett N.O. – SCA case no. 625/2010 – 25 May 2011
  • Labour Court dismissed review application and company appealed
  • LAC set aside arbitration award and substituted it with an order declaring dismissal substantively fair but procedurally unfair and awarded Maloma compensation equivalent to 6 month’s remuneration
  • Maloma appealed to SCA, SCA – an appeal does not lie against an arbitration award, even if reviewing Court believes the award to be wrong there are limited grounds upon which it is entitled to interfere
  • s145 of LRA permits Labour Court to set aside an award for one or other defect – none of which are now applicable, but it was recognised in Sidumo, adopting was held in Carephone, that an award may also be set aside if it is one that ‘a reasonable decision-maker could not reach’ and it was on that basis that Samancor sought to have the award set aside
  • SCA – question before Labour Court and LAC was whether the award in this case was so defective as to fall within the category of one that ‘a reasonable decision-maker could not reach’
num and maloma v samancor ltd meibc and stemmett n o sca case no 625 2010 25 may 2011
NUM and Maloma v Samancor Ltd, MEIBC and Stemmett N.O. – SCA case no. 625/2010 – 25 May 2011
  • SCA
    • LC answered question as follows: “Commissioner’s award is well reasoned. He dealt with all the issues that arose in the matter. It can therefore not be said that the Commissioner committed any reviewable irregularity. His decision is one that a reasonable decision-maker would have made. His award is lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair. He had decided the issue on the basis of his own sense of fairness. It is reasonable and meets the constitutional requirement that an administrative action must be reasonable.”
    • LAC did not appreciate limited nature of question before Labour Court and hence the limited nature of the question on appeal
    • nowhere in LAC’s reasons is there any express finding that the award was one that no reasonable decision-maker could make nor does it appear by implication
    • LAC found that there was an error and went on to find that the question as to whether the dismissal in the circumstances of the present dispute ‘is substantively fair depends on the facts of the case’ and proceeded to consider the facts
num and maloma v samancor ltd meibc stemmett n o sca case no 625 2010 25 may 20112
NUM and Maloma v Samancor Ltd, MEIBC & Stemmett N.O. – SCA case no. 625/2010 – 25 May 2011
    • that approach to the matter would have been appropriate if the arbitrator’s award had been under appeal but not where it is being subjected to review
  • SCA – there was some debate as to the correct categorisation of dismissal on the one hand ‘conduct or capacity’ or on the other the ‘employer’s operational requirements’
    • Samancor contended it dismissed Maloma for incapacity, arbitrator described it as a ‘no fault’ dismissal based on the principle of impossibility of performance
    • arbitrator concluded however that in truth Maloma had been dismissed for absenteeism which is a disciplinary offence and cannot be treated as ‘an operational incapacity’, Labour Court was of same view and said that Maloma had ‘a valid reason for his absence’
    • LAC on other hand said that ‘incapacity’ might include imprisonment, however per Nugent JA “I do not see that the difference of opinion on the correct categorisation of the dismissal plays any material role in this case.”
    • in making an assessment whether it was fair in the circumstances for the employer to exercise an election to terminate, the fact that the employee is not at fault is clearly a consideration that might and should properly be brought to account
num and maloma v samancor ltd meibc stemmett n o sca case no 625 2010 25 may 20113
NUM and Maloma v Samancor Ltd, MEIBC & Stemmett N.O. – SCA case no. 625/2010 – 25 May 2011
  • fact that Maloma not at fault was not the sole reason for arbitrator’s decision, he took into account that there was ‘no evidence that [Mr Maloma] was occupying such a key position that necessitated his dismissal after ten days of absence’, the arbitrator further added that he had not been persuaded that the employment relationship had become intolerable and in those circumstances “I cannot see that the error he made was material to the outcome”[per Nugent JA]
  • “I have no doubt that [the Commissioner’s] was not so unreasonable and that it could not have been reached by a reasonable decision-maker. In those circumstances there were no grounds for the order of the Labour Court to be set aside”.
fawu obo kapesi others v premier foods ltd t a blue ribbon salt river
FAWU obo Kapesi & Others v Premier Foods Ltd t/a Blue Ribbon Salt River
  • 32 employees dismissed after 2 month protected strike, strike characterised by acts of extreme violence against non-strikers – including bombing of their homes and a murder carried out by ‘vigilante gangs’
  • company obtained interdict, dispute settled and strikers returned to work
  • 32 employees suspended, called to a disciplinary hearing, statements taken from various employees – victims of violence and intimidation, including from a perpetrator who had turned against the others, employee who had ‘turned’ disappeared and company served other employees with notice of possible retrenchments because of alleged involvement in criminal acts and because witnesses afraid to testify
  • 32 dismissed, referred automatically unfair dismissal dispute to Labour Court, alternative claim – dismissal unfair because company not entitled to rely on s189A to dismiss for misconduct, further alternatively that retrenchment unfair because no valid operational requirement and selection criteria not fair and objective
fawu obo kapesi others v premier foods ltd t a blue ribbon salt river1
FAWU obo Kapesi & Others v Premier Foods Ltd t/a Blue Ribbon Salt River
  • employees abandoned automatically unfair dismissal claim, persisted with unfair dismissal claim
  • company pleaded no alternative but to follow retrenchment because impossible in circumstances to hold hearings, reason to suspect that employees are engaged in criminal behaviour, many workers fearful of working with them and their conduct and presence had ‘profound impact’ on business
  • Labour Court:
    • criminal violence the very antithesis of conduct expected of employees exercising right to strike ‘pressure on employers by withdrawal of labour and peaceful protest’
fawu obo kapesi others v premier foods ltd t a blue ribbon salt river2
FAWU obo Kapesi & Others v Premier Foods Ltd t/a Blue Ribbon Salt River
  • essence of dispute not about whether strikers engaged in criminal activity could be dismissed but rather whether company entitled in circumstances to dismiss employees for operational requirements
  • first issue – whether indeed impossible to hold disciplinary hearing, retrenchment may not be resorted to simply because employer may be unable to prove guilt of suspects, Court not persuaded by company’s claim of ‘too dangerous in circumstances’ to hold hearings, law permits relying on written statements in hearings where witnesses afraid to testify, company could have called employee who collected statements to verify authenticity, presiding officer could have allowed this ‘in the interest of justice’
  • company’s reliance on s189 – company required to prove dismissals were ‘to give effect to a requirement based on the company’s economic, technological, structural or similar needs’, that dismissal was ‘operationally justifiable on rational grounds, that there was a proper consideration of alternatives and fair and objective selection criteria were used
fawu obo kapesi others v premier foods ltd t a blue ribbon salt river3
FAWU obo Kapesi & Others v Premier Foods Ltd t/a Blue Ribbon Salt River
  • Labour Court:
    • next issue – whether dismissal of employees satisfied an ‘operational requirement’, in certain circumstances e.g. employees responsible for shrinkage, employer may rely on operational requirements, however in such cases purpose of dismissal is to save the business which is an ‘operational need’ and the reason for dismissal is not the employees’ misconduct
    • where true reason for dismissal is misconduct, recourse to retrenchment not permitted
    • question was whether ‘work related violence’ posed serious risk to management and sustainability of business
    • after strike situation returned to normal and considerations such as reluctance of other workers to accept presence of striking employees did not constitute sufficient operational reason to justify invoking s189 to ‘circumvent the disciplinary route’
fawu obo kapesi others v premier foods ltd t a blue ribbon salt river4
FAWU obo Kapesi & Others v Premier Foods Ltd t/a Blue Ribbon Salt River
  • company proposed to use polygraph testing to exclude suspects from those already identified, polygraph testing as a means of selecting employees and company bore onus of proving tests were fair and objective, tests cannot serve as substitute for disciplinary hearings, tests can do no more than prove existence of absence of deception and cannot prove that a person is guilty of alleged misconduct / crime dismissal of employees unfair on this basis as well
  • employment relationship could not be ‘resuscitated’ employees awarded compensation equivalent to 12 months’ wages
grootboom v npa another 2010 9 bllr 949 lc
Grootboom v NPA & Another [2010] 9 BLLR 949 (LC)
  • employee lodged grievance in respect of travelling and subsistence allowance, summoned to disciplinary hearing and dismissed for misconduct
  • dismissal set aside by arbitrator and parties then agreed to convene a ‘pre-dismissal’ arbitration, employee remained on suspension, arbitration postponed and employee applied for study leave to complete degree in UK
  • months later, while employee abroad, salary stopped and informed that permission to further studies outside SA not granted
  • employee’s services terminated i.t.o. section 17(5)(a)(i) of Public Service Act, employee sought to review the decision to terminate employment relying on PAJA, NPA contended that Court lacked jurisdiction to entertain matter
grootboom v npa another 2010 9 bllr 949 lc1
Grootboom v NPA & Another [2010] 9 BLLR 949 (LC)
  • Labour Court:
    • employee failed to prove that permission granted to take study leave, suspended employee required to inform employer of whereabouts
    • consequence of long absence under PSA – employees may be deemed dismissed for misconduct after 30 days absence and thereafter may seek to provide a reason
    • termination in terms of deeming provision in PSA not reviewable because termination by operation of law, however decision on whether employee should subsequently be reinstated entails a reviewable decision
    • 2 approaches in Labour Court – employee may refer dispute to arbitration if employer refuses to reinstate or employer’s refusal to reinstate constitutes administrative action reviewable under section 158(1)(h) of LRA
grootboom v npa another 2010 9 bllr 949 lc2
Grootboom v NPA & Another [2010] 9 BLLR 949 (LC)
  • ‘deemed dismissal’ does not transform into a dismissal, correct approach is that employer’s refusal to reinstate constitutes ‘administrative action’ subject to review
  • employee required to show good cause for absence, suspended employee must be available to report for duty immediately should employer decide to uplift suspension, employee could not do so because he was abroad, approach adopted by Minister in refusing to ‘reinstate’ employee was ‘proper’
miyambo v ccma others 2010 10 bllr 1017 lac
Miyambo v CCMA & Others [2010] 10 BLLR 1017 (LAC)
  • Miyambo a security guard, dismissed after found in possession of scrap metal removed without authority, claimed intention to use it to fix his stove
  • commissioner found sanction of dismissal too harsh and ordered reinstatement from date of award, subject to final written warning
  • Labour Court found commissioner’s award irrational, conflicted with commissioner’s finding that employee gave several contradictory explanations and was guilty of theft
  • Labour Court set aside award and confirmed the dismissal
  • Miyambo contended on appeal that he was guilty of theft only in the ‘technical sense’, disciplinary code provided for both final written warning and dismissal for theft, in light of long service and clean disciplinary record, too harsh
  • Company argued that Miyambo had breached relationship of trust and no reasonable commissioner could have found otherwise
miyambo v ccma others 2010 10 bllr 1017 lac1
Miyambo v CCMA & Others [2010] 10 BLLR 1017 (LAC)
  • LAC:
    • leading authority on standard of review is Sidumo (CC), Navsa J “in terms of the LRA, a commissioner has to determine whether the dismissal is fair or not. A commissioner is not given the power to consider afresh what he or she would do, but simply to decide whether what the employer did was fair. In arriving at the decision the commissioner is not required to defer to the decision of the employer. What is required is that he or she must consider all the relevant circumstances”
    • business risk is predominantly based on trustworthiness of company employees, accumulation of breaches of trust has significant economic repercussions, a successful business enterprise operates on the basis of trust
    • De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd (LAC) “dismissal is not an expression of moral outrage: much less is it an act of vengeance. It is, or should be, a sensible operational response to risk management in the particular enterprise. That is why supermarkets shelf packers who steal small items are routinely dismissed. Their dismissal has little to do with society’s moral opprobrium of a minor theft: it has everything to do with the operational requirements of the employer’s enterprise”
miyambo v ccma others 2010 10 bllr 1017 lac2
Miyambo v CCMA & Others [2010] 10 BLLR 1017 (LAC)
  • LAC:
    • In Toyota South Africa Motors (Pty) Ltd (LAC) “although a long period of service of an employee will usually be a mitigating factor where such employee is guilty of misconduct, the point must be made that there are certain acts of misconduct which are of such a serious nature that no length of service can save an employee who is guilty of them from dismissal. To my mind one such clear act of misconduct is gross dishonesty.”
    • our Courts place a high premium on honesty in the workplace, Miyambo gave 3 different versions for not having a ‘pass-out’ – (1) on day of incident he told security guard that he had forgotten to get a pass-out, (2) at disciplinary hearing he claimed he did not get a pass-out because his supervisor was not present and (3) during arbitration proceedings he claimed he never believed that he required a pass-out for scrap metal
miyambo v ccma others 2010 10 bllr 1017 lac3
Miyambo v CCMA & Others [2010] 10 BLLR 1017 (LAC)
  • LAC:
    • Miyambo showed no remorse despite an earlier statement saying he was sorry and admitting guilt
    • at arbitration he did a complete volte face and stated that he did not need a pass-out
    • he was aware that the scrap metal was being sold by company and it had commercial value, at arbitration it was argued that he did not intend to steal it as the security guard could easily have discovered the scrap metal if he searched him, BUT if he did not intend to steal it he could have gone to the security guard and informed him of his possession of the scrap metal without the necessary pass-out and that he would furnish one later
    • distinction between ‘outright theft and / or dishonesty’ and theft in ‘technical sense’ is an artificial distinction and undermines conceptual clarity, a disciplinary procedure which draws subtle distinctions between degrees of theft is impractical, Miyambo undoubtedly breached the relationship of trust built up over many years of honest service
    • appeal dismissed
sa post office ltd v mampeule 2010 10 bllr 1052 lac
SA Post Office Ltd v Mampeule [2010] 10 BLLR 1052 (LAC)
  • Mampeule simultaneously appointed as CEO and member of board of directors in 2005, duration of contract 5 years, contract expressly provided that membership of board was a prerequisite to appointment as CEO and that termination of board membership would lead to termination of appointment as CEO but also provided that CEO’s service could be fairly terminated on grounds of incapacity, misconduct or operational requirements
  • midway through life of contract board adopted a motion by Minister that Mampeule be removed as a board member (director) and Mampeule informed that employment as CEO had ‘ceased’, Mampeule referred alleged automatically unfair dismissal to Labour Court
  • Labour Court – automatic termination clause on which Post Office relied was in conflict with Mampeule’s right not to be unfairly dismissed and that Mampeule dismissed by Post Office at behest of sole shareholder
sa post office ltd v mampeule 2010 10 bllr 1052 lac1
SA Post Office Ltd v Mampeule [2010] 10 BLLR 1052 (LAC)
  • LAC:
    • act of company’s board deemed and act of company, in taking its decision sole shareholder is exercising rights under Companies Act, 61 of 1973, articles of association indeed coupled of office of CEO with continuing membership of board
    • however provision for ‘automatic termination’ of CEO’s employment limited CEO’s rights under LRA
    • person simultaneously employed as executive director and holding office as a board member holds 2 distinct positions, by acknowledging that CEO may be dismissed for incapacity, misconduct or operational requirements, company recognised that the CEO enjoyed full range of employee rights including the right not to be unfairly removed from office, that provision suspended the ‘automatic’ clause in contract
    • in any event parties cannot contract out of rights afforded by Constitution and LRA
    • absent a satisfactory explanation for suspension of Mampeule unavoidable inference was that Post Office was seeking to evade its obligations under the LRA
tshongweni v ekhurhuleni metropolitan municipality 2010 10 bllr 1105 lc
Tshongweni v Ekhurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality [2010] 10 BLLR 1105 (LC)
  • employee was executive director public safety, found guilty of appointing service providers without following prescribed tender procedures and dismissed
  • when dismissed employee’s 5 year fixed-term contract had 9 months to run, dismissal followed lengthy disciplinary hearing presided over by a practising advocate with legal representation on both sides
  • employee referred alleged unfair dismissal to CCMA and director agreed that matter should be referred to Labour Court
  • employee claimed no influence over tenders and no fair reason for his dismissal, employee also contended that dismissal procedurally unfair
  • Labour Court:
    • no proper basis for matter to be referred to Labour Court, and that requirements of section 191(6) not met, 4 years passed since dismissal, however since Court seized of matter it was required to approach matter as if it was sitting as an arbitrator – matter was to be reheard on the merits
tshongweni v ekhurhuleni metropolitan municipality 2010 10 bllr 1105 lc1
Tshongweni v Ekhurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality [2010] 10 BLLR 1105 (LC)
  • LC:
    • municipality entitled to rely on record of disciplinary hearing, not to prove truth of contents but that employee afforded a fair hearing, employee’s objection to admission of record accordingly dismissed
    • record (about 2500 pages) indicated that employee afforded ample opportunity to state case and accordingly unnecessary to consider many technical issues raised and decided during disciplinary hearing, municipality chose to run disciplinary hearing like Court trial and did not mean that an arbitrator judging procedural fairness of dismissal had to assume a role like that of Supreme Court of Appeal, accordingly dismissal procedurally fair
    • substantive fairness – onus on municipality to prove valid reason for dismissal, only evidence led was that of an official who explained municipality’s tender procedure, official conceded no knowledge of employee’s conduct in relation to tenders at issue, accordingly municipality failed to prove employee guilty of the misconduct alleged
tshongweni v ekhurhuleni metropolitan municipality 2010 10 bllr 1105 lc2
Tshongweni v Ekhurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality [2010] 10 BLLR 1105 (LC)
  • relief – contract had long since expired, employee could have no expectation of renewal, employee’s contention that he had a reasonable expectation of renewal but for the dismissal confused the definition of dismissal with the remedy
  • present case did not concern whether employee had reasonable expectation of renewal, employee instead asked Court to fashion a new contract and to assume that he would have remained in employment until the date he found another job, that was simply a claim for compensation exceeding the limits prescribed in the LRA
  • in any event, employee’s professed unwillingness to resume employment with municipality rendered reinstatement impracticable, employee failed to prove reasonable expectation of renewal
  • appropriate remedy – amount employee would have earned had the contract run its course, 9 months’ remuneration
van rooyen others v blue financial services sa pty ltd 2010 10 bllr 119 lc
Van Rooyen & Others v Blue Financial Services (SA) (Pty) Ltd[2010] 10 BLLR 119 (LC)
  • 13 employees, all regional managers, retrenched after restructuring, restructuring involved reduction in number of regional managers’ posts
  • employees informed that outcome of assessments would determine eligibility for remaining posts, only 5 employees were rated ‘acceptable’, applicant employees responded with detailed memorandum challenging assumptions underlying assessment, applicant employees invited to choose between ‘redeployment’ and retrenchment, only 1 sought alternative position and 13 ultimately dismissed
  • LC:
    • test for fair dismissal for operational requirement is whether employer’s decision justifiable on rational grounds, employees must also be selected according to fair criteria and after proper consultation
van rooyen others v blue financial services sa pty ltd 2010 10 bllr 119 lc1
Van Rooyen & Others v Blue Financial Services (SA) (Pty) Ltd[2010] 10 BLLR 119 (LC)
  • LC:
    • approach of requiring employees to apply for posts within restructured organisational template recognised as legitimate but it is a strategy that is not without risk to the employer, selection criteria effectively becomes employee’s failure to be appointed to a ‘new’ job or failure to apply for it, criteria for appointment restructured position has to be fair – clear and transparent ‘the more vague the criteria, the more likely it is that in reality the selection is made on the basis of a subjective view, thus crossing the line between a no-fault dismissal and one based on performance (article Prof Rycroft)
    • object of restructuring was to increase profits, applicants conceded that old structure was inhibiting potential sales but disputed that new structure would result in improvement hoped for by company
    • Court accepted difference in responsibilities of regional managers in new structure was sufficient to justify assessing incumbents for their ssuitability for new posts, tests to which applicants subjected could not be said to be arbitrary or subjective
van rooyen others v blue financial services sa pty ltd 2010 10 bllr 119 lc2
Van Rooyen & Others v Blue Financial Services (SA) (Pty) Ltd[2010] 10 BLLR 119 (LC)
  • LC:
    • however, company had dismissed a detailed memorandum by applicants without engaging them on it, instead management adopted view that deadline previously decided on should apply regardless of merits of employee’s contribution to debate
    • no reason why consultation should have been ‘called off’ and before company considered and replied to applicants’ suggestions, furthermore fairness demanded that employees be given an opportunity to respond to the results of their assessments, also insufficient to offer employees choice between being retrenched on company’s terms or suggesting that they accept vague and unspecified alternatives
    • in short, company failed to consult adequately on alternatives to retrenchment and to take sufficient steps to identify, offer and, where possible, accommodate applicants in alternative employment
    • relief – employees declined to apply for alternative positions, led no evidence on losses suffered as a result of dismissals, awarded compensation equivalent to 4 months’ remuneration
eastern cape tourism board v ccma 2010 11 bllr 1161 lc
Eastern Cape Tourism Board v CCMA [2010] 11 BLLR 1161 (LC)
  • employee employed as Chief Financial Officer of the board, left employment because she could not get along with CEO, subsequently signed a fresh contract after CEO left
  • employee fell out with new CEO about who she had raised a litany of complaints, new CEO suspended her, employee simultaneously lodged a grievance against CEO and resigned claiming constructive dismissal
  • commissioner found employee had been unfairly dismissed and awarded compensation
  • board approached Labour Court contending that commissioner had acted unreasonably by failing to have regard to, inter alia, the fact that employee resigned when disciplinary hearing pending and failed to lodge grievance before resigning
  • Labour Court
    • commissioner concluded that employee’s ‘noble’ effort to ensure unqualified audit had been undermined by subordinates and not properly supported by superiors
eastern cape tourism board v ccma 2010 11 bllr 1161 lc1
Eastern Cape Tourism Board v CCMA [2010] 11 BLLR 1161 (LC)
  • Labour Court
    • mere unhappiness at work is insufficient to found a claim of constructive dismissal, employee must prove, objectively considered, working conditions so intolerable that she could not reasonably be expected to endure them
    • commissioner correctly set out law relating to constructive dismissal but applied law incorrectly
    • commissioner overlooked fact that employee a senior manager who raised complaints about both CEO’s, employee’s complaints appear to emanate from fact that people disagreed with her, employee never suggested that she found working conditions intolerable
    • commissioner disregarded fact that employee’s resignation correctly followed notice of pending disciplinary action and that employee willing to serve out a month’s notice
    • while failure to lodge grievance before resigning not decisive, employee testified during arbitration that she intended lodging a grievance but she had not done so before resigning, arbitration award set aside
theewaterskloof municipality v salgbc western cape division others 2010 11 bllr 1216 lc
Theewaterskloof Municipality v SALGBC (Western Cape Division) & Others [2010] 11 BLLR 1216 (LC)
  • employee a senior manager of municipality, dismissed for receiving transport allowance to which he knew he was not entitled, spent money then offered to repay it in derisory monthly instalments
  • before disciplinary action taken municipality offered employee various options for repaying money but employee refused them
  • arbitrator upheld finding of guilt on one of two charges against employee but declared himself unable to rule on an appropriate sanction
  • municipality approached Labour Court on review
  • amount involved was R7,000.00 paid to employee over period Feb 2007 and March 2007, when asked to repay employee offered to repay R10 per month – at that rate it would take 58 years to repay the R7,000.00
theewaterskloof municipality v salgbc western cape division others 2010 11 bllr 1216 lc1
Theewaterskloof Municipality v SALGBC (Western Cape Division) & Others [2010] 11 BLLR 1216 (LC)
  • Labour Court
    • commissioner failed to properly determine dispute before him, employee indeed guilty on second charge and parties directed to make fresh submissions in respect of sanction
    • ample time and scope for employee to reflect on his conduct and engage with municipality on basis of meaningful offer with a view to reaching mutually acceptable arrangement for repayment of money
    • employee did not at any stage consider suggesting an improved offer beyond R10 per month, rather his attitude was confrontational and intransigient
theewaterskloof municipality v salgbc western cape division others 2010 11 bllr 1216 lc2
Theewaterskloof Municipality v SALGBC (Western Cape Division) & Others [2010] 11 BLLR 1216 (LC)
  • guidelines helpfully condensed by LAC in Fidelity Cash
  • those guidelines are:
    • “take into account totality of circumstances
    • consider importance of rule that had been breached
    • consider reason employer imposed sanction of dismissal
    • consider harm caused by employee’s conduct
    • consider whether additional training and instruction may result in employee not repeating misconduct
    • consider effect of dismissal on employee
    • consider employee’s service record”
  • above list not exhaustive
theewaterskloof municipality v salgbc western cape division others 2010 11 bllr 1216 lc3
Theewaterskloof Municipality v SALGBC (Western Cape Division) & Others [2010] 11 BLLR 1216 (LC)
  • LC
    • core inquiry to be made by commissioner will involve balancing of reason why employer imposed dismissal against basis of employee’s challenge, that is a commissioner’s essential task and fact that arbitration takes form of de novo herein does not alter it
    • nature of task clearly and succinctly stated in Sidumo “to sum up, in terms of the LRA, a commissioner has to determine whether a dismissal is fair or not. A commissioner is not given the power to consider afresh what he or she would do, but simply to decide whether what the employer did was fair. In arriving at the decision a commissioner is not required to defer to the decision of the employer. What is required is that he or she must consider all the relevant circumstances.”
theewaterskloof municipality v salgbc western cape division others 2010 11 bllr 1216 lc4
Theewaterskloof Municipality v SALGBC (Western Cape Division) & Others [2010] 11 BLLR 1216 (LC)
  • LC
    • employee was moved by defiance rather than deceit and not to be placed in same category as thief or fraudster
    • however, especially as a senior manager, he had a clear duty to repay the amounts without delay, an employee who embarks on recalcitrant or defiant conduct because of an unresolved grievance does so at his or her peril
    • general principle – conduct by employee incompatible with trust and confidence necessary for continuation of employment relationship will entitle employer to bring it to an end
    • consider also impact of employee’s obstinacy on municipality and its operational milieu and the consequences of it
    • municipality’s decision to dismiss was fair
samwu others v kannaland municipality 2010 12 bllr 1243 lac
SAMWU & Others v Kannaland Municipality [2010] 12 BLLR 1243 (LAC)
  • municipality an amalgamation of several other municipalities, subject to an investigation because of parlous financial position
  • investigators recommended that municipality cut its staff compliment by 28 posts, which posts were not catered for in its budget
  • MEC for local government instituted an enquiry which reported that councillors had appointed friends and relatives to posts, that positions had no job descriptions or prescribed qualifications and that the mayor had elevated a general worker in the municipal cemetery to the post of internal auditor, current workforce unaffordable
  • MEC instructed council to take urgent steps to remedy situation, union advised that 28 employees face possible retrenchment
  • after consultations new municipal manager appointed, chaotic state prevailed – no funds to run basic services, municipal manager continued with consultation process, employees handed notices of termination
samwu others v kannaland municipality 2010 12 bllr 1243 lac1
SAMWU & Others v Kannaland Municipality [2010] 12 BLLR 1243 (LAC)
  • on receipt of notices of termination union launched urgent application to interdict dismissal, application withdrawn after municipality undertook to revoke dismissal letters and continue consulting, following further consultation meetings which union failed to attend employees issued with fresh letters of termination
  • Labour Court – dismissals substantively fair but procedurally unfair for want of adequate consultation, declined to grant employees compensation
  • Labour Appeal Court – union contended that municipality had no retrenchment policy and did not adhere to ‘directives issued by MEC’
  • Court noted that appellants did not challenge finding that municipality was in financial crisis and that individual appellants had all been irregularly appointed, municipal manager’s power to appoint, discipline, manage, utilise and train staff included the power to initiate retrenchment exercise, council fully apprised of events as they unfolded
  • contention that council did not comply with MEC’s directives without merit because no evidence led
  • no basis to interfere with decision of Labour Court to refuse to award compensation
lottering v stellenbosch municipality 2010 12 bllr 1306 lc
Lottering v Stellenbosch Municipality [2010] 12 BLLR 1306 (LC)
  • Opposition coalition took control of municipality, newly reinstated municipal manager withdrew delegated powers of executive directors, executive directors resigned on same day and municipal manager accepted their resignations
  • executive directors’ appealed to mayor against municipal manager’s decision to accept resignations, mayor upheld appeal and executive directors withdrew resignations
  • executive directors reported for duty for about a month when municipal manager informed them of his decision to stand by original decision and that their posts would be advertised, executive directors launched urgent application for an order directing municipality to retain them in their posts contending that resignations on which municipality relied were of no legal force because they did not comply with provisions of BCEA, alternatively if resignations valid then executive mayor overruled them
  • Labour Court – distinction must be drawn between resignations that bring fixed term contracts to an end and resignations that terminate indefinite period contracts
lottering v stellenbosch municipality 2010 12 bllr 1306 lc1
Lottering v Stellenbosch Municipality [2010] 12 BLLR 1306 (LC)
  • employee on fixed-term contract may resign only if employer is in material breach, in case of indefinite period contracts employee must give the requisite notice, to be binding employee’s notice of termination must be unequivocal and once given may not be withdrawn without employer’s consent, employer need not expressly accept resignation, contract expires at end of notice period and not when notice is given
  • Labour Court
    • although employee’s contracts were for fixed term there was specific provision for termination on notice before date of termination, employee’s non-compliance with contractual notice period did not effect legality of act of resignation, fixed term contract employee’s resignation amounts to repudiation which employer may either accept or reject and hold employee to balance of notice period
    • a deficient notice does not vitiate act of termination although it may constitute a breach
lottering v stellenbosch municipality 2010 12 bllr 1306 lc2
Lottering v Stellenbosch Municipality [2010] 12 BLLR 1306 (LC)
  • nothing in BCEA affects common law principle that if an employee does not give requisite notice of termination employer may accept repudiation, fact remained that directors exercised their contractual right to terminate the contract and had merely failed to comply with period of notice prescribed by contract and Municipality decided to waive its right to enforce balance of contracts
  • effect of mayor’s upholding of appeal, while municipal manager having purported to accept the resignations, no acceptance was necessary- resignations being unilateral acts took effect in spite of purported reversal of municipal manager’s decision by mayor, furthermore mayor lacked authority to do so because matters pertaining to staff are vested by statute in municipal manager
  • employees had only themselves to blame for their predicament, no constructive dismissal
timothy v nampak corrugated containers pty ltd 2010 8 bllr 830 lac
Timothy v Nampak Corrugated Containers (Pty) Ltd[2010] 8 BLLR 830 (LAC)
  • employee represented to 3rd party that he was an attorney making enquiries about debt owed by a colleague, collection clerk informed employee that she was unable to divulge privileged information and employee became aggressive
  • collection clerk telephoned employee’s employer requested to speak to employee who informed her that he operated as an attorney from company’s premises and subjected collections clerk to further abuse
  • collection clerk’s employer informed employee’s employer of intention to report employee to Law Society for passing himself off as an attorney, employer convened disciplinary hearing, employee found guilty of impersonating an attorney, threatening legal action and brining employer into disrepute
  • employee referred alleged unfair dismissal dispute to CCMA, arbitrator found dismissal unfair and ordered reinstatement
timothy v nampak corrugated containers pty ltd 2010 8 bllr 830 lac1
Timothy v Nampak Corrugated Containers (Pty) Ltd[2010] 8 BLLR 830 (LAC)
  • Labour Court
    • arbitrator failed to have proper regard to the evidence before him – reasonableness test, arbitrator found that employee effectively charged with one offence namely bring employer’s into disrepute
    • arbitrator found that employee had no subjective intention to besmirch employer’s name, Court held that test for whether employee has brought employer’s name into disrepute is objective and award or subject to review
  • Labour Appeal Court
    • had arbitrator examined incident holistically he would have found that not only had employee committed a criminal offence by posing as an attorney but he also compounded his dishonesty by abusing the collection clerk, such conduct had potential, at very least, to harm employer’s reputation
    • had a reasonable arbitrator approached evidence objectively there was no doubt that he / she would have found the dismissal fair
timothy v nampak corrugated containers pty ltd 2010 8 bllr 830 lac2
Timothy v Nampak Corrugated Containers (Pty) Ltd[2010] 8 BLLR 830 (LAC)

- applicant’s clean disciplinary record might have carried some weight had he shown remorse, evidence showed no sign of remorse, on contrary employee from inception strenuously and disingenuously denied ever speaking to collection clerk, employee’s persistent and false denial of responsibility constituted an insuperable obstacle to submission that progressive discipline would have been more appropriate than dismissal