False Accusations of Racism in the Workplace
Falsely accusing someone of racism in the workplace: The repercussions
An employee who falsely accuses other employees of racism can be dismissed after applying the necessary disciplinary procedures.
There is relevant case law in South Africa which confirms that racism of any nature is intolerable and unacceptable.
Oerlikon Electrodes SA v CCMA & Others (2003 9 BLLR 900):
- An Arbitrator found dismissal to be unfair as the Employer’s disciplinary code did not provide for dismissal for a first offense, where the Employee called a service provider’s Repairman a “Dutchman”. The term “Dutchman” was racist in that it implied white supremacy.
- The Employer has the right to deviate from its disciplinary code when circumstances call for this. iii) The Labour Court reviewed the award and found:
- The Arbitrator had improperly interfered with the Employer’s right to impose discipline.
- The dismissal was fair.
- Racism as a practice is not allowed, unless for
genuine affirmative action.
SACWU & another v NCP Chocems (Pty) Ltd (2007 7 BLLR 663):
- During a meeting an employee unjustifiably accused a colleague of racism and threatened to call for his dismissal. The Employee was subsequently dismissed for having made false accusations of racism.
- NUMSA obo Baloyi, Gift & 3 others v O-Line The matter was arbitrated and the decision to dismiss was upheld. iii)The Employee took the matter to Labour Court, where it was decided that “Falsely accusing a person of racism threatens racial harmony at the workplace, as it is racially offensive, abusive and insulting”. It was determined that such accusations deserve to be dealt with strongly and the decision was upheld.
- Employee’s had falsely accused the CEO of calling them the K-word when reprimanding them for failing to obey a reasonable instruction to not play cards outside the work premises during lunch.
- The Employees were dismissed following disciplinary action and took the matter to the CCMA where the Commissioner established that:
- It was clear the CEO had been falsely accused of using a racist term.
- It was conceded that the CEO did not use language that was discriminatory or racist.
- The NUMSA officials had probably invented the racial defense to use in the case of the Employees being charged to attend disciplinary proceedings and had the they not been charged; the allegations would not have been raised.
Article written by Chris de Klerk