Article 7/2024

Is it permissible for an employer, when misconduct occurs, to dismiss employees on the basis of operational requirements?


  • Both the labour appeal court (e g Chauke v Leeson Motors (1998) 19 ILJ 1441 (LAC)) and the labour court (SAMWU v City of Cape Town (2011) 22 SALLR 145 (LC)) have considered whether it is permissible for an employer to dismiss employees on the basis of an operational rationale for collective misconduct.
  • From the aforesaid judgments, it is apparent that, subject to certain safeguards to be implemented and rather tricky questions to be answered, it is permissible to dismiss a group of employees if misconduct is proven but the actual perpetrators not pinpointed.
  • The justification for such dismissal, on the basis of a commercial rationale, has been formulated as follows: ‘The necessity to save the life of the enterprise.’ – apparently, on this basis, the dismissal of innocent workers is justified.
  • n the Cashbuild judgment, the labour appeal court specifically makes reference to the difficulties to be encountered by following the above approach, as set out, inter alia, in FAWU v Premier Foods (2012) 33 ILJ 1779 (LAC) – in brief, these difficulties entail the application of the principles relating to a fault (i e misconduct) scenario to a faultless (i e no intention or negligence) scenario, being dismissal for operational requirements; and the factors to be taken into account in determining and applying the selection criteria justifying the dismissal of the innocent employees.

On what basis will a client of a labour broker be held vicariously liable for the injuries suffered by an employee employed by a labour broker when such employee performs functions at the client’s workplace?

Is an employer vicariously liable where its employee is sexually harassed by a superior employee?

It is well-established that an employer is vicariously liable (faultlessly liable) for the wrong committed by an employee during the course/scope/sphere of employment (Feldman v Mall 1945 AD 733).