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We live in a multi-cultural society where everyone brings their own unique contribution to the workplace. In order to make sure that we get the best out of our myriad of employees, we need to make sure that we respect everyone’s different cultural beliefs even though they may not be the same as our own. For example, we can no longer only view doctors who can give sick notes as the traditional concept of a medical practitioner who is registered with the Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HSPCA) as traditional healers who are also registered with the HSPCA can give valid sick notes. Thus we need to ensure that we give traditional healers as much credence as allopathic doctors.

In the case of National Sugar Refining and Allied Industries Union obo Mngomezulu v Tongaat Hulett Sugar Let (Darnall) – [2016] 11 BALR 11672 (NBCSMRI) the fact that it is essential to respect other employees’ beliefs was highlighted. In fact, the ‘culprit’ was actually found guilty of misconduct and dismissed because they did not respect the other person’s cultural beliefs.

  • One employee – hereinafter referred to as X – was accused of placing a substance on another’s car (Y).
  • The presence of the substance on the car made Y feel psychologically damaged that she prayed while removing it.
  • Y consulted a witch doctor who confirmed that the substance was indeed muti.
  • X was suspected of placing the muti on Y’s car. However, he denied it. Despite this, he was dismissed for misconduct.

This case shows that whether or not an action causes harm actual harm is immaterial for a misconduct charge. The mere fact that someone foresaw the possibility that their actions could cause harm – in this case, it was enough that X foresaw the possibility of the muti that he had placed on the car being mistaken for a sinister substance – this was sufficient for a charge of misconduct to stick.

Remember that if you should want to pursue some misconduct charges for your employees, you will need to follow the proper procedure otherwise this will be dismissed as procedurally and/or substantively unfair. Make sure that you don’t land up in a pickle at the CCMA and hire one of Global Business Solutions’ qualified legal practitioners today in order to chair your next disciplinary enquiry. Click here for more information.

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