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How a South African employee can be fired for a co-worker’s misconduct

| Crime and security

An employee can be fired if they are aware of a co-worker’s misconduct and does not inform a manager. This is according to a recent analysis by law firm Wright Rose Innes which looked at a case where the owner of a big general store discovered that some of the other till operators were overcharging customers and pocketing the difference.

“The short answer is that you can be fired,” Wright Rose Innes said.

“This is based on the premise that the nature of an employment relationship is one of trust which requires an employee to show utmost good faith towards the employer.

“Accordingly, our labour laws recognise that an act which is inconsistent with this element of trust may warrant disciplinary action, and where serious cases of misconduct are involved, could even warrant dismissal,” it said.

In addition to performing their duties diligently, employees are therefore required to protect the business interests of their employers, which can extend to adopting an active approach in helping employers to detect perpetrators of misconduct against the business, it said.

“Our Labour Court recently also recognised that an inference/conclusion that an employee knew or must have known about a wrongdoing can be drawn from evidence that the employee was there during the time when the wrongful act was committed,” Wright Rose Innes said.

“There may also be circumstances where an employee is obliged to exonerate himself by informing the employer that he was not present when the misconduct occurred, particularly where the employee is reasonably expected to be aware of the wrongdoing, it said.

“Examples thereof include striking employees who were present or participated in a strike that resulted in violence and where the evidence shows a high probability that they were aware of the violence or of the perpetrators of the violence.

“Our courts have recognised that there is a duty on such employees to exonerate themselves by reporting the information available to the employer when presented with the opportunity to do so.”

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