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ConCourt affirms employer's right to suspend without constituting a hearing

Feb 19 2019 17:53
Pelane Phakgadi

An employer is not required to give an employee an opportunity to make representations before a precautionary suspension, the Constitutional Court ruled on Tuesday.

The apex court affirmed a Labour Court ruling that, where a suspension is precautionary and with full pay, there is no obligation that workers be given a chance to try to exonerate themselves of any improprieties.

South African Breweries (SAB) employee Alan Long took the case to the Constitutional Court after the Labour Court ruled that his suspension and subsequent dismissal at the SAB were fair.

Long was a district manager for the border district at the company.

On May 2013, an unroadworthy trailer owned by SAB was involved in a fatal accident. It was Long's duty to ensure that all vehicles were roadworthy and had valid licence discs.

The Constitutional Court heard that the trailer involved in the accident was in a state of disrepair and unlicensed.

In its unanimous ruling, the Constitutional Court said it noted an internal investigation by the SAB which revealed that many of the vehicles for which Long was responsible, were not roadworthy and had invalid licence discs.

"After further investigations and a disciplinary hearing, Long was found guilty of dereliction of duties, gross negligence and bringing the company name into disrepute," the court said.

He was dismissed in October 2013.

Long previously argued that his dismissal constituted unfair labour practice because he had not been given a hearing before his suspension.

He also claimed that the illegalities regarding the vehicles were not part of his responsibilities.

However, the highest court in the land affirmed the Labour Court's ruling, saying it was "correct in holding that Long's dismissal had been fair and that he should not be reinstated".

But the Constitutional Court found that the Labour Court failed to justify its adverse costs order and that there were no reasons for awarding costs against Long. It set aside that part of the order.

sab  |  courts
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