Discipline and Dismissal

Johanette Rheeder


Ever met the chain smoker who, notwithstanding the hints, complaints and frowns, continues to smoke in his office or open areas in the work place, clearly in defiance of the law and the employer's smoking policy? Most employers and employees are aware of the fact that smoking in public areas, therefore also the workplace, are regulated in South Africa by way of legislation, the Tobacco Products Control Act 83 of 1993. Therefore, any policy the employer has with regard to regulating smoking at the workplace, must fall within the legislative framework. This framework is contained in notice GNR975 of GG 21610 of 19 September 2000.

        

In terms of item 6, an employer must ensure that no person smokes anywhere other than in the designated smoking area in that work place. Item 7 requires that an employer must ensure that employees who do not want to be exposed to tobacco smoke are protected from tobacco smoke in that workplace and employees may object to tobacco smoke in the workplace without retaliation of any kind. An employer, may totally prohibit smoking at its work place, therefore, as far as our law stands, there is no right to smoke at the workplace. At this stage you may wonder what does smoking at the workplace have to do with constructive dismissal, if at all?

 

There are not many cases about smoking in the workplace recorded. An interesting one is that of Naude and Stealth Marine (2004) 13 MEIBC 6.13.3, in the sense that smoking in the workplace became a ground for constructive dismissal. The applicant had respiratory problems and previous serious health conditions, which included asthma attacks as a result of smoking and she had an allergy to cigarette smoke. The employer's premises had no designated smoking areas. The reception area was situated downstairs and the administrative offices were situated upstairs. The factory was outside. Staff smoked in the corridors, in the reception area and in their offices upstairs. Smoke often trickled down from the upstairs offices, into the reception area.

          

Within two weeks of commencing employment the applicant developed a reaction to the cigarette smoke and got sick. The applicant had a tight chest and difficulty breathing and developed nausea, headaches and light-headedness. She complained about the smoking to her boss and informed the employer about her allergy and the fact that she would develop serious health problems if staff did not stop smoking inside the building. Her supervisor said she would address the problem, but the smoking in open areas persisted. To make matters worse, her superior promised to ask the staff to stop smoking inside the premises, but he himself continued to smoke inside.

 

The staff also continued to smoke inside the building. The applicant complained to her direct supervisor every day and on 29 April the applicant left early, as she could not tolerate the smoke any more. When she returned on the 30th, four people were again smoking inside the building. The applicant advised her boss that she had to leave, as she was unable to continue to work under the circumstances.

 

The commissioner found that, in terms of the Tobacco Products Control Act 83 of 1993 smoking is not allowed in offices or in public areas in workplaces. Smoking is only allowed in designated areas and it is the duty of an employer to ensure that the Act is complied with. On the applicant's version the respondent failed to implement antismoking legislation in the workplace. The employer's actions were therefore unlawful in allowing employees to smoke inside the administration building. It is important to note that the applicant in this case was not the average, healthy, non-smoking employee who was indignant at the fact that her employer was not complying with antismoking legislation.

      

The applicant was previously a heavy smoker and had developed serious respiratory problems and an allergy to cigarette smoke as a result of her habit. The applicant developed debilitating physical symptoms when exposed to cigarette smoke. On the evidence before the commissioner, the respondent created an intolerable working environment for the applicant. The applicant was unable to be productive.

         

In the view of the commissioner, the applicant has proved that she was dismissed and that the respondent created an intolerable situation at the workplace that forced her to resign.

For more information contact Johanette Rheeder at

Case Law Summaries and Articles

 

Can employees be dismissed for refusing to accept new terms and conditions of employment?

Can an employer dismiss employees because they refuse to agree to a change to their terms and conditions of employment? An initial answer may be, “yes”.

Read More >>>

 

Escape route: “Resignation with immediate effect”

The latest case in the ‘disciplining employees who have resigned with immediate effect’ saga has brought about more uncertainty as to whether an employee who resigns with immediate effect shortly before a disciplinary hearing can avoid disciplinary action and subsequent dismissal.

Read More >>>

 

Freedom of expression or incitement to commit an offence? A constitutional challenge

On 4 July 2019, the North Gauteng High Court handed down judgment in the case of The EFF and other v Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development and other (87638/2017 and 45666/2017) in which the EFF and Julius Malema (the applicants) sought to have s18(2)(b) of the Riotous Assemblies Act, No 17 of 1956 (Riotous Act) declared unconstitutional.

Read More >>>

 

Consolidated, comprehensive or general final written warnings

Regarding dismissal, according to the Code of Good Practice, “the courts have endorsed the concept of corrective or progressive discipline. This approach regards the purpose of discipline as a means for employees to know and understand what standards are required of them.

Read More >>>

 

 

 

 

 

 

Courses and Workshops

 

                                         

 
 

Shop Steward Training

28 August 2019

Emperors Palace Convention Centre

Employment Equity Committee Training

29 August 2019 (Fully Booked)

Tsogo Sun: Century City: Cape Town

30 August 2019

Tsogo Sun: Century City: Cape Town

27 September 2019

Emperors Palace: Convention Centre

04 October 2019

Southern Sun: Maharani: Durban

Basic Labour Relations

04 September 2019

Emperors Palace: Convention Centre

Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Course

12 September 2019

Southern Sun: Maharani Towers: Durban

The OHS Act and the Responsibilities of Management

13 September 2019

Southern Sun: Maharani Towers: Durban

19 September 2019

Emperors Palace: Convention Centre

28 November 2019

Protea Hotel By Marriott Tyger Valley: Cape Town

Managing Day to Day Issues/ Problem Employees Full day workshop

20 September 2019

Emperors Palace: Convention Centre

27 September 2019

Tsogo Sun: Century City: Cape Town

AARTO and the Impact on Your Business

03 October 2019

Emperors Palace Convention Centre

Hazard Identification & Risk Assessment Course

18 October 2019

Emperors Palace: Convention Centre

21 November 2019

Tsogo Sun: Century City: Stay Easy: Cape Town

Workshop Incident/Accident Investigation Course

25 October 2019

Emperors Palace: Convention Centre

22 November 2019

Tsogo Sun: Century City: Stay Easy: Cape Town

  

 Our Clients 

 

Android App On Google Play

Android App On Google Play