Home

 

The case of the email – failure to copy your line manager on emails may lead to a dismissal

By Thabang Rapuleng, Director, Tamsanqa Mila, Associate, Employment Law, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr

 

Subordination is a fundamental characteristic of the employment relationship and it involves the process of giving instructions to a junior employee with the reasonable expectation for compliance. In Prabashnie Naicker v Africa Flight Services, JR 843/17 (delivered 21 May 2019), the Labour Court was called to decide whether an employee’s failure to adhere to an instruction to copy her line manager in her emails warranted a dismissal.

 

In 2013, Ms Prabashnie Naicker (Naicker) was employed by Africa Flight Services as a customer service agent. She reported to Ms Mellissa Fritz (Fritz). Part of Ms Naicker’s duties included calculating payments.

 

On 3 November 2016, as a result of having provided clients with incorrect pricing, Fritz instructed Naicker to stop issuing incorrect charges and to copy her in all future emails to clients involving pricing.

 

Following this instruction, Naicker proceeded to forward pricing information and omitted to copy Fritz in her emails. On 7 November 2016, in a separate meeting, Fritz instructed Naicker to copy her in all her emails. The following day, on 8 November 2016, Naicker failed to comply with the instruction. Her failure to comply with the instruction continued between 14 – 16 November 2016.

 

On 16 November 2016, Naicker was issued with a notice to attend a disciplinary hearing. During the disciplinary hearing, she was charged with insubordination. She pleaded guilty to the charge and she was dismissed. Following her dismissal, she referred an unfair dismissal dispute to the CCMA challenging the fairness of her dismissal. She was not successful at the CCMA. Unhappy with the decision of the commissioner, she launched a review application at the Labour Court.

 

At the Labour Court, she argued that the commissioner’s decision was not reasonable because her conduct was not “serious and deliberate” because she lacked the necessary intention to defy her line manager. Simply, she had just forgotten to copy her in the emails.

 

The Labour Court dismissed her review application. In his analysis, Tlhotlhalemaje J noted the following:

  • Naicker failed to comply with the instruction on eight occasions between 3 – 15 November 2016;

  • Her misconduct was persistent, prolonged and could not be equated to an honest mistake;

  • Naicker was instructed to copy Fritz more than once;

  • Copying someone on email was not a laborious task. It took less than a minute;

  • The instruction was lawful and reasonable because Ms Naicker was prone to providing inaccurate pricing to customers; and

  • Naicker often challenged Fritz’s authority, knowledge and experience as her line manager.

 

The learned judge concluded that Ms Naicker’s conduct of consistently disobeying a simple, lawful and reasonable instruction was overall, wilful and serous. He added that by failing to comply with the instruction, Naicker disrespected her line manager and challenged her authority and he concluded that she was guilty of gross insubordination.

 

This case demonstrates that disobeying simple tasks may sometimes lead to gross insubordination. Employees are therefore warned not to disregard instructions they deem unimportant, especially if they are intended to achieve a legitimate business and/or operational objective.

 

For more information please contact Thabang Rapuleng at  or Tamsanqa Mila at

Article published with the kind courtesy of Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr www.cliffedekkerhofmeyr.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

                                         

 
 

Employment Equity Committee Training

23 August 2019 (Fully Booked)

Emperors Palace: Convention Centre

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

Shop Steward Training

28 August 2019

Emperors Palace Convention Centre

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