26 Nov 2014

Employers Justified in Firing Workers who Falsify CVs, Employment Law Update

Practice Area(s): Employment |

THERE can be no doubt that job applicants tend to exaggerate their qualifications and skills when applying for a job. Job applicants are desperate to meet the minimum criteria set out in an advertisement to at least secure an interview with the prospective employer. This article focuses on the courts' view in dealing with employees who have created false impressions on their CVs.

The Labour Appeal Court (LAC), in a recent judgment of Department of Home Affairs and another v Ndlovu and others (2014), held that employers may be justified in dismissing employees who have created false impressions regarding their qualifications and skills on their CVs. In this case, the employee applied for a post as an area manager for KwaZulu-Natal and Richards Bay. According to his CV, the employee claimed to have a diploma in marketing from the former Natal Technikon and a Bachelor of Technology Marketing qualification from the Durban Institute of Technology. The employee, on the strength of his CV and qualifications, was successful in his application and appointed to the post. It subsequently came to the attention of the employer that the employee had not completed and attained his Bachelor of Technology Marketing degree. As a consequence, the employee was charged with several acts of misconduct, including dishonesty, and dismissed. Following his dismissal, the employee referred an unfair dismissal dispute to the Bargaining Council. Upon conclusion of the arbitration proceedings, the arbitrator held that the employee's dismissal was fair. Aggrieved by the Bargaining Council's decision, the dismissed employee approached the Labour Court to review and set aside the arbitrator's decision. The court, surprisingly, held that the employee's dismissal had been unfair and ordered the Department of Home Affairs to reinstate him with backpay. In response to the court's decision, the department approached the Labour Appeal Court (LAC) to appeal against the decision.

The LAC held that the employee had lied on his CV with the sole intention of impressing the panellists in order to secure the job. It further reiterated "that employment relationships are founded on trust and that, as such, it was fair for the Department of Home Affairs to terminate the employment relationship". The LAC is not the first court to approve of a dismissal in circumstances where an employee has applied for a job on the strength of a CV that contained information that was either exaggerated or falsified. In the case of Hoch v Mustek Electronics (Pty) Ltd (1999) (LC), the court held that the employer was justified in terminating the employment of its financial manager seven years after she was hired, because she had misrepresented her qualifications before her appointment.

Employers are well advised to verify and authenticate the information in a job applicant's CV before making any appointments. Pillay is an associate in the Employment Law Department at Shepstone & Wylie Attorneys.

Varusha Pillay, Associate

Contact: 011 290 2540 or pillayv@wylie.co.za