Horseplay or a Dead Horse

Thinking back to the 1st of April each year when phones are taped to your desk; toy spiders stuck in your drawer; Oreo fillings replaced with toothpaste; chairs tied together or even a sleeping tablet in a colleague’s coffee!

Ever had the urge to be silly during working hours. Acting on impulse and doing something stupid, or sometimes even more serious and play rough with the boys?

There is a term for this, Horseplay! The Collins Dictionary defines horseplay as rough play in which people push and hit each other, or behave in a silly way.”

The danger thereof is that one never, or seldom, expects the fun to turn into a serious situation.


Disciplinary Code/Policies

It might be an eye opener when you make time to read your Employer’s Disciplinary Code-or Procedure as you will most definitely find the term horseplay therein. More than often, what might seem to be overkill, the preferred sanction is that of a Final Written Warning (FWW) or even Dismissal when found guilty thereof.

The Courts in Olivier v AECI Plofstowwe & Chemikalieë, Bethal (1988) 9 ILJ 1052 (IC) confirmed a more serious view of fighting, even with merely horseplay. Fortunately there are circumstances which might have an impact on the severity of the sanction when found guilty.


The Courts

One such scenario was in the Kellogg Company (Kellogg Company South Africa and FAWU on behalf of Lucky Khumalo and Others, Case JR 1671/16 (LC)) when one of their employees, Lucky Khumalo, saw his colleague who were absent for two days. Lucky grabbed her and spinned her around because that is what they always do. But on this day, she just came back from a two-day sick period suffering from headaches. A factor Lucky was not aware of and when she asked him to stop, he did not heed immediately. The result was that his colleague became dizzy and passed out only to regain consciousness in the clinic.


When confronted he confirmed the role he played in the scenario and based his actions on being happy to see her. Lucky was, after being employed for more than ten (10) years, dismissed.

The dismissal was challenged at the CCMA and Lucky was reinstated when the Commissioner ruled the sanction of dismissal too harsh. Not happy with the finding Kellogg took the award on review to the Labour Court.

The Labour Court agreed with the commissioner and taking the intention; years of service and clean disciplinary record of Lucky in consideration, he was reinstated.

Tongue in cheek, Lucky was lucky!



Think before you do as a simple act in a moment of impulse can cause you to lose your employment or career!

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