It’s nothing new these days when you read a newspaper that you would come across an article which relates to an employee who was dismissed for lying about his qualifications in a job interview. Recently the National Qualifications Framework Amendment Act 12 of 2019 (“NQF Amendment Act”) was introduced, which has serious consequences for prospective employees and/or job seekers who are found to have misrepresented their qualifications.
This may include possible jail time, a fine or both.
If an employee is “caught out” the normal course of action for an employer would be to dismiss the employee after the finalization of a disciplinary process. However, this process is not the only remedy available to employers as employers may now also approach the High Court to recover damages they have suffered as a result of the fraudulent misrepresentation.
In the recent unreported case of Passenger Rail Agency South Africa v Mshushisi Daniel Mthimkhulu (42056/2015 dated 23 September 2019), the High Court ordered a former senior employee of PRASA to pay damages to PRASA as a consequence of fraudulent misrepresentations made by him.
During the course of 2010, the employee contended that he, inter alia, possessed a national diploma and a bachelor’s degree from a South African university and as such these qualifications made him a suitable candidate to be appointed to the senior position of Executive Manager in the engineering services department of PRASA. As a result of the fraudulent misrepresentations, PRASA was induced to appoint the employee to the senior position.
The employee further alleged that he had been awarded a doctorate by a German university and furthermore that he had received a lucrative job offer from a German company at a higher salary. As a consequence, PRASA changed the employee’s appellation to that of “Doctor” and made the employee a counter-offer which substantially increased his salary.
As a result of the fraudulent misrepresentations, PRASA suffered substantial losses because the employee was remunerated at a level far higher than he would have been, had it not been for the fraudulent misrepresentations. In order to recover those amounts, PRASA instituted a delictual action for damages against the employee.
Accordingly, the High Court awarded PRASA damages in the amount of R5 771 854.93.
In a Nutshell: Prospective employees should be honest about their qualifications, skills and experience in a job interview. If not, it could lead to something far worse than dismissal.