– Assessing the Validity of a Dismissal on the Grounds of Incompatibility –
Stepping into a new job, most of the time, seems like a dream come true. But, equally true, sometimes when reality steps in, the dream turns into a nightmare. The environment and functions are not really what you have anticipated and things are just not working out as you’ve envisaged. In certain circumstances the working conditions do not turn out to be what you’ve expected and ultimately does not suit your lifestyle. Luckily you can unilaterally decide to call it a day and resign.
The flipside of the coin might not be as easy, when your employer realises that the dream employee is not suitable or compatible with the work environment and culture. Can your employer simply relieve you of your duties on this basis and call it a day? To answer this question, let’s unpack the conundrum of incompatibility in the context of an employment relationship.
What is incompatibility?
In the case of Jabari v Telkom SA (Pty), the Labour Court defined incompatibility in the workplace as being “…the employee’s inability or failure to maintain cordial and harmonious relationships with his peers, incompatibility is a form of incapacity and incompatibility is an ‘amorphous nebulous concept’ based on subjective value judgments”. In simpler terms incompatibility materializes where an employee cannot adjust into the culture of the workplace or maintain pleasant relations with their colleagues causing disharmony and disruption in the workplace.
The CCMA recently presided over a matter where an employee was dismissed on the grounds of incompatibility in that the employee raised a plethora of unfounded grievances and grievances regarding matters that have already been dealt with, resulting in the deterioration of the employment relationship. In arriving at a decision, the presiding commissioner relied on the decision of the Labour Court Jabari v Telkom SA (Pty) and found that the employee had created disharmony in the workplace. The commissioner also found that the employer had already exhausted all avenues in order to address the employee’s concerns, offered advice to the employee that would address his concerns which were disregarded by the employee and thus dismissal was warranted. The employer had been left with no other alternative but to dismiss the employee.
When is dismissal for incompatibility appropriate?
In the matter of Joslin v Olivetti Systems & Networks Africa the court found that dismissal on the grounds of incompatibility can be deemed to be appropriate only where the employee’s conduct is serious enough to have the effect of disrupting the workplace and only after the employer has exhausted all reasonable efforts to address the issue.
According to Wright v St Mary’s Hospital, the incompatibility that leads to the deterioration of the employment relationship must be irredeemable. Should there be measures available to the employer to rectify the incompatibility, dismissal in those circumstances would not be appropriate.
You have the right to raise certain concerns regarding the conditions of your employment in accordance with the policies and procedures of the workplace. However, you must always be cognisant of the merit or validity of your concerns and complaints. Facts and not emotions alone. Persistent and unfounded complaints have the capacity to render the employment relationship intolerable and once it does, you may have reached the point of no return where dismissal might be unavoidable and justified.
(Article by Ngoni Goba/Edited by Tiekie Mocke)
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