What may an employer do when it comes to light that an employee was dishonest during the recruitment process?

When recruiting a new employee, an employer is entitled to expect such potential employee to be honest and open about his/her qualifications, experience and ability amongst other aspects.

Dishonesty on the part of an employee has damaging effects on a continued trust relationship between an employer and employee and once broken cannot be easily mended, if even at all.

With the rise in unemployment and the number of active job seekers in the market, employers are bound to face situations where potential employees, in a desperate attempt to secure employment, make themselves guilty of dishonesty. This would usually happen when a prospective job seeker lies in their interview and/or their job application or CV so that they may appear more attractive to the recruiter.

Dealing with such instances may be challenging and various aspects need to be considered. Luckily there are two prominent cases that can gives guidance.

In SA Post Office Ltd v Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration and Others (2011) 32 ILJ 2442 (LAC) the Labour Appeal Court upheld the dismissal of an employee who, in her application for employment, stated that she had a driver’s license. It was later discovered that she in fact only had a learner’s license. The Honourable Judge in delivering his judgement stated that: “The fact that [the employee] performed well at the interview and thus secured the post is irrelevant. It is also of no consequence as to how the discovery was made about her not having a driver’s licence.”

In this case the employee required a driver’s licence to perform functions related to her position and was dismissed because her dishonesty had allowed her to be employed in circumstances where the company would never have employed her had they known the true state of affairs.

In the matter of Hoch v Mustek Electronics (Pty) Ltd (2000) 21 ILJ 365 (LC), seven years after the employee’s start date, it was discovered that the employee had been untruthful in respect of certain of her qualifications. Despite these qualifications not being related to the duties the employee had been appointed to perform, the court found that such dishonesty was sufficient to fairly dismiss the employee. Judge Basson stated that: “…even though [the employee] was an employee of seven years’ standing and was honest and trustworthy in her work and even though [the employee’s] qualifications were irrelevant to her position as a debtors’ clerk at the time of her dismissal, [the company] was, in my view, justified to consider her dishonesty as serious enough to have irreparably damaged the unique trust relationship enjoyed by her.”

It becomes clear that dishonesty of any kind should raise the question as to whether or not the trust relationship between the parties can survive. The two cases above illustrate that, in considering whether or not to dismiss, the content of the lie is not more important than the lie itself. This does not mean that dishonesty of this nature provides grounds for immediate or arbitrary dismissal. The Labour Relations Act, together with the common law, still prescribes specific procedures to be followed and that a dismissal should only be reserved as a last resort.

Invictus Group is able to advise employers on the appropriate procedures and best course of action when dealing with employee dishonesty. Contact us on 0861 737 263, so our team of experts can provide you with best practice advice and assistance.