Standard practice has always been that one’s Curriculum Vitae (‘CV’) should be an accurate and up-to-date representation of one’s professional career. This allows prospective employers an opportunity to make informed decisions for their respective companies. There, however, has been a trend amongst job seekers to oversell their qualifications, experiences, and memberships. Although this seems like just a white lie, this small white lie has, in recent case law, proven to be dire to job applicants.

In the case of Lesedi Local Municipality v Mphele and Others (2023) 9 BLLR 939 LC, an employee was dismissed for dishonesty in that he misrepresented himself on his CV. He argued that despite his misrepresentation, he was still “very much” qualified for the job and had met all the requirements set out in the vacancy. The CCMA agreed with the applicant that these misrepresentations of the applicant’s qualifications and professional membership merely amounted to an ‘error’ and not necessarily dishonesty. The CCMA found that it was common cause that the applicant had oversold himself on his CV, but despite such misrepresentation, he still met the inherent requirements for the job. Consequently, the CCMA order the employer to reinstate the employee retrospectively.

This matter was then referred to the Labour Court for review, where a different view was taken. The Court stated that despite the applicant meeting the requirements, this does not detract from the act of dishonesty. It was stated that dishonesty is what underpins the substantive fairness of this dismissal. Placing untrue qualifications, experiences, and memberships on your CV could and should very well lead to your dismissal.

The Court defines dishonesty as “a generic term embracing all forms of conduct involving deception on the part of employees”. It is further noted that dishonesty may very well be a first-time dismissible offence based on the individual circumstances at hand. The Court held that false misrepresentation directly affects companies’ operations. Employees have a duty to be honest and provide employers with a full disclosure of their professional history. The Court subsequently ruled that the dismissal of the applicant was both procedurally and substantively fair.

Employers are advised to do their due diligence when employment contracts are offered to applicants. This will ensure that the correct and qualified employees are employed, which will always be holistically beneficial for the business. Recent case law has provided employers with a level of protection; however, proper due diligence should be conducted during the vetting phase before the inception of an employment relationship, as this will significantly prevent unnecessary disputes.

Article by Cass-Leigh Oranje

Dispute Resolution Official at Consolidated Employers Organisation (CEO SA)