When an employee misrepresents his/her qualifications in their curriculum vitae (“CV”), whether the employer may dismiss on these grounds.
IMPORTANT COURT CASE:
This issue was considered in the case of LTE Consulting (Pty) Ltd v Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration and Others (JR1289/14)  ZALCJHB 291 (8 August 2017).
The employee was appointed as a financial manager. At the time of his appointment the employee was about to turn 82 years old and well past LTE’s official retirement age of 65. His CV disclosed that he was a chartered accountant, held a B.Com degree as well as an MBA from the University of Wits.
About four years later, it came to the company’s attention that there was no copy of the employee’s B.Com degree, chartered accountant qualification or MBA on file. The company’s HR department requested the required documentation, but it was never supplied by the employee.
After the matter was investigated it was discovered that the employee never possessed the qualifications claimed nor was he a chartered accountant. Consequently, the employee was charged and dismissed for gross dishonesty, following his disciplinary enquiry.
Obviously, the employee felt aggrieved by his dismissal and referred his dispute to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (“CCMA”). The employee agreed that he did not have the necessary qualifications as claimed on his CV but disputed that being a chartered accountant was an explicit requirement for the job. His defence was that he had equivalent qualifications and ‘prior learning’ justifying his appointment.
The presiding Commissioner shockingly held that the employee’s dismissal was substantively (reason) unfair and awarded LTE to pay the employee R300 000 compensation for unfair dismissal. The Commissioner based his decision on the following grounds:
- The employee’s dismissal was a sham designed to, in effect, secure his retirement;
- The employee’s misrepresentations about his qualifications were not essential or material in securing the position of financial manager;
- In any event, the employee had equivalent qualifications; and
- An assessment of factors in mitigation/aggravation demonstrated that the sanction of dismissal was inappropriate.
LTE took the above decision on review to the Labour Court. The Labour Court held that the employee’s dismissal was in fact substantively fair. The court found that by relying on his CV during the interview process the employee had confirmed that he was a chartered accountant and that being a chartered accountant was a material requirement for the job. Even if it was not, it did not discount the employee’s dishonesty in claiming qualifications he did not possess. Even if the employee possessed equivalent qualifications (which he did not) it would miss the point that he was dishonest about the qualifications he indicated he did possess.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CASE
This case usefully highlights and summarises the pitfalls for employees should they elect to be dishonest in their CV’s.
Article by: Engela Venter
Senior Dispute Resolution Official – Gauteng