Cape Town - A law firm in the Western Cape came under the spotlight after a candidate attorney doing his articles at the firm claimed to have been unfairly dismissed because he refused to go for his Covid-19 vaccination.
The issue of policy came to light and the candidate attorney, Dale Dreyden, took his case to the CCMA against his former employer, Duncan Korabie Attorneys from Wellington.
Dreyden, the applicant in the matter before two commissioners, stated he was unfairly dismissed via a WhatsApp text message at the end of August last year for not getting vaccinated.
At the time of the hearing, he remained unvaccinated.
He submitted that he did not give reasons for his decision not to vaccinate and told the commission that he had some beliefs but did not divulge his reasoning or provide any evidence to substantiate his decision not to vaccinate.
His former employer, Korabie, submitted that he had comorbidities and was medically vulnerable before the Covid-19 outbreak, and thus he told staff being vaccinated would be a requirement.
He also stated that the open-plan office space could not accommodate Dreyden, whose duties, by law, compelled him to be at the office, and due to no isolation areas to work in, he had to be vaccinated.
Korabie told the commissioners he had implemented a mandatory vaccination policy and had also held meetings with staff members since the outbreak of the Covid- 19 pandemic.
He also tried educating staff on the dangers of the virus and kept himself up to date as to when the vaccines were readily available to all.
However, Dreyden disputed this and claimed the policy was only instituted after his dismissal.
He also argued that there were no laws in place which made vaccines mandatory in the workplace, and employers were only directed by guidelines that were not legally binding.
Dreyden stated when his contract was terminated, it was done so unfairly as there was no disciplinary hearing, and he was not given the opportunity to explain his reasoning for not wanting the vaccine.
The CCMA found that while there may not be any legislation for mandatory vaccinations, there were guidelines in place that provided an employer could insist on vaccinations, but it stated procedural steps had to be followed before an employee could be dismissed.
The CCMA stated that each case needed to be determined on its own merits and thus found that Korabie’s insistence on staff being vaccinated was reasonable.
The commissioners found that Dreyden’s dismissal was substantially fair but procedurally unfair. Fair in the sense that Korabie was medically vulnerable and unfair in the sense that the employer fell short on his consultation with Dreyden and was told his services are no longer required via WhatsApp.
The CCMA also ordered that Korabie pay Dreyden one month’s salary as well as the four weeks’ notice.