Is your employer treating you unfairly?

Legal matters column

Scenario: You have been working for your company for some time. You and your manager have a disagreement or a fallout. He starts treating you unfairly. After no help from the owners of the company, you feel helpless and decide to resign.

We have all experienced some or other unpleasant situation within our workplace. Often, it’s something small that you can brush off, like someone taking a bite out of your lunch sandwich or stealing your parking space. But what if the dispute is intense, and the office tension is so uncomfortable that you aren’t able to work properly anymore and decide to resign?

The reality is that there are a great number of employers who are dishonest and treat their employees unfairly. This is precisely why the CCMA and labour laws exist.

This type of situation would amount to what we call “constructive dismissal.” Although this sounds complicated and legal, it is a very simple principle. Essentially constructive dismissal means that an employee has ended his or her employment because of the employer’s conduct and behaviour towards the employee.

The employee may have been manipulated to resign or made the decision after the employer made the office environment intolerable and hostile for the employee.

A few examples include victimising or bullying the employee; falsely accusing the employee of misconduct or incompetence; sexual harassment or public humiliation in front of other employees.

This type of dismissal is quite different from the majority of cases involving the CCMA because the employee is the party who has decided to end his or her employment with the company. In our experience, many people have found themselves in a situation like this but didn’t realise that they could take their ex-employer to task.

The question that must be asked is, did the employer deliberately behave in an oppressive way that caused the employee to be unable to properly perform at work which left the employee with no other option other than to resign?

It must also be shown that the employee would have carried on with his or her employment, had the employer not created unreasonable circumstances.

The relief an employee can request from the CCMA is either reinstatement by the employer, or alternatively, some monetary compensation of up to 12 months’ salary.

Should this scenario apply to you, we recommend that you consult a labour lawyer to ascertain whether you would have a claim. Our specialised labour department handles many cases in this area and it is shocking to see the conditions that some employees are forced to work under.

For further assistance in this area of law, you are welcome to contact our offices on 011 897 1900 or

Article contributed by Erika Du Toit of Tuckers Inc.

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