Court Rules Nando Should Reinstate Man Fired For Tasting Carrot – SAPeople

  • An employee fired for eating two slices of carrots at Nando’s Scottsville must be reinstated, the Durban Employment Tribunal has ruled.
  • He was fired in 2018 for dishonesty after a disciplinary hearing.
  • The employee said he tasted the carrots to see if they were still frozen.
  • The judge said that although the company has taken a zero-tolerance approach to its rules, the reason for the violations should not be ignored.

Almost four years after he was fired for eating two slices of carrots, the Durban Employment Tribunal has ruled that an employee of Nando’s Scottsville should be reinstated.

During his disciplinary hearing in July 2018, and in a subsequent hearing before the Commission for Consolidation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), Ntokozo Gwala had insisted that he was only “testing” carrots cooked because they still looked frozen.

Gwala was fired for “dishonesty” following a disciplinary hearing.

CCMA Commissioner Nicci Whitear-Nel felt this was fundamentally unfair and ordered his reinstatement.

But Nando’s was aggrieved and sought to review and reverse that decision in a motion heard by Durban Employment Tribunal Acting Judge Durban Kelsey Allen-Yama.

The judge has now accepted the CCMA’s finding and ordered Nando to return his work to Gwala.

Read the full judgment here.

Gwala, who had been with the company since April 2014, was a ‘grill front’ when he took two slices of carrots out of the double boiler and tasted them.

Because Gwala was an employee representative involved in another unrelated grievance issue, the company stalled the disciplinary process against him until July this year.

He was charged with gross misconduct: “unauthorized consumption of company stock”, a charge which the company said inherently involved dishonesty, with the penalty being dismissal.

The CCMA commissioner, however, ruled there was no dishonesty, a finding Judge Allen-Yama has now upheld.

She said that while Gwala ate the carrots and broke the rules, he simply tasted them to determine if they were suitable to be served.

At the inquest and the CCMA, Gwala said he didn’t know he could be fired for this.

“In the review proceeding, the company argued that the mere consumption of stock without authorization demonstrated an intent on the part of the employee to deprive it of his property and that, therefore, the element of dishonesty is inherently present. “, said the judge.

However, in a previous case, managers, apparently confused about company rules regarding the size of cold drink they could have with their lunch, were not disciplined or fired.

“It was because the company accepted that it was the result of some type of misunderstanding and it denied the possibility of dishonesty,” Judge Allen-Yama said. “It was not now open to Nando to claim otherwise in the case of Mr. Gwala.”

The judge said that while it was correct that Gwala did not inform a manager of the possible problem with the carrots, his undisputed testimony was that he had brought the issue of the “glazed carrot” to the attention of a colleague who had also felt the temperature of the carrots with his own hand.

She added that the “Grilled Roast Vegetable: Procedure Manual” was silent on whether vegetable tasting was prohibited or permitted.

Moreover, in his opening statement, Gwala had said that it was common to taste porridge and rice.

Although Gwala had broken a workplace rule, he had not been dishonest.

The company argued in the labor court that even if there was no dishonesty, the relationship of trust had broken down and Gwala should not be reinstated “because he was aware of the rule ” and because the company had a serious inventory loss problem.

The judge said that although the company sought to adopt a zero tolerance approach to its rules, the reason for the violations should not be ignored: “Gwala did not perceive himself to have broken the rule. He seems to have understood that this only concerned the consumption of food for his personal pleasure… his motive was not to meet his own needs but to ensure that the quality of the product was not compromised.

“There is no objective evidence that the relationship was damaged beyond repair.”

The judge noted that the employee was allowed to work for more than three months (to allow other grievances to be resolved) before being suspended, disciplined and ultimately fired.

Regarding the issue of costs, she said that awarding costs in favor of Gwala would potentially impede the restoration of a harmonious working relationship between the two parties and she ordered each party to pay its own.

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