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Can you discipline the employee who's just shouted at your favourite client?

by , 07 November 2013
Cartoonist Zapiro has come under fire this week, for his depiction of the Hindu deity, Ganesha, in his cartoon about the state of South Africa's cricket authorities. Hindus insist the representation is disrespectful and insulting. But Zapiro refuses to apologise, even amidst calls for cartoonist's newspaper employer (The Times) to dismiss him! The question is, can you, the employer, discipline an employee who refuses to apologise for something he's done wrong? Today, we shed light on this pertinent issue...

According to the experts behind the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf, your company disciplinary code is the best starting point when deciding whether to discipline a feisty employee.

This policy outlines what infringements are considered serious (i.e. those that CAN be disciplined), and also the process that you'll follow to discipline your employee. Generally, you'll start with a verbal or written warning, and escalate the discipline from there, if the employee doesn't correct his behaviour.

Next evaluate the infringement within the context of your disciplinary code – is the infringement one you can discipline for?
If the employee spilled coffee over his workstation by accident, damaging his computer, then firm discipline is probably a little too harsh. A simple reminder (to all staff!) to avoid spills at their desks, will suffice.

But if your employee shouted at a client, or deliberately deleted important documents from the office servers, then you can certainly apply disciplinary process! It all depends on what your disciplinary code states.

Whatever you decide, just be sure your processes are substantively and procedurally fair. Otherwise, you're giving the employee fodder for a CCMA case against you...

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