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Can you fire an employee for gross insubordination in ALL instances?

by , 06 August 2015
Gross insubordination is often seen as a more serious offence than insubordination. And yet even dismissing an employee for a clear refusal to carry out an order has been declared "unfair" before. Read on to find out more.

Case Law: MITUSA obo Clarke vs National Ports Authority (2006, 9 BALR 861).

Of the countless gross insubordination examples, a very interesting one would have to be MITUSA obo Clarke vs National Ports Authority (2006, 9 BALR 861).

Here, an employee – specifically a tug master – refused an order from her tug's pilot to tie up the tug for boarding. The order was denied on the grounds that it would be too dangerous for her. 

In response to the incident, and seeing that the employee had already received a final warning, the employer dismissed her. 

The dismissed employee then took the matter to a private arbitrator where it was discovered that the dismissal was unfair – despite the fact that the order was lawful and reasonable, therefore amounting to what many would view as gross insubordination.


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It was found that the right of the employee to develop a subjective view (an opinion), towards the safety of the order given, was a ground to declare the dismissal as unfair. In other words, the employee determined, from her subjective viewpoint, that the order was dangerous and that if an accident was to occur, after having carried out the order, she would have been held responsible.

The employee's decision was found to be based on her own opinion, made in a professional manner, and not through an intentional desire to disobey the tug's pilot.

What does this mean for gross insubordination in the workplace?
From the above example, you can see that the unique circumstances, within each case, should be thoroughly looked into before making any decisions based on apparent gross insubordination.  

So, click here to find out what to do before dismissing an employee for gross insubordination.

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