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Case Law: Can you fairly discriminate against an employee's religion?

by , 02 March 2016
In the following, it would appear that religion is not necessarily exempt from discrimination in the workplace.

Let's take a look...

Case: Dlamini and Others v Green Floor Security (2006) 11 BLLR 1074

What were the facts?

In this case, employees, who were security guards were dismissed for refusing to shave their beards.

This is because they belonged to the Nazarene religion which didn't allow such an act.

The employees then claimed that the dismissal automatically amounted to an unfair dismissal based on unfair discrimination on the grounds of religious beliefs.

What did the employer argue?

The employer argued that the employees had contractually agreed to be cleanly shaven, and that they were clean shaven when they started the job.

The employer was also of the opinion that beards imply untidiness and that this would affect the image of the company. And so it was argued that being cleanly shaven was an inherent requirement of the job.

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What did the Court note?

The Court noted that the employees failed that beards was a central part of their faith, and that should they break they would be severely punished.

The Court also noted that the employees worked on Sundays which is, in itself, forbidden. And so this implied that the employees were being very selective of what rules they followed.

In addition, the court noted that the employer had applied the condition to be cleanly shaven consistently, and that grooming was an important factor of the security industry.

What did the Court decide?

Based on its notes, the Court decided that the employees had not been unfairly discriminated against.

What can you learn from this case?

The truth is that what you can learn this case is extreme caution when dealing with cases revolving around discrimination on religious grounds.

In other words, each individual case must be looked at very closely in determining whether the discrimination is justified.

Failure to do so can impact severely on your pocket and your reputation within a particular religious community.

That is why it's advised to seek expert legal advice at every corner when dealing with a religious-based case like the one above.
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