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Nyakane fired for being too fat? The grey areas of discrimination...

by , 23 August 2013
The Springbok camp has been quick to deny that they axed Trevor Nyakane for being too fat. But fitness is a requirement for being a professional rugby player. Read on to discover what South African Labour Law has to say about the grey areas of discrimination....

The Springboks fired 24 year old Trevor Nyakane. The reason? Apparently, he "repeatedly breached team protocol", reports Sport24. But many critics say that the real reason was Nyakane's recent weight gain.
Could the Springboks really have axed Nyakane for being too fat?
Discrimination isn't always clear cut, says Labour Law for Managers. After all, it's illegal to discriminate against someone for their age, disability, gender, religion or sexual orientation.
But some discrimination is technically fair.
For example, Affirmative Action is fair. Labour law in South Africa says you must grow the diversity of your organisation in line with government policy. And that means, you can prefer some candidates over others.
Even 'taboo' discriminations can be fair in the right circumstances. For example, you can't discriminate against a blind person if you're hiring singers on a cruise ship. But if you're interviewing airline pilots, you can.  That's because seeing is an essential part of a pilot's job, but not of a singer's job.
When is discrimination fair?
Discrimination often results from bigoted beliefs about a group of people. For example, saying that women are too weak and sensitive to work as security guards. After all, some women are stronger and tougher than some men. There are definitely individual women out there who would (and do) make great security guards. So to discriminate against all women is wrong.
The important thing is not to use blanket beliefs (such as 'all fat people are unfit') to determine capacity. Make sure that that person has the capacity to perform their job.
If Nyakane's weight was slowing him down, it affects performance. He couldn't compete with other international rugby players. That's a case of incapacity.
But if Springbok management fired him simply for looking overweight, it's different. That's discrimination. After all, looking good isn't an inherent requirement of being a rugby player.

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