In the 1996 case of Metro Cash & Carry v Tshehla, the Labour Court held that:
Employers, especially those in the retail industry, are frequently faced with the situation where it is necessary to introduce measures to control losses of stock, merchandise and money. An employer is entitled to introduce procedures to protect its commercial integrity and to expect compliance therewith. It is further entitled to treat disregard or non-compliance with such procedures with severity such as dismissal.
A Commissioner of the CCMA had occasion, recently, to rely on this case when he was called upon to decide whether non-compliance with her duties justified the dismissal of a cashier.
On 13 February 2012, a cashier at a well-known local supermarket was on duty at her till when a customer requested a cash withdrawal of R1350 with his bank card. This was a service the supermarket offered and the cashier processed the transaction. However, the till slip that the customer signed reflected only R135. The cashier discovered this when she cashed up at the end of her shift. She also realized, then, that she had not checked the till slip which was signed by the customer. The company was forced to carry the financial loss.
The supermarket consistently applied the following rules for cashiers:
Cashiers were responsible for their tills and any shortages; they had to ensure that the correct amounts were issued;
They had to make certain that the paperwork was 100% correct;
Any shortage which exceeded the company standard of 0.02% of takings constituted gross misconduct, with dismissal as the sanction.
Following the incident, on 21 February 2012, a disciplinary inquiry was held and the cashier was dismissed.
The cashier took the case to the CCMA and the Commissioner, who found on the evidence that the cashier was guilty as charged, had to decide whether her conduct necessitated dismissal, particularly since this was only her second similar offence during 15 months' service and she had not acted maliciously.
The supermarket's representative argued that:
The cashier knew the company's policies and procedures;
The cashier's conduct placed the company at risk;
Cashiers at the company had been consistently dismissed when serious shortages occurred;
The cashier's shortage was 8.06% which far exceeded the company standard of 0.02%;
The relationship between the cashier and the company had been destroyed since the company had lost trust in the cashier and her ability.
In considering whether dismissal was the appropriate sanction, the Commissioner was guided by the decisions of the Labour Appeal Court in the Metro Cash & Carry case, referred to above, and by the 2000 De Beers Consolidated Mines v CCMA & Others case.
In the latter, the Court held that where an employee had broken the high degree of trust placed in him or her, an employer was legitimately entitled to say to itself that the risk of continuing the employment relationship was unacceptably great.
The Commissioner accordingly decided that the sanction of dismissal was appropriate.
It goes without saying that the sanction was a harsh one, particularly since the amount of money involved was relatively small. However, in the interests of financial sustainability, the application of policies and procedures, and the consistent exercise of discipline by employers are important and necessary.