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Using the CCMA Guidelines on Misconduct Arbitrations for strategic legal representation Alan Rycroft.

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Presentation on theme: "Using the CCMA Guidelines on Misconduct Arbitrations for strategic legal representation Alan Rycroft."— Presentation transcript:

1 Using the CCMA Guidelines on Misconduct Arbitrations for strategic legal representation Alan Rycroft

2 Do the Guidelines open up further grounds for review? Section 145 grounds – misconduct, gross irregularity, exceeded powers, award improperly obtained. Sidumo - Is the decision reached by the commissioner one that a reasonable decision-maker could not reach? Bestel v Astral Operations & others An arbitrator’s finding, on the facts, will be considered to be one that ‘a reasonable decision-maker could not reach’ if the finding is: i unsupported by any evidence; ii based on speculation by the commissioner; iii entirely disconnected from the evidence; iv supported by evidence that is insufficiently reasonable to justify the decision; or v. made in ignorance of evidence that was not contradicted.

3 Do the Guidelines open up further grounds for review? 4. Interpretation in the guidelines is the policy of the CCMA and should be applied unless the arbitrator has good reason for favouring a different interpretation. 5. An arbitrator who adopts a different approach must set out the reasons for doing so in the relevant award. 11. Arbitrators have a discretion to determine the form in which an arbitration is conducted. The LRA does not require arbitrators to act in the same manner as a court.

4 21. If it is evident at a subsequent stage that a party or its representative does not understand the nature of proceedings and that this is prejudicing the presentation of its case, the arbitrator should draw this to the attention of the party. 22. The arbitrator has a duty to confirm that the CCMA has the jurisdiction to hear the dispute, irrespective of whether this is raised by the parties.

5 Making the most of the opening statement 28. The arbitrator should check : whether the procedural fairness or the substantive fairness of the dismissal, or both, are being challenged identifies the grounds of the challenge the relief that is claimed the amount of compensation and how it is calculated the extent to which it admits or denies the employee's case what documents will be used the witnesses they intend calling a summary of what their evidence will be the extent to which they admit the documents and evidence of the other party If the parties are represented, they should identify the legal principles and legal documents that they rely on in support of their case.

6 Assist the Commissioner with a full opening statement 50. Background facts should set the scene and contain undisputed facts that may be important in analysis later in the award such as length of service or the salary at time of dismissal. Background facts should focus on the following aspects: 50.1 The parties 50.2 The workplace 50.3 Procedures and agreements 50.4 The employment relationship 50.5 The history of the dispute 50.6 The relief sought

7 Are there any circumstances when an Opening Statement can constitute evidence? Unless it includes common cause facts, an Opening Statement is not evidence. In Rand Water Board v CCMA & others [2008] JOL (LC) [16] the commissioner enquired from the employee's attorney whether the evidence of the employee would be the same as what she stated in the opening statement. The affirmative response from the attorney was then followed by an advice from the commissioner that in that case it would not be necessary to lead the evidence of the employee. On review the Labour Court held that the employee had not testified and the Opening Statement was not evidence.

8 How will the Commissioner assess the evidence? 56. An arbitrator must weigh the evidence as a whole taking account of the following factors: 56.1 The probabilities - contending versions - which is the more probable The reliability of the witnesses. This involves an assessment of the following: first-hand knowledge of the events; any interest or bias any contradictions and inconsistencies; corroboration the credibility of the witness, including demeanour.

9 Demeanour is, at best, a tricky horse to ride Body Corporate of Dumbarton Oaks v Faiga [1999] 1 All SA 229 (A) It seems that the judge failed to distinguish between demeanour and credibility. To decide a case on demeanour where the evidence is interpreted from one language to another, requires a brave adjudicator. The hallmark of a truthful witness is not always a confident and courteous manner or an appearance of frankness and candour. An honest witness may be shy or nervous by nature, and in the witness box show such hesitation and discomfort as to lead the court into concluding, wrongly, that he is not a truthful person. Nevertheless, while demeanour can never serve as a substitute for evidence, it can, and often does, ‘reflect on and enhance the credibility of oral testimony’.

10 Ensuring your argument covers all the bases 43. The parties should be invited to address the arbitrator on the following issues in their concluding arguments what facts they rely on in support of their cases; 43.2 why those facts should be believed or why those facts should be accepted as the more probable version; 43.3 what relief is sought or opposed; and 43.4 what legal principles or authority they rely on in their cases. 44. In complex cases, the arbitrator may, in addition, allow the parties to file written arguments within seven days of the hearing.

11 Understanding the approaches to procedural fairness If there is no workplace disciplinary procedure If there is a workplace disciplinary procedure: those that are contained in a collective agreement those that are contractually binding; and those that are unilaterally established by the employer.

12 Understanding the sequence of enquiry into the fairness of a dismissal Fairness of dismissal Gravity Consistency Factors that may have justified different sanction Prescribed sanction Aggravating or mitigating circumstances Over time As between employees Employees circumstances Nature of the job Circumstance s of contravention Was this serious miscondu ct?

13 Substantive fairness: the rule 89. It is the employer's responsibility to determine the rules and standards in the workplace. It is not the arbitrator's role to second-guess those rules. This does not constitute deference to the employer, but compliance with the Code. 91.The Code of Good Practice: Dismissal requires only that the rule (or any instruction made under such a rule) is reasonable. It is not for the arbitrator to decide what the appropriate rules or standards should be - only that they are reasonable.

14 Was dismissal an appropriate sanction? 93.The test whether the employer could fairly have imposed the sanction of dismissal is: the misconduct on its own rendered the continued employment relationship intolerable, or because of the cumulative effect of the misconduct when taken together with other instances of misconduct. Transnet Freight Rail v Transnet BC and others (2011) “The need to deter other employees from committing the same misconduct is a response to risk management and is as legitimate a reason for dismissal as a breakdown in trust.”

15 Intolerability 113. An employer who alleges that a continued relationship would be intolerable must present evidence to the arbitration that demonstrates this on a balance of probabilities. This evidence should establish that there are no reasonable prospects of a good working relationship being restored. An employer may seek to satisfy this burden by leading credible evidence, for example from co-employees who testify that they could not work with the dismissed employee The conduct of the employee prior to or after the dismissal, including during any disciplinary or arbitration proceedings, may have the result that the employee's reinstatement or re-employment would cause significant disruption in the workplace.

16 Dismissal 104. Although these factors are often referred to as mitigating factors, this is misleading. Dismissal is not a punishment. It is a rational response to risk management in the affected enterprise.

17 How to approach remedies: reinstatement 112. Once the arbitrator is satisfied that the employee has made an informed decision not to seek reinstatement or reemployment, it is not appropriate for the arbitrator to interrogate the employee's reason for not seeking this relief any further.

18 Reinstatement not feasible 115.Reinstatement or re-employment is an inappropriate remedy if the employer can show: that reinstatement or re-employment is not feasible or that it would cause a disproportionate level of disruption or financial burden for the employer. The fact that another employee has been appointed in place of the unfairly dismissed employee is not in itself a reason to deny reinstatement.

19 Awarding compensation 131.Arbitrators must ensure that they have sufficient evidence to properly determine the amount of compensation A compensation award may be used to express the arbitrator's displeasure at a seriously unfair dismissal and to that extent may have a punitive element to it.

20 Compensation for procedurally unfair dismissals 135. An arbitrator who finds that a dismissal is procedurally unfair must determine: whether an award of compensation is appropriate in the light of the severity of the procedural unfairness; and if it is, determine an amount of compensation that is just and equitable in all the circumstances An arbitrator may find that a dismissal is procedurally unfair but award no compensation because the procedural irregularity was minor and did not prejudice or inconvenience the employee.


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