In today’s economically unstable and financially pressured environment which is rife with high levels of unemployment, prospective applicants for employment positions have become so desperate to meet the criteria set out in job advertisements that they often tend to exaggerate their qualifications and / or skills to land their dream position.
Whilst this may be tempting and could seem like a victimless crime, especially if you believe you are actually qualified for the position in question, legally speaking, it is a terrible risk to take that could cost you that job, if you do land it, and a lot of money, pain and heart ache to go along with it. This is evidenced by the decision of the Labour Appeal Court (“LAC”), in the judgment of Department of Home Affairs and another v Ndlovu and others where the Court took a dim view on employees who lie on their Curriculum Vitaes (“CV”).
The employee in this matter, applied for a post as an Area Manager for the Kwazulu-Natal and Richards Bay area. According to his CV, the employee claimed to have obtained a Diploma in Marketing from the Natal Technikon and a Bachelor of Technology Marketing from the Durban Institute of Technology.
The employee, on the strength of his CV and qualifications, was successful in his application and appointed to the post, however, it subsequently came to the attention of the employer that the employee had not yet completed and attained his Bachelor of Technology Marketing Degree. As a consequence, the employee was charged with several acts of misconduct, including dishonesty, and was dismissed.
Following his dismissal, the employee referred an unfair dismissal dispute to the Bargaining Council. Upon conclusion of the arbitration proceedings, the arbitrator held that the employee’s dismissal was fair.
Aggrieved by the Bargaining Council’s decision, the dismissed employee approached the Labour Court with an application to review and set aside the arbitrator’s decision. The Labour Court, surprisingly, held that the employee’s dismissal was unfair and ordered the Department of Home Affairs to reinstate him with back-pay.
In response to the Labour Court’s decision, the Department of Home Affairs approached the LAC to appeal the decision. The LAC held that the employee lied on his CV with the sole intention of impressing the panelists in order to secure the job. The LAC further reiterated that employment relationships are founded on trust and that as such, it was fair for the Department of Home Affairs to terminate the employment relationship.
The LAC is not the first Court to approve of a dismissal in circumstances where an employee has applied for a job on the strength of their CV which contained exaggerated or falsified information. In the case of Hoch v Mustek Electronics (Pty) Ltd (LC), the Court determined that the employer was justified in terminating the employment of its Financial Manager (7 years after she was employed) in circumstances where she had misrepresented her qualifications prior to her appointment.
These two cases are just a snapshot of the types of consequences that one could face, oftentimes many years down the road, after lying on your CV. Broadly speaking, it has been determined that employers faced with such employees, may be justified in dismissing employees who create false impressions on their CV’s, no matter the time period that has passed since the employee obtained the job.
In light of the above, employers are well advised, before making any appointments, to verify and authenticate the information set out in a job applicant’s CV, and prospective applicants are advised to always tell the truth, or risk facing the consequences.
Varusha Naidoo is an Associate Partner at HJW Attorneys and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org