South Africa

Durban mom claims former employer fired her because she is black

Durban mom claims former employer fired her because she is black
Durban - Dismissed from her job because she was black, a Durban mother is now preparing a R10million damages claim against the Frame Leisure Trading Group for her resulting pain and suffering.

By chance, Silungile Mavundla, was copied in on an email thread between the company’s human resources administrator and the person who recruited her. In the exchanges, Mavundla was referred to as a “dangerous employee” who was “sinking the ship (the company)” and was not the preferred race for her position as payroll administrator.

An extract read “With regards to Slu, we need to look for a back-up but not a black again.

“I need someone that I can train in industrial relations, HR and payroll. Maybe a young graduate, white female. I deliberately want to stay away from the liberal element with political agendas.”

Mavundla was appointed to the position in 2016 and worked from their head office in Sandton, Johannesburg.

Cross Trainer and Xtrend stores, retailing footwear and sporting apparel are owned by the Frame Leisure Group.

Her main duties were to ensure that the company’s monthly payroll, which comprised salary payments to more than 1000 national employees, was processed correctly.

She said the system used by the company to process its payrolls was outdated, and that many former employees were still in the system with incorrect bank details.

Mavundla said she worked tirelessly over a number of months rectifying those errors.

However in November 2016, she received a letter from the human resources administrator, which was co-authored by Sharon Pillay the human resources manager.

She was accused of irregularly paying a number of former employees and was required to provide an explanation.

A few months later, Mavundla was informed that she had failed to correctly process the payroll and it led to previous employees pocketing thousands of rands. Thirteen such instances were brought to her attention. A suspension notice and a date for her disciplinary hearing followed.

While on suspension, the email from human resources administrator to the recruiter dropped in her inbox.

She immediately responded by informing the company’s management and the human resources administrator that she had received his email.

Her disciplinary hearing went ahead in December 2016 and she faced three charges which were related to her professional conduct.

Mavundla was dismissed and took her matter to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

Convener Themba Hlatshwayo found that Mavundla’s dismissal was both “substantially and procedurally” unfair. He ordered that she be reinstated and paid an amount of R150000.

The company challenged Hlatshwayo’s decision with Labour Court action, where they asked that his decision be set aside and the matter reviewed. The matter is still proceeding.

On why she was making a R10m civil claim, which her legal team is putting together, Mavundla said: “I have lost two cars, a house and owe about R100 000 in school fees. “My lawyer’s fees are beyond R150 000. I have been unemployed for almost four years because I was blacklisted and no company wants to employ me now.”

Pillay denied claims that Mavundla was fired for being black. She said Mavundla was dismissed for gross negligence.

“The company has a zero tolerance policy against racist behaviour of any kind. The employee who was alleged to have authored the email and made the comments referred to was suspended in December, and he will face a disciplinary hearing later this month.”

Pillay said the company had approached the Labour Court because Hlatshwayo did not consider the charges brought against Mavundla and that the company was of the view that Hlatshwayo had not adjudicated the matter fairly.

She said Mavundla had not been paid or reinstated because the company was awaiting the judgment of the review application.

Avi Niselow, an attorney with law firm Clifford Levin Incorporated, who represents Mavundla, said his client had been treated unfairly.

“Rather than disciplining the employee who made derogatory and racist comments towards her, it chose instead to dismiss her on the basis of charges which were found by the CCMA to be unfounded. The employer’s witness in the CCMA, one Sharon Pillay, denied that the comments in question were racist,” he said.

Niselow said the order of the Labour Court had not been forthcoming as yet and accordingly could not comment further.

“My client is a single mother who has been unemployed since her dismissal in December 2016, which has naturally had a severe impact on her and her family.”

Sunday Tribune