In an interesting Arbitration, Dlamini & Others v Green Four Security, the Labour Court had once again to decide whether the workplace rules would overrule religious adherence. In this particular case, the employees belong to the Baptist Nazareth Group and they said that their faith did not allow them to trim their beards. Judge Pillay in the Labour Court was faced with the issue and said that it needed to be shown whether there was truly discrimination and whether the request to shave the beards was an inherent requirement of the job. With reference to the discrimination, the Court said that the employees did not show that the prohibition was an ”essential tenet of their belief”.

The Court went on to ask whether everyone had to be clean-shaven and whether the business applied the rule consistently. The answers being positive, the Court then said that, if the Rule did not encroach on the employee’s religion, there was no discrimination. The employees’ claim was dismissed at the end of the inquiry and it was stated that religious freedom did not put out limitations; and for everyone to enjoy this freedom, tolerance is crucial. The Court went on to state that an employer is entitled to set a uniform dress code as a condition of employment. The compliance with the dress code can be compulsory for practical reasons and this particular company, as a security company, had a distinctive image and wished to portray the elite look.

It was found that since the employees had failed to provide evidence to show that not shaving formed an essential tenet of their faith, that the dismissal indeed was fair and correct.

Contact Bernard Reisner 021 423 3959 or e-mail bernard@capelabour.co.za