In terms of our labour law, any dismissal of an employee must be fair and just in terms of the Labour Relations Act. So, if an employee is to be dismissed for a WhatsApp message, this dismissal must meet the requirements of the LRA.
Our CCMA had opportunity to recently consider this situation in the case of Masondo / AG Electrical (Pty) Ltd  4 BALR 400 (CCMA). In this case an employee was dismissed after he had sent a WhatsApp message threatening to kill his employer as well as an official of the bargaining council, shortly after the employer had placed its employees on short working time during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Two contradictory views were placed before the Commissioner. The employer perceived the WhatsApp as an intentional threat of physical violence, whereas, the employee indicated that he was merely trying to help his fellow co-workers who faced a similar challenge as he did. The employer’s version was not disputed by the employee and nor did he have any remorse or provide sound reasons for the message which he had sent. The result was that the CCMA held that the employee’s conduct was seen to have broken down the employer-employee relationship and his dismissal was thus confirmed to be substantively and procedurally fair.
In this way the CCMA confirmed that a WhatsApp message can present grounds for dismissal, but as always, the facts of each case will need to be considered to determine whether there are grounds for dismissal or not.
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