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CCMA orders Standard Bank to pay former employee R1.7m

The CCMA ordered Standard Bank to pay former employee Christine Lawson R1.7m for unfairly dismissing her. The bank dismissed her based on allegations that she fostered a toxic culture that caused many skilled employees to resign.

CCMA finds Standard Bank’s investigation flawed

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) investigated a case of unfair dismissal. The CCMA found that the bank’s investigation into allegations against Christine Lawson was flawed. The bank dismissed her even though no formal grievances had been lodged against her.

Lawson was the former head of compliance in the global markets and market abuse department. Standard Bank fired her last year finding her guilty of charges levelled against her at a disciplinary hearing.

Disciplinary steps taken against employee

The charge sheet that Standard Bank used during the disciplinary hearing stipulated that she was a manager who made the work environment unbearable for her employees, as reported by Business Day. It stated that Lawson failed to create an environment in which employees ‘feel psychologically safe’ and that employees could therefore not perform optimally. The bank blamed Lawson for some of her team members who reported that they have adopted patterns of behaviour that were detrimental and could pose a risk to the bank.

During the disciplinary hearing, the bank told Lawson that employees have left her team and there are more team members who want to leave as a result of her leadership style and ways of working that she fosters in her team as a leader. The bank added that she has fostered a working culture of favouritism, fearfulness, and mistrust.

Some of what the bank stated was based on one resignation letter from an employee who has resigned.

CCMA arbitration

At the arbitration before the CCMA, Standard Bank brought five witnesses, while Lawson brought four. The four witnesses she brought were all employees who previously reported to her. They stated that they have not witnessed any incidents of the things that Standard Bank was accusing her of. They added that they would have been aware of such instances as they worked in an open-plan space.

After considering all the information, the CCMA ruled that it is not undoubtedly convinced that Lawson’s management style could have been so toxic that it caused a high enough staff turnover to put the employer at risk. It added that Lawson’s department was not the only department with vacancies.

“The employer failed to discharge the onus on a balance of probabilities that under the employee’s leadership the employees adopted patterns of behaviour detrimental to the employer.”

CCMA

In the end, the CCMA ordered Standard Bank to pay Christine Lawson, R1.7m.

Snyman Attorneys represented Lawson and said that this case should be ‘a wake-up call to businesses to properly investigate allegations of bullying’.

“It underscores the importance of due process and highlights that justice must be served based on evidence and fairness, regardless of the party involved.”

Snyman Attorneys

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