Note: Discrimination on an ‘Arbitrary Ground’ and the Right of Access to Justice
Author Darcy du Toit
Affiliations: Emeritus Professor and Coordinator, Labour Law 4.0 niche area, University of the Western Cape
Source: Industrial Law Journal, Volume 42 Issue 1, 2021, p. 1 – 15
In Naidoo & others v Parliament of the Republic of SA the Labour Appeal Court interpreted ‘arbitrary ground’ in s 6(1) of the Employment Equity Act by rejecting a ‘broad’ interpretation (ie the grammatical meaning of the term) and defining it ‘narrowly’ to mean the same as an ‘unlisted’ ground of discrimination. Looking at the judgment through the lens of access to justice, the note observes that the judgment raises a number of questions. These include: (a) the purpose of the amendment to s 6(1) by which ‘arbitrary ground’ was added; (b) the relationship between the concepts of ‘arbitrary ground’ in s 6(1) and s 187(1)(f) of the Labour Relations Act; (c) the application of the principles of legal interpretation to ‘arbitrary ground’; (d) the implications and limits of a ‘broad’ interpretation; (e) the social dimension of the constitutional context; (f) whether discrimination on an ‘arbitrary ground’ is by definition invasive of human dignity; (g) whether a ‘narrow’ interpretation of ‘arbitrary ground’ involves reading an implicit limitation into s 6(1); and case law in which a ‘broad’ approach was adopted. The note seeks to address these questions.