The many shades of intolerability in the workplace

Authors: Rochelle le Roux & Aisha Adam

ISSN: 1996-2177
Affiliations: Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town; Teaching and Research Assistant, Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town
Source: South African Law Journal, Volume 141 Issue 2, p. 323-348


The notion of intolerability traverses several workplace decisions. However, its meaning in the law is far from linear, and its significance varies, particularly when considering three primary dismissal-related scenarios: the meaning of dismissal; the general threshold for dismissal (also in the case of first offences); and the barriers to reinstatement in the case of unfair dismissal. This article restates established principles concerning labour dispute resolution, particularly those relating to onus and review standards and the role of breach of trust in employment relations. Drawing on recent jurisprudence, the article revisits the assumed role of intolerability and explores its nuanced impact on decision-making processes. In particular, the article demonstrates how the burden of proof and applicable review standards in the case of each of these dismissal-related scenarios can transform an ostensibly neutral term into a kaleidoscope of shades and meaning, with far-reaching implications in the workplace.