Can an employee be dismissed if he refuses to take a polygraph test?
In a matter that came before the CCMA, the commissioner, in Blignaut v The Core Computer Business (Pty) Ltd, had to consider these facts:
· The employer had experienced an unacceptably high level of stock loss;
· In terms of the employee’s contract of employment, the employee was obliged to undergo polygraph testing when the employer deemed it necessary;
· Blignaut, the employee, refused to take the test. He was reminded about the clause and advised that that failure to take the test would amount to a breach of his contract of employment.
· When the employee still refused to take the test he was subjected to a disciplinary enquiry and dismissed.
At the arbitration, Blignaut testified that he had refused to take the test because, in his opinion, the test was unreliable and also because he had a heart ailment and his heath could have been compromised if he had taken the test. The employer should have reprimanded him instead of dismissing him.
The commissioner referred to the clause in question which clearly stated that the employer could require the employee to undergo a polygraph test when the employer was of the view that it was necessary. He found that the prerogative to subject employees to polygraph tests lay with the employer. The taking of a polygraph test was part of the employee’s condition of employment that he agreed to when he accepted an offer of employment. He was contractually bound to adhere to the condition of employment. The employer conceded that polygraph tests results were used to supplement other evidence and they could not be viewed in isolation.
As to the employee’s claim that he had a heart ailment and that his health could have been compromised if he took the test, one would have expected him to have presented a medical certificate in support of his claim.
In the light of the fact that the employee refused to obey a reasonable instruction after numerous requests, it was found that he breached his contract of employment and the dismissal was upheld.