A Johannesburg-based waitress at Chef’s Warehouse at Maison Estate restaurant lost her job after accepting a R150 tip from a couple, leading to her dismissal, which the Labour Court in Johannesburg supported.
The restaurant had a policy requiring waiters to declare their tips, which would then be shared among the staff at the end of each evening. In this case, the waitress, Ms Taguzu, was accused of keeping the R150 tip and withholding previous tips for herself as reported by IOL.
While Ms Taguzu vehemently denied receiving the R150 tip, she also expressed disagreement with the restaurant’s policy of shared tips.
After her termination, she turned to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA), where the commissioner ruled in favour of her dismissal. Dissatisfied with the decision, Ms Taguzu then appealed to the Labour Court to have the commissioner’s findings overturned, maintaining that her dismissal was unfair.
Ms Taguzu had been employed as a waitress at the restaurant since November 2016 and was dismissed in February 2018 following a disciplinary inquiry into allegations of gross dishonesty related to the R150 tip.
Restaurant management said they implemented the tipping policy in December 2017 after consulting with all staff members. The policy aimed to ensure fairness by sharing at least 25% of gratuities with the back-house staff, including cleaners and gardeners, who also contributed to the dining experience.
One of the restaurant owners testified that the policy aimed to create fairness among all staff members involved in serving customers. According to the owner, the policy aligned with practices in other restaurants and did not benefit the restaurant directly.
While the staff members had signed the policy, Ms Taguzu refused to comply.
The owner claimed that despite her resistance, she had verbally agreed to follow the policy. Her compliance with the policy was evident as she had declared her gratuities on the same day it was implemented.
Subsequent investigations revealed that Ms Taguzu had failed to declare gratuities several times. At least three customers confirmed having tipped her after their meals.
The owner viewed her actions as dishonest and a breach of trust with the restaurant. He further argued that she effectively stole from her colleagues as the policy was intended to benefit all staff members.
The patron who provided the R150 tip testified that she and her husband dined at the restaurant, with Ms Taguzu serving as their waitress. After the meal, she paid by credit card and left a R150 gratuity for the waitress.
Ms Taguzu denied this version of events, claiming that the patron’s account was fabricated.
The CCMA commissioner concluded that if Ms Taguzu had concerns about the policy, she should have referred a dispute to the CCMA. The commissioner also found her guilty of breaching company policy by not disclosing received gratuities.
The commissioner deemed the patron’s evidence credible and likely that the R150 tip was indeed given.
In confirming the CCMA’s findings, Judge ET Tlhotlhalemaje emphasised that the policy’s existence was indisputable and that all employees were consulted before its implementation. He stated that the policy did not materially alter Ms Taguzu’s employment terms and conditions. Judge Tlhotlhalemaje considered a gratuity from customers to be neither a right nor an entitlement unless specified in the employment contract.
The judge regarded Ms Taguzu’s resistance to the policy as unreasonable, bordering on greed, and pointed out that it was unclear whether she had also benefited from the general pool of gratuities during the period she failed to declare her own tips.
Consequently, the judge rejected Ms Taguzu’s application.
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