The Errol Hendricks Unfair Dismissal

In April 2012, The management team of OneNebula (Pty) Ltd successfully fired its non-white IT technician. The only reason they fired him was because the company was in a serious dilemma with its internal IT management and it needed more staff.

Nebula had made a massive financial loss the previous year so employing more employees was out of the question. The solution was to outsource its IT operations to a company called NETSURIT. This way the company would pay slightly more than the R10,000 per month they were paying Hendricks, but NETSURIT would provide skilled technicians in accordance with what Nebula needed.

In all of its disciplinary enquiries, Nebula makes use of an external labour consultant named Fatima van Toorn. If the company wants a dismissal of any employee, then van Toorn makes sure that they get their dismissal; she also makes sure the dismissal is so solid that no claims of unfair dismissal will succeed at the CCMA. This is achieved by throwing the book at the employee. van Toorn adds whatever petty rubbish she can to add to “severity” of the so called offenses.

The offenses that Hendricks was alleged to have committed and subsequently found guilty of are the following:

  1. Contravention of the Company’s policy on computer use and e-mail including using/misusing Company computers/networks to download material in that it is alleged that you used the Company’s IT infrastructure to download, store and transport movies and unauthorized software for personal benefit on 13/04/12 — 16/04/12 which is in violation of the Company’s IT governance policy.
  2. Failure to comply with prescribed and established Company procedures, policy, regulations, which failure has serious or potentially serious consequences. It is alleged that you have previously been admonished to refrain from downloading any movies or unauthorized software for personal use, yet it is alleged that you elected to download movies and unauthorized software for personal benefit over the period described above.
  3. Gross dishonesty in that it is alleged that you claimed that he needed to swop the back-up device(s) on 16/04/12; however you went offsite to obtain the data that you had downloaded.
  4. Installation of various computer games on your company computer (Beast) as well as on a virtual machine resident on your company computer.
  5. Playing the above mentioned games in the presence of other staff on your company computer while at your primary work location.
  6. Unauthorized / unwarranted absence from the work place or work station for part of a working day on 16/04/12 as a result of allegation 3
  7. Failure to contact your superior within 1 hour of your work day commencing to advise of your intended absence on 18/04/12.
  8. Breach of trust/breach of employee’s duty of good faith as a result of the allegations 1-4.

 

Charges 1 and 2: Paul Tzanos had been micromanaging Hendricks for months (aka bullying and harassing) and so when Hendriks was confronted by Tzanos in a very aggressive manner, Hendricks was afraid and so lied about where he had been.it wasn’t so much that Hendricks needed to lie about his actions, but he was not sure if other would get into trouble too. Hansen had after all TOLD Hendricks to go to the data center, but Hendricks had no idea if Hansen was allowed to ask him to go. Hendricks just kept quiet and said he went to the data center to do something that he didn’t really do.

Charge 3: Hendricks went to the data center on the instruction of a senior software developer, Paul Hansen.

Charge 4: This charge is exceptionally funny. Hendricks was charged because he had computer games installed on his work PC. If this was a truly an offence, every single Windows user should be called into a disciplinary hearing at Nebula because every single windows operating system is shipped with games on them. Oh, but those games don’t really count. Lets say it was other games, first person shooter or something similar. If so, then why was Cornel Dannhauser not called in for a disciplinary? He had games on his work PC , he even had games and pirated software on a company laptop which he was using without permission AND that laptop had all kinds of illegal software on it. What about the current Chief Operating Officer, Jacques van Zyl? He has numerous games installed on his company laptop. What about Danie Nel, the CEO. His company issued iPad is jailbroken and allows all kinds of pirated software to be installed bypassing the Apple App store. If that isn’t piracy, then nothing is!

So the lesson here is that when you need to get rid of someone, you throw shit at the person and hope that all the shit sticks. That’s exactly what they did to Hendricks in throwing all these charges at him. As you can see, it was obviously by design.

Charge 5: Hendricks was not only charged for installing games, he was also charged with playing the games that were installed on his PC. Even if he were playing those games after hours or during lunch breaks, it would not have mattered. The interesting thing about these charges is that Hendricks had installed and played these games since he was hired in 2010. Why fling this shit at him now? Why not raise the issue when it happened in 2010? Simple reason really, Nebula needed him in 2010 but in 2012 a newly contracted IT outsource company were on their way, Hendricks was simply not needed anymore.

Charge 6: Hendricks was the only person officially authorised to go to the Hetzner data center. The data center is like an extension of Nebula’s business premises because all the companies servers are hosted there. In fat, it was part of his JOB to go to the data center. Exactly how going to the data center can be seen as unauthorised absence is utterly bizarre. It was not like he went to Canal Walk for shopping. Besides, it could not have been unauthorised absence because Paul Hansen had asked Hendricks to go  and since Hansen was more senior than Hendricks, it was an instruction given to a junior employee. Why not charge Hansen for sending a junior employee to place he was not authorised to go? Nobody knew exactly why the company decided to ignore the fact that Hansen instructed Hendricks to go to the data centre, one can only assume that it was convenient to exclude this fact so that van Toorn could bring a successful dismissal without any possibility of it being challenged.

One of the rules at Nebula is that employees have to contact their manager if they are going to be absent for any reason. Would anyone willingly contact a mean-spirited, bullying asshole like Tzanos only to tell him the bully that you are too stressed to come to work. It would be a pointless exercise.

Just complete and utter rubbish designed to add dread and dire flavoring to the alleged charges… and to ensure that there can be no other result to the hearing other than to dismiss Errol Hendricks. And he was fired successfully. A job well done!