The ubiquitous email disclaimer: it’s appended to millions of emails circling the internet universe. But do you ever really take any notice of them? How often have you taken the time to read one? And if you have an email disclaimer that is religiously and automatically attached to every one of your outgoing emails, when last did you read or review it? There are many reasons why people may want to use email disclaimers: they want to protect confidential information, protect their copyright, avoid unintentionally entering into agreements with the recipient, or perhaps it’s that age-old reason – because everyone’s doing it. But are they really necessary? How strong is the email disclaimer in a court of law? Does it do anything to protect you? Well, we don’t really know. The email disclaimer is not a legal requirement. Nor has it been tested in a South African court. But if it should ever be tested, here are a few of the problems that the disclaimer may well encounter.
I own a small retail store. One of my biggest headaches is theft, which has a big impact on my bottom-line. What concerns me is that I suspect one or two of my staff members may be helping themselves to stock, but I haven’t yet been able to prove it. I’m thinking of implementing a new procedure, similar to what the large retail chains do: all staff need to declare personal possessions when they arrive for work. When they leave, they get searched. And if they have undeclared possessions on them (obviously possessions that are also available for sale in my store) they need to produce the sales receipt proving that they purchased it during the day. If they don’t, it’s treated as theft and they get an immediate dismissal. I’ve heard that a strictly applied zero tolerance policy is legal. Is there anything I need to watch out for?
Can a company force an employee into retirement if there’s no agreement on the retirement age? This was one of the questions that the Labour Court answered in the 2015 case of Arb Electrical Wholesalers (Pty) Ltd v Hibbert. The company “retired” Hibbert at the age of 64. Hibbert took issue with this, claiming that he was unfairly dismissed. Both the Labour Court and the Labour Appeal Court agreed with him.
My company has had a pretty good year. To thank my staff for everything they’ve done for the company I’m planning on paying them a discretionary bonus as soon as my year-end financials have been wrapped up. I’m planning on giving a bonus to my permanent staff only, but my business partner is worried about excluding our contract staff. If we declare a discretionary bonus, do we need to pay our contract staff as well?
There’s a concept in our law called “jurisdiction”. Broadly speaking, it refers to whether or not a court has the authority to adjudicate on a matter. There are specific indicators that determine whether a court has the jurisdiction, or authority, to make a legally-binding order in a matter, e.g:
- the court located in the district where a contract was entered into would ordinarily have jurisdiction, or the authority to decide upon disputes arising from the contract;
- the court located in the district where the defendant (the person being sued) lives or carries on business would ordinarily have authority to decide on any claims brought against the defendant.
Sipho, who operates his business in Johannesburg, sells goods to Joe, who lives in Durban. They had met each other on conference in Cape Town, which is also where they had both negotiated and concluded their Sale of Goods Agreement. Joe fails to pay Sipho for the goods, so Sipho sues Joe. He can do so:
My company typically hasn’t made it a practice to pay staff bonuses or thirteenth cheques. Occasionally we’ll add a little something into their December pay-cheques, but found it was financially unviable for us to do so last year. We received a lot of staff complaints about it, so now I’m putting a document together dealing with staff bonuses and thirteenth cheques. What should I include in this document?
It’s been said time and time again: before you sign anything, make sure that you’ve read what you’re signing, and understand the significance. Clauses in legal documents and contracts have this nasty habit of rearing their heads at the most inopportune time and biting you in the rear.
Here’s a rather unfortunate sequence of events that was unraveled by the court in MBD Securitisation (Pty) Ltd v Booi.